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Thursday, January 15, 2009


One of the largest and most varied countries in Europe, Ukraine takes in the spectacular Carpathian Mountains in the west, the history-rich central plains and the stunning Black Sea coast in the south. The Crimean Peninsula, ethnically more Russian than Ukrainian, remains a huge draw for holidaymakers from Russia every summer. Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, is the origin of the Kyiv Rus state, founded in the eighth and ninth centuries, and the origin of the Russian state. Striking examples of baroque and Renaissance architecture can be found in Lviv, one of Europe's oldest cities, while Odessa is probably best known for the Potemkin Stairway, but is also home to one of the world's largest opera houses.Historically part of the Russian Empire since the 1650s, and later incorporated into the Soviet Union, Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 following the failed Moscow coup of August that year. The country came to international attention in late 2004 when 10 days of mass protests over electoral fraud led to a re-run of the presidential election and the eventual declaration of Viktor Yushchenko as president. The people's Orange Revolution undoubtedly raised Ukraine's profile abroad and the country is beginning to find its place on the tourist map.