Geography of Ukraine
The geography of Ukraine varies greatly from one region of the country to another, with the majority of the country lying within the East European Plain. Ukraine is the second-largest country by area in Europe after the Russian Federation. Its various regions have diverse geographic features ranging from the highlands to the lowlands as well as climatic range and a wide variety in hydrography.
Ukraine has a strategic position in East Central Europe, lying on the northern shores of Black Sea and Sea of Azov, it borders a number of European countries Poland, Slovakia and Hungary in the west, Belarus in the north, Moldova and Romania in the south-west and Russia in the east. Most of its territory lays within the Great European Plain, while parts of western regions reach into the Pannonian Plain. The southern shores of Crimea are located within a unique subtropical biome which is separated from most of Ukraine by a range of Crimean Mountains. In general Ukraine is split between two biomes mixed forest towards the middle of continent and steppe towards Black Sea littoral. The western regions located in the alpine-like country that is dominated by the Carpathian Mountains.
The northern part of the Carpathian Mountains reach into Ukraine in the western part of the country. The highest peak is Hoverla, which is 2061 m or 6762 ft tall. Most of Ukraine's area is taken up by the steppe-like region just north of the Black Sea. Ukraine is divided almost in half by the Dnipro river, which traverses Ukraine north to south. It empties into the Black Sea, just west of the Crimea and near the mouths of the Bug and the Dnister rivers. The border with Russia is the country's longest border, and it runs through the Sea of Azov.
The Eurasian Steppe Belt, is the vast temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of Eurasia. It stretches from Moldavia through Ukraine to Siberia, with one major exclave, the Puszta. It connects Europe, Central Asia, China, South Asia, and the Middle East economically, politically, and culturally through overland trade routes, most notably the Silk Road during antiquity and the Middle Ages, and the Eurasian Land Bridge in the modern era. It has been home to nomadic empires and many large tribal confederations and ancient states throughout history, such as the Xiongnu, Scythia, Cimmeria, Sarmatia, Hunnic Empire, Chorasmia, Transoxiana, Sogdiana, Xianbei and Göktürk Khaganate. The Ukrainian Steppe (at different points in ancient history has been called Cimmeria, Scythia and Sarmatia) begins near the mouth of the Danube and extends northeast almost to Halich, Kyiv and Poltava, and then southeast to the Don. North of the Black Sea, the Crimean Peninsula has some interior steppe and ports on the south coast which link the Ukrainian steppe to the civilizations of the Mediterranean basin.
The total geographic area of Ukraine is 603,550 square kilometers (233,030 sq mi). The land border of Ukraine totals 4,558 kilometers (2,832 mi). The border lengths with each country are: Belarus 891 kilometers (554 mi), Hungary 103 kilometers (64 mi), Moldova 939 kilometers (583 mi), Poland 428 kilometers (266 mi), Romania 169 kilometers (105 mi) on the south and 362 kilometers (225 mi) on the west, Russia 1,576 kilometers (979 mi), and Slovakia 90 kilometers (56 mi). Ukraine is also bordered by 3,783 kilometers (2,351 mi) of coastline.
Most of Ukraine consists of fertile plains (or steppes) and plateaus. In terms of land use, 58% of Ukraine is considered arable land; 2% is used for permanent crops, 13% for permanent pastures, 18% is forests and woodland, and 9% is other.
Mountains are limited to the west, the southern tip of Ukraine on the Crimean Peninsula, and near the Sea of Azov. The western region has the Carpathian Mountains, the Crimean Peninsula has the Crimean Mountains, and some eroded mountains from the Donets Ridge are in the east near the Sea of Azov. The highest elevation in Ukraine is located at the peak of Mount Hoverla which is 2,061 meters (6,762 ft) above sea level.
Most of Ukraine consists of regular plains with the average height above sea level being 175 metres (574 ft). It is surrounded by mountains to its west and extreme south. Wide spaces of the country's plains are located in the south-western part of the East European Plain. The plains have numerous highlands and lowlands caused by the uneven crystallized base of the East European craton. The highlands are characterized by Precambrian basement rocks from the Ukrainian Shield.
- Volhynia-Podillia Upland
- Pokuttia-Bessarabia Upland
- San-Dnister Divide (San-Dnister Upland, San Lowland, Dniester Lowland)
- Transcarpathian Lowland
- Polissian Lowland
The territory of Ukraine is bordered by the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. 90% of the rivers are part of those two seas' drainage basins. A few rivers are part of the Baltic Sea basin. There are seven major rivers in Ukraine: Desna, Dnipro, Dnister, Danube, Prypiat, Siverian Donets, and Southern Buh.
Ukraine has a temperate continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. Only the southern Crimean coast of Ukraine has a humid subtropical climate. Ukraine's climates are influenced by the humid air from the Atlantic Ocean. Precipitation in Ukraine is disproportionately distributed, with the most falling in the west and the north, and much less falling in the east and the southeast. June and July are usually the wettest months, while February is usually the driest. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland; summers are warm across the greater part of the country, and tend to be very hot in the south.
Significant natural resources in Ukraine include: iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber, and arable land.
Ukraine does have many environmental concerns. Some regions lack adequate supplies of potable water. Air and water pollution affects the country, as well as deforestation, and radiation contamination in the northeast stemming from the 1986 accident at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
- CIA World Factbook, Entry for Ukraine updated May 15 2008.
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- (English) (Latin) General Depiction of the Empty Plains (in Common Parlance, the Ukraine) Together with its Neighboring Provinces by Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan, 1648
- Zastavnyi, F. D. Physical geography of Ukraine: lowlands and uplands of Ukraine. "Heohrafiya".