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A Complete Anthropological Analysis Of Ukraine

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Sandwiched between Russia and Moldova, Ukraine is Europe’s hidden gem. Ukraine declared independence following the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917. Four years later the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic absorbed eastern Ukraine. Ukraine then suffered extreme devastation following the Nazi occupation during which 1,500,000 Ukrainian Jews were slaughtered. Following the Allied victory in WWII, the USSR annexed the rest of the country. Russian opposition was prevalent in the country from the time of 1945 through the 1980’s. In 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, created the single-largest radioactive disaster in history. Ukraine declared independence in 1991 following the attempted coup in Moscow. Even though Ukraine hasn’t had the most beautiful past, that shouldn’t detract from the appeal of Ukraine as a travel destination.

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One of the biggest benefits to Ukraine is the fantastic conversion rate from United States Dollars to Ukrainian Hryvnia. One USD is about equal to 28 Hryvnia, making Ukraine a very affordable destination. The capital city of Kiev dating back to 482 A. D. now boasts a population recently estimated at about 3 million. Kiev is also home to the Kiev Boryspil International Airport, the busiest passenger and cargo airport in the country. Other large cities in Ukraine include Odessa, Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Lviv all are home to more than 750 thousand Ukrainian citizens. Odessa, Ukraine is home to many beautiful art museums, the Odessa Opera and Ballet, and the Port of Odessa which is the main port for international maritime travel, import and export. Ukraine is the largest country that is wholly located in continental Europe. Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev is located in the north central region of the country. The nation of Ukraine borders Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. The southern border stretches across the north coast of the Black Sea. Ukraine is home to more than 45 million citizens. Its total land mass amounts to 233,062 mi2. The country of Ukraine is broken down into 56. 1% arable land, 1. 5% permanent crops, 13. 6% permanent pasture, 16. 8% forest, and 12% other (estimated in 2011). The natural resources of Ukraine include: iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, and timber There are three main types of soil in the country, sandy podzolized soil high in iron, black fertile land, and a dark chestnut fertile soil. The later two soil types are so fertile due to a large, deep pocket of nutrient-rich humus near the surface of the ground. Ukraine has a typically temperate climate, with a generally disproportionate precipitation being greatest to the northern and western regions. They tend to have very warm summers and very cool to cold winters as you get farther north in the country. The one exception to this generality is the Crimean peninsula which has a subtropical climate due to its proximity to the equator. Ukraine is home to part of the Carpathian mountain range, the second largest mountain range in Europe following the Scandinavian mountain range.

The countries tallest mountain is Mount Hoverla in the west at a height of 2,061 m. The average elevation in the country is approximately 200 m. The vast majority of the country consists of fertile plains and plateaus also known as steppes. Due to the general “flatness” of Ukraine, it is easily traversed by train, automobile, airplane, and busses. The easiest way to enter or leave Ukraine would be by plane or ferry into a seaside town like Odessa. In the north of the country, there is a 1000 mi2 exclusion zone from the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was home to four high power channel reactor designed to produce plutonium and electric power. The Soviet designed RBMK reactors were very different from those used in the rest of the world. They used graphite to moderate the power produced and water to cool. On the morning of April 26, 1986 a non-protocol safety test took place, when employees ran the reactor at very low power. The Soviet RBMK reactors were highly volatile when operated at low power. When the employees engaged the reactor at low power, it caused a power surge, which ruptured fuel pressure tubes, which created a steam explosion rocketing the cover off the reactor and causing the other 1660 fuel tubes to explode, exposing the reactor core to the outside world. The lack of a proper containment structure and 10 day fire released a large amount of radiation into the environment. This caused ~199,000 citizens to be evacuated out of the town of Pripyat and other surrounding communities. In addition, the nuclear disaster has been attributed to cancer in the surrounding region and many other health problems surrounding radiation poison. The only benefit to the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster is that a large amount of land has been reclaimed by Mother Nature and is being studied for how the earth rebounds from such disasters. Ukraine was born out of the USSR, the most infamous socialist regime in history. Once Ukraine gained independence in 1991, the government pushed for privatization in all industries. By 2000, the country’s economic output was 40% what it was in 1991. Most businesses were run by former soviet oligarchs which hurt the economy significantly. It wasn’t until 2014 that major international aid and assistance was offered to help Ukraine become “prosperous, democratic, and transparent”. Unfortunately there is still major work to be done to the legislative framework and to develop capital markets.

