Successor state to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Ukraine consists of 232,046 square miles (601,000 sq km) of territory bordered by Belarus on the north, Russia on the north and east, the Black Sea, Moldova, Romania, and Hungary on the south, and Slovakia and Poland on the west. It has 52.2 million inhabitants, of whom in 1998 64.7 percent were Ukrainian, 32.8 percent Russian, and the remainder Hungarian, Tatar, Jewish, Romanian, and other. Its capital is Kiev, a city of 2.6 million inhabitants.
The immediate postwar years in Soviet Ukraine were marked by reconstruction and the reimposition of severe authoritarianism. A brief cultural thaw awakened Ukrainian nationalist sentiment in the late 1950s, a trend that continued in the 1960s under the leadership of Petro Shelest. The Brezhnev era (1964-82) brought further repression and economic stagnation. After 1985 General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms propelled Ukraine and other Soviet republics toward independence, which it achieved in December 1991.
The Ukraine that emerged from World War II was very different from what it had been previously. Territorial expansion greatly extended Ukraine's western frontiers,
Ukraine. Illustration courtesy of Bernard Cook.
which now included most of the former Polish regions of Galicia and Volhynia. Northern Bukovina (from Romania) and Transcarpathia (from Czechoslovakia) were added in 1944. After the war Soviet planners undertook a massive reconstruction effort to restore Ukraine's economy, which suffered much destruction in the war. In both material and human losses, Ukraine fared worse than any other European country during the war. In addition to the five to seven million Ukrainians who lost their lives, tens of thousands of villages, industrial enterprises, and collective farms were destroyed by the invading Germans. Postwar rebuilding under the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1946-50) stressed heavy industry, and by 1950 Ukraine's industrial output had surpassed prewar levels. Agriculture recovered more slowly, the result of low levels of investment, inefficient collectivization, and a catastrophic drought in 1946. A famine in 1947, the third visited upon Ukrainian peasants in as many decades of Soviet rule, claimed a million lives.
Throughout the Soviet Union, Stalin's last years were marked by an intensification of totalitarian controls and widespread repression. In Ukraine the chief agent of this crackdown was Nikita Khrushchev, head of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) and later Stalin's successor as Soviet premier. Under Khrushchev's leadership, the secret police and party executed or imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians alleged to have collaborated with the Germans during the war. All forms of Ukrainian nationalism, which the Soviets had permitted during the wartime mobilization, were now extinguished in the wake of a wide Russification campaign. In the newly annexed lands of western Ukraine, continued resistance to Soviet rule was brutally suppressed. Religious persecution also intensified. The few remaining Ukrainian Jewish communities were repressed by Soviet authorities, and in 1946