Regions of Ukraine
Ukraine is usually thought of as consisting of five regions:
- Eastern Ukraine
- Southern Ukraine
- Central Ukraine
- Western Ukraine
Eastern Ukraine is the center of the country’s heavy industry (metallurgy, petrochemicals, and engineering). In the southeast there is an old coal-mining area called the Donbass. The main city of the Donbass is Donetsk. To the northeast lies Kharkiv, which was Ukraine’s capital in the early Soviet period.
Eastern Ukraine is ethnically mixed (60% Ukrainian, 40% Russian) but mainly Russian- speaking. It has close links with neighboring areas of southern Russia.
Southern Ukraine, along the Black Sea coast, is less heavily industrialized. There are a number of ports with shipbuilding, the most famous being the cosmopolitan city of Odessa.
The ethnic composition of Southern Ukraine is similar to that of Eastern Ukraine. It is also mainly Russian-speaking.
Attached by a narrow isthmus to Southern Ukraine is the beautiful peninsula of Crimea, which has the status of an autonomous republic within Ukraine (capital Simferopol). Here are famous seaside resorts such as Yalta. The Russian Federation's Black Sea Fleet is also located here, with its main base at Sevastopol. About two-thirds of the population of Crimea is Russian. Besides Russians and Ukrainians, there are the Crimean Tatars, who are indigenous to Crimea.
Central Ukraine comprises the country’s rural heartland and the area around the capital. The population is mainly Ukrainian. Both the Ukrainian and the Russian languages are widely spoken.
Western Ukraine is mainly rural, and overwhelmingly Ukrainian and Ukrainian-speaking. There is a Polish as well as a Russian minority. Western Ukraine, and especially the province of Galicia, with its main city of Lviv, is the stronghold of Ukrainian nationalism.
Western Ukraine includes the province of Transcarpathia. This province is not as “Ukrainian” as the rest of Western Ukraine. Many people there feel that they belong to a separate Slavic group called Rusyns or Ruthenes, although officially they are regarded simply as Ukrainians. There is also a sizable Hungarian minority in the province.
Ukraine’s greatest river, the Dnieper, starts in the marshlands of eastern Belarus, flows south through Kyiv, then southeast to Dnipropetrovsk, and finally southwest into the Black Sea.
Ukraine east of the Dnieper is called “Left Bank Ukraine.” Ukraine west of the Dnieper is called “Right Bank Ukraine” (that is, left or right as you face south, toward the Black Sea).