Also in 2014, Russia controversially occupied Crimea which damaged economic growth significantly. One of Russia’s biggest reasons behind aggression and the seizure of Crimea is that Crimea is home to the only warm water Russian naval base. A large portion of Ukraine’s industry was focused in the Donbas oblast which was also seized. The EU and Ukraine worked to enact the “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area” to which Russia imposed its own set of trade restrictions. There is a prohibition on separatist-controlled territories which still has an unknown impact on Ukraine’s industrial sector. Ukraine’s Gross Domestic Product per capita was estimated to be ₴232,860 about equal to $8,300 USD. The main industries in Ukraine are coal, electric power, ferrous and non ferric metals, machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, and food processing. Their labor force was estimated to be at 18. 04 million workers in 2016, with labor being split 67% services, 26. 5% industry, and 5. 8% agriculture in 2014. The official unemployment rate was estimated to be at 9. 3% in 2016, unfortunately it is believed that there are a large number of workers that are unemployed but unregistered. In the 2010 Ukrainian census it was estimated that nearly 25% of the country is below the poverty line. Ukraine tends to import $10 billion more of goods than it exports each year. The biggest exports are iron (ferrous) and nonferrous metals closely followed by fuel and petroleum products, industrial chemicals, and machinery. The Ukrainian currency is the Hryvnia. $1 USD ~ ₴ 28. 06 UAH. The Hryvnia has been deflated since 2012 when $1 USD ~ ₴ 7. 99, this makes travel to Ukraine very very very inexpensive. Budgetyourtrip. com estimates that you could do Ukraine on $900 or less for a whole month while staying in mid range accommodations where you could also do the country in luxury accommodations and activities for under $2500 for a whole month.

There are 17 registered air carriers that operate 92 aircraft that are flagged under the UR registration prefix. Ukraine also boasts 21,733 km of railways and 169,694 km of roadways. The major ports include Odessa, Feodosiya, Illichivsk, Mariupol’, Mykolayiv, and Yuzhnyy. Luckily the country has not faced too many drug problems following the fall of the USSR, prior to collapse, Ukraine was often used to traffick opiates by boat to the rest of the world. Ukraine, as mentioned earlier, is home to approximately 45 million residents. The main ethnic group is Ukrainian, 77. 8% of citizens in Ukraine are ethnically Ukrainian, 17. 3% Russian, 0. 6% Belarusian, 0. 5% Moldovan, 0. 5% Crimean Tatar, 0. 4% Bulgarian, 0. 3% Hungarian, 0. 3% Romanian, 0. 3% Polish, 0. 2% Jewish, and 1. 8% from other ethnicities. The national language is Ukrainian with more than 67. 5% of Ukrainian speakers, the Russian language is still very predominant in the east, followed by Crimean which is spoken by the Tatar ethnicity. Ukrainian is an Indo-European language, with a Cyrillic alphabet that was originally developed in the 9th century A. D. by the First Bulgarian Empire. Crimean Tatars, different from Tatars are a turkic ethnic group that settled in the Crimean peninsula around 1241 A. D. The Crimean Tatars are Sunni Muslim and are estimated to have a population that is approximately 300,000. Two thirds of Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians, the other third consists of Agnostics, Atheists, Muslims, and Jews. The majority of the population (44. 29%) are between the ages of 25 and 54 with 25. 62% of the population being between the age of 0-24 years old. The country has a negative population growth rate of -0. 41%, which should not be too much of a concern because in a few years there will be a greater number of childbirths as the 20-30 year olds have more children. There are 10 births per thousand citizens each year and 14 deaths per thousand citizens each year in Ukraine. The mean age for women to give birth is 24 years old and it is expected that most Ukrainian women have 1-2 children.

Average life expectancy is 72 for Ukraine, which is a lot lower compared to America’s 79 year life expectancy. Ukraine tends to have far greater urban populations compared to rural populations with 70. 1% of Ukrainians living in an urban environment. The country has approximately 3 doctors per 1000 citizens and 9 hospital beds per 1000 citizens. Additionally, Ukraine has a free healthcare system that is accessible to all citizens. The prevalence of HIV and AIDS in Ukraine is very low, less than 1% (240,000). Despite the heavy prevalence of religion in Ukraine, ideas about sexuality are rapidly changing. Same sex relationships have been decriminalized since the country separated from the USSR, but however marriage and civil unions are not recognized. One in four Ukrainian adults are considered to have a BMI in the overweight to obese range. Ukraine has one of the highest literacy rates for the world, 99. 8 % of the overall population is literate with men being 99. 8% literate and women being 99. 7% literate. All Ukrainian males age 20-27 must serve a compulsory service to the military for 18 months as of 2015 in response to Russian aggression.

