Situated at the “heart” of Europe between Russia and Central-Eastern European countries, Ukraine is an exotic country for many and an unknown. Other than its appearance in the news either because of gas shortages (one of the most important pipelines bringing gas to Eastern Europe from Russia goes through it) or because of democracy issues, not much is known about this really interesting country.
Let’s have a look at the top 14 most interesting facts about Ukraine.
1. It’s a massive country
After Russia, Ukraine is actually the largest country in Europe – its surface is over 600,000 square kilometers. It’s bigger than France and covers almost all of the northern coast of the Black Sea, creating a de facto bridge between Russia in the east and Poland in the west. Its location makes it extremely important strategically, from an economic and defense point of view, an interesting fact about Ukraine.
2. Ukrainians drink a lot
Ukraine ranks sixth in the world in terms of alcohol consumption per capita, due to its people drinking approximately 13.9 liters of alcohol per year. Of course, they drink the well-known vodka, but also the national drink horilka, which is also a clear spirit. While vodka is drunk as it is, the horilka is usually flavored with chili pepper.
3. Ukraine is home to some extremes
The deepest underground station can be found in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. Arsenalna station on the Sviatoshynsko-Brovarska line goes 105.5 meters underground, a fun fact about Ukraine.
At the same time, the widest main street in the world is also in Ukraine. Khreshchatyk Street is the main road in Kiev and only goes on for 1.2 km in length, but it is so broad that it is universally accepted as widest in the world. It was destroyed during the Second World War, hence why it’s so short today.
4. It is full of ghost towns
We’ve all heard of the unfortunate history of Chernobyl, where the nuclear factory accident led to the creation of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in northern Ukraine. There are a number of towns within this zone which have now effectively become ghost towns, having been abandoned after the accident in 1986. A notable one is Pripyat, where you can take tours and see how the buildings and homes were abandoned, stuck in a moment in time. Radiation levels are still very high, however in parts nearby Chernobyl, people have started to settle again, and you can visit at your own risk.
5. They have a coffee capital
And not just any coffee capital! In Lviv, there are more cafes per capita than anywhere else in the world, making the original café capital of the world. The city houses many beautiful buildings showing off Renaissance, Baroque, Belle Epoque and Art Noveau styles, all housing Viennese coffee houses.
6. The gas lamp was invented here
Lviv also has another claim to fame, as it’s the place where the gas lamp was invented. A local pharmacist built it in a store called At the Golden Star, and now you can have a coffee in the same building, at the Gasova L’ampa café.
7. Ukraine built the world’s biggest plane
During Soviet Union days, the biggest plan ever was built in Kiev. The Antonov An-225 Mriya has the largest wingspan, of 88.4 meters, and weighs an impressive 640,000 kg, an interesting fact about Ukraine. There was only one ever built.
8. You can still find impressive Soviet relics in Ukraine
In 2015, the government banned any Communist symbols and street names in Ukraine, but allowed Second World War monuments to stay in place, commemorating the country’s history when it was part of the Soviet Union.
This is how we can still admire the huge Mother Motherland, 62 meters tall and carrying a 16-meter sword. Part of the Museum of the History of Ukraine in World War II, it was also meant to have an eternal flame in a fire pit, but this is only lit at special occasions due to lack of funding.
9. They have the “tunnel of love”
A part of the railway track which links the towns of Klevan and Orzhiv became famous through Instagram posts for its scenic beauty. Covered in leaves and branches, the tunnel has been named the “tunnel of love” through the forest, a fun fact about Ukraine. This working railway was used to move supplies during the Cold War.
10. Kiev has the third-busiest McDonald’s in the world
The McDonald’s franchise has been extremely successful in Ukraine, especially the one in Kiev next to the main train station. It’s not only the busiest in the country, but third busiest in the world.
11. A Ukrainian wrote one of the first constitutions in the world
In 1710, Pylyp Orlyk, a Ukrainian Cossack, wrote one of the first constitutions, making Ukraine a political pioneer. Orlyk’s constitution separated power between legislative, executive and judiciary branches, ahead of the more popular work Spirit of the Laws by Montesquieu, which made this principle famous from 1748.
12. It’s the birthplace of Jewish Hasidism
The founder of the Jewish Hasidic movement, Ba’al Shem Tov, was born in western Ukraine and taught and traveled throughout this part of the country.
13. Easter eggs originated here
The tradition of decorating Easter eggs is believed to have originated in this country, a fun Ukraine fact. Today, intricate designs are created every year for Easter, the same as all around predominantly Christian Orthodox countries. The painting is done with wax and dye and results in beautiful small works of art.
14. Women live a lot longer than men there
Ukrainian women’s life expectancy is significantly higher than that of men. They are meant to live to 76, while men only live to 66. It’s believed this is because of a high rate of alcoholism amongst the male population.
Ukraine is a very interesting country, often seen as an exotic land where east and west collide. It’s a great mix of cultures and history, carrying a Soviet legacy mixed with modern influences.
I hope that this article on Ukraine facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!