Learn all about the second-largest country in Europe with these fun facts about Ukraine!
Basic Facts About Ukraine
Ukraine has a slew of neighboring countries, but its location is best described as being directly north of the Black Sea.
It is the second-largest country in Europe (second to France) at just over 600,000 square miles.
Ukraine is a semi-presidential republic, which means there is a president but also a prime minister and a Cabinet (who are in charge of making the laws).
The national language is Ukranian and the capital is Kyiv (pronounced /keev/).
The Ukranian flag is bold in color. It has a thick horizontal bar of yellow topped with a bar of bright blue. Its colors match a field of sunflowers topped with a blue sky.
Now on to some fun facts about Ukraine!
1. Ukraine’s Nickname Is the “Breadbasket of Europe”
Ukraine is largely a flat country with fertile farmland. Its soil is ideal for growing crops such as wheat.
Ukraine produces so much wheat that its nickname is the “Breadbasket of Europe.”
They use that wheat to make many famous Ukrainian dishes such as paska, a salty bread served at Easter.
Ukrainians see bread as a symbol of wealth and hard work.
2. A Marten Is a Ukrainian Predator
You likely wouldn’t be scared of one of Ukraine’s animal predators; you might even find it cute! The marten is a member of the weasel family.
It has sleek brown fur on its body and a fluffy tail. Its chest area has cream-colored fur.
Martens eat rodents such as hamsters (yes, there are wild hamsters in Ukraine), birds, eggs, and, unfortunately, human garbage.
3. You Might Be Eating Sunflower Seeds from Ukraine
The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower, and that’s not just because it is so beautiful. Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of sunflower seeds.
The next time you eat sunflower seeds on a salad, in nutty bread, or just as a salty snack, you could be eating seeds all the way from Ukraine!
4. In Ukraine, Jumping Over a Fire Is a Tradition
On June 23, Ukrainian people celebrate a traditional holiday called Kupala Day. It commemorates “the birth of the sun” on the longest day of the year.
Boys and girls hold hands and jump over a fire. Traditional says that if a couple jumps over the fire and manages to keep their hands clasped, their love will last.
5. Decorating Easter Eggs Started in Ukraine
Ukraine has long been an agricultural country. They need the sun to warm the air and bring spring (the “resurrection of nature”) to their farms.
Long ago, people would try to usher in the warmth of the sun by decorating eggs with dyes and wax.
They believed these eggs had the power to welcome the sun’s warmth to their land each spring. They would display the eggs in homes, give them as gifts, and even bury them in their yards.
When Christianity arrived, the pagan tradition melded with the church holiday of Easter. The decorated eggs continue to symbolize resurrection but in a new way.
6. The Trembita Is the World’s Longest Musical Instrument
Try carrying the trembita around! The trembita can be anywhere from 3-10 feet long.
It is a traditional woodwind instrument. It is made from spruce and bound with birch bark. The trembita has a metal mouthpiece.
It developed as a way for shepherds to communicate across long distances.
7. The Ukranians Took Gold Many Times in Rhythmic Gymnastics
Rhythmic gymnastics is sport that combines dance, gymnastics, and calisthenics. It is currently only a sport for female athletes.
It became an Olympic sport in 1984.
The five possible apparatuses for rhythmic gymnastics are:
- rope, which involves leaping and skipping
- hoop, which involves rotation, swinging, and throwing
- ball, which involves throwing, bouncing, and rolling with contininuos and graceful movement
- clubs, which involves throwing with rotation and catching
- ribbon, which involves twirling or flicking the ribbon in continuous waves and spirals
The Ukranians have numerous gold medal winners such as Ganna Rizatdinova, Anna Bessonova, Olena Vitrychenko, Tatyana Gutsu, Oleksandra Tymoshenko, Tamara Yerofeeva, and Kateryna Serebrianskaya.
8. It Takes 5 Minutes to Ride an Escalator Down to the Subway
The world’s second deepest metro station is in Kyiv at Arsenala. (The deepest station is in North Korea.)
It is 346 feet below the surface. You have to ride two escalators for five minutes to reach the station.
9. Ukraine Is Home to the Oldest Beech Forest
In the Carpathian mountains of western Ukraine lies a forest of beech trees that has been untouched since the last ice age (estimated at 11,000 years ago).
It is illegal to cut any trees in that forest, and much of the area is a national park. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ancient forests are sometimes called primeval forests.
10. If You Want to Tell If a Ukranian Is Married, Look at Their Right Hand
While married people in North American and Western Europe wear their wedding rings on their left hands, Ukraine is one the countries where it is customary to wear your wedding band on the right hand.
They wear a gold ring on the fourth finger of their right hand to symbolize union.
Other interesting Ukranian wedding traditions include paying a “ransom” for the bride. The groom brings two loaves of bread to the bride’s house and gives them to the family. Bread is a symbol of blessing.
Tradition holds that if the bride’s family does not approve of the groom, they give him a pumpkin, so he does not go away empty handed.
Read More About Ukraine
If you would like to learn more information and fun facts about Ukraine, check out these books:
This book walks early elementary students through the once-forbidden and deeply symbolic Ukrainian national anthem.
This elementary and middle school social studies book on Ukraine explores the country’s traditional, music, art, food, and landmarks.
This book is part history and part trivia. It’s perfect for high school students and adults.