Ukraine is a constitutionally democratic republic where citizens elect state and local officials. After the fall of the USSR, a caste system was put in place with the former Soviet Communist Party elites in the upper class. The majority of citizens fall within the lowest income bracket. Gender division is very similar to that of the 20th century U. S., men tend to be government employees, physicians, and school administration; where women tend to be teachers and nurses. Though Ukrainian labor laws guarantee gender equality, the laws are not enforced and men in power tend to view women as the weaker sex, being subordinate to them. As mentioned earlier, Ukraine is a rather religious society. Two thirds of citizens are Ukrainian Orthodox Catholics. Traditional pagan rituals have been woven into the fabric of religion in the country. Orthodox priests perform exorcisms to this day and recommend a pilgrimage to the west to Zarvanytsia which is believed to have “miraculous curing powers”. Ukrainians follow ancient funeral traditions very closely, following a funeral on the 9th and 40th days, 6 months, and 12 months a large meal is held in remembrance of the loved one. On the Sunday following Easter, Provody is celebrated where family members go to their ancestors graves and honor the souls of the departed. Provody represents Jesus Christ’s victory over death. Ukrainians also celebrate many secular holidays such as the International Women’s Day on March 8th (similar to that of mother’s day in the states), Victory Day on May 9th to honor all who died in WWII, Constitution Day on June 28th, and Independence Day on August 24th. They celebrate Independence day very similarly to us here in the United States with parades and fireworks. Literature is a very major part of Ukrainian society. Much of the work is neo-classicist, avant-garde, and modernist or realist style epics that portray life in Ukraine. All arts are significant to the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is known for dumas which is a style of music that encompases many of the ancient styles of their neighboring cultures. Theatre and Opera reflect the periods in which they were written. Most of the work done in theatre are focused on historical and social plays with emphasis on social realism.

Ukrainian legislation reflects the Ukrainian belief that a well cared for child should be a source of familial pride with legislation in place that provides paid maternity leave for up to one year and unpaid for up to three years. Ancient beliefs still in practice around child rearing include: not cutting a baby’s hair until the first birthday, baptism, and safety pins inside a child’s clothing protect and ward off evil spirits. Students attend school from age 6 to 16, after the ninth class the students may work or enter trade schools or continue studies through all eleven classes. Students who complete class eleven may enter universities and be given undergraduate certificates by the schools. Doctorates and arts degrees are granted by the Ministry of Education however. Younger people meet partners at social gatherings and court. Wedding ceremonies are the responsibilities of the parents to organize and finance. Younger people are pressured to marry between 17 and 25 which leads to a large amount of divorces. The Ukrainian Catholic Church prohibits divorce where the Ukrainian Orthodox Church only discourages it. The parents traditionally live in the household of their child that inherited the familial property. Ukrainian farm and agriculture influenced traditional gender norms for responsibilities ie. men are farmer and women are homemakers. Inheritance is granted through testament, if a testament does not exist it gets divided equally between family.

When one travels to Ukraine, there is a general etiquette to follow, for example, business conversations are conducted with a personal space of less than an arm’s length. When you meet someone, it is polite to offer a firm handshake, maintain firm eye contact, and repeat your name. If invited into someone’s home it is polite to bring a cake, flowers, imported liquor, or a gift from your home country. Only give flowers in odd numbers while avoiding the color yellow. Gifts aren’t often opened when received. When eating, only eat once the host eats, keep hands visible with wrists on edge of table when rested, do not eat until host invites you to start. Drinking is also a big part of Ukrainian culture, when at a meal of three or more, toasts are offered by the host to the guest and later returned by guest, glasses are only ever ⅔ full, toasts are made with vodka, an open bottle must be finished, finished bottles are to be removed from the table, and you never refill your own glass. The most common toast is “za vashe zdorovya” which translates “to your health”. Ukainians are very direct people, who will become more direct as a relationship furthers. If you are traveling, set aside 15 Hryvnia a day to give to people as tips if they offer you help. Very few Ukrainians speak English so knowing Russian or Ukrainian is very beneficial if you aren’t traveling with a Ukrainian or Russian friend. Ukraine is truly a wonder, its culture groups have inhabited the region for hundreds of years, it has survived the USSR, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, and has bounced back more resilient as ever. The rich history and culture was not tainted by the strict regime of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. People have no clue how modern and progressive Ukraine is, mostly because they believe it is still an extension of Russia. Ukraine is also one of if not the most affordable destinations in Europe.

I named my trip Ukraine: from destruction to decadence because I fell in love with the destruction that took place, but grew to see the decadence of Ukrainian culture. The modern art museums in the country are relatively unknown but truly are the best of the best. Not only was literature influenced by the Neo-Classicist movement, but the theatre, opera, and art also reaped the benefits of the movement. While many of the citizens live in poverty, it is estimated that this will improve significantly in the next 25 years. I believe that people will begin to treat the country more like those in the west of Europe. More and more tech startups are choosing Ukraine as their home and many other startups will follow. Ukraine is at the end of the development stage and are rapidly catching up with the first world. There is such a bounty of untapped resources that really make this country a gem. Ukraine will soon be discovered for the great place that it is and I can not urge you enough to get there as soon as possible.

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01 February 2021

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