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Ukraine Country in E central Europe, bounded E by Russia, N by Belarus, S by Moldova, Romania, and the Black Sea, and W by Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Hungary

• government
Under the 1978 constitution, which was substantially amended during the early 1990s, there is a 450-member legislature, the Supreme Council (Supreme Soviet), to which deputies are elected by a majority system, with a second ballot `run-off´ race in contests in which there is no clear first round majority. The executive state president, directly elected for a five-year term, has decree powers and appoints a prime minister and cabinet, drawn the majority grouping within the Supreme Soviet. Since 1995 the president has full control over ministerial appointments.

• history
The Ukraine formed the heartland of the medieval state of Kievan Rus which emerged in the 9th century. Uniting Ukrainians, Russians (Muscovites), and Byelorussians, it became the leading power in eastern Europe, before being destroyed by Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Christianity was adopted from Byzantium 988. It came under Catholic Polish rule from the 14th century, with the peasantry reduced to serfdom. In 1648 there was a revolt against Polish oppression led by Cossacks, composed originally of runaway serfs, and a militarist state was established by hetman (elected leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky (died 1657). East and West Ukraine were partitioned between Muscovy and Poland 1667.

• Tsarist rule
Under Tsar Peter I the publication of Ukrainian books was banned 1720 and serfdom was introduced into E Ukraine (`Little Russia´) 1783. In the late 18th century, Russia also secured control over all of W Ukraine, except Galicia, which was annexed by Austria 1772. The 19th century witnessed a Ukrainian cultural revival and the establishment of secret nationalist organizations, especially in Galicia. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was rapid economic development and urbanization, but under the late Tsars suppression of Ukraininan culture and `Russification´ intensified.

• nationalism intensifies
Emboldened by glasnost, nationalist and proreform demonstrations increased, led by the People's Movement of Ukraine for Restructuring (Rukh), established Feb 1989. Shcherbitsky was ousted as UCP leader Sept 1989, the Uniate Church was allowed to re-register Dec 1989, and in the March 1990 republic supreme-soviet election, `reform communist´ and Rukh candidates in the Democratic Bloc polled strongly in a number of areas. In July 1990 the new parliament declared the republic's economic and political sovereignty.