National Geographic : 1987 May
Ukraine Known as the Breadbasket of the Soviet Union, Ukraine-slightly larger than France-makes up less than 3 percent of the U.S.S.R. but is home to nearly a fifth of its population. Except for the Carpathian Mountains on the western border and the Crimean Mountains, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic consists largely of flat, rich land called the steppe. Huge coal and iron deposits have led to heavy industrial development, especially in the Donbass (Donets Basin) and Krivoy Rog regions. The late 1970s saw intensive development of nuclear power. Five plants, including Chernobyl, now augment more traditional energy sources, and more are planned. With such wealth, Ukrainian land has long been a target for conquest (maps below). Ukraine enjoyed a brief period of independence following World War I, before the Soviets took control of most of the land in 1920. Joseph Stalin persecuted Ukrainian patriots and is accused of engineering a famine to enforce collectivization and eliminate nationalism. In 1932-33 at least five million perished in Ukraine. World War II increased the flow of emigration that began in the 19th century. Today some 2.5 million persons of Ukrainian heritage live outside the Soviet Union, 1.5 million of them in the United States and Canada. Land of Many Masters ca A.D.1000 To consolidatehis rule over Kievan Rus, a loose confederationof Slavic peoples in easternEurope,Vladimirthe Greatin988 adoptedChristianityfrom Byzantium. He forciblyconvertedhis subjects as a means of binding a culturally diversepopulation. Black Sa s 1569 Afterconquestbythe Mongols in the 1200s,much of Ukrainein the 1300s was seized by Lithuania. With theformal union of PolandandLithuaniain 1569, Poland assertedincreasingcontrolbefore being pressedby the tsardomof Muscovy andthe Ottoman Empire. 1649 PeasantsfleeingPolishdomination formedCossackcommunities undermilitary leaderscalled hetmans. Aftera revoltledby BohdanKhmelnytsky, the Cossacksin 1649 formed theirown state,continuedfighting the Poles,and entereda pact with Muscovy in 1654.