Ukraine’s population has declined since independence in 1991, as it dies more than it is born in the country. The population has dropped from over 52 million to just over 44 million (including Crimea) at the beginning of 2017. The vast majority of residents are ethnic Ukrainians, while Russians constitute a large minority group. Ukrainian is officially language but Russian has a strong position.
The proportion of Russians increased during the Soviet period (1922–1991), but has declined rapidly again. It is believed to be more due to changed self-definition than migration; the border between Russians and Ukrainians is fluid. Many who speak Russian today perceive themselves as Ukrainians.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Ukraine, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
The Russians are mostly in Crimea and they make up almost half of the residents of the industrial areas of eastern Ukraine. The larger cities in the south are also dominated by Russians.
In Crimea also live Crimean Tatars, a Turkish-speaking people. They were deported from Crimea at the end of the Second World War but many returned after independence. In a 2001 census, there were a quarter of a million Crimean Tatars in Ukraine. Between 15,000 and 30,000 are estimated to have moved to other parts of Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
After the Russians, Belarusians and Moldavians are the most numerous. Among a large number of other minority groups are Bulgarians, Hungarians and Romanians. The traditionally large groups of Poles, Jews and Germans declined significantly after the Second World War.
The western part of Ukraine was previously one of the most important centers of European Judaism, but the Jewish population has been severely decimated by the German extermination of the Jews during the Second World War and emigration in recent years. According to the 2001 census, there were just over 100,000 Jews in the country, but according to estimates they are significantly more.
The Slavic population of the Transcarpathian in the West sometimes identifies as a special people (routes or raisins).
There are also large groups of Ukrainians in other countries, both in the west and in the east. Several millions of Ukrainians are found in other former Soviet republics, mainly Russia but also in Moldova, Belarus and Kazakhstan. In addition, Ukrainians live primarily in Canada, the US and Brazil.
The official language is Ukrainian, which is an East Slavic language and closely related to Belarusian and Russian. It has a large number of loan words from, among others, Polish. For the written language, a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet is applied.
Russian is the mother tongue of almost a third of the population, even for many who do not perceive themselves as Russians. Many also speak a mixed form of Ukrainian and Russian, called surzhyk. A disputed law passed in 2012 gave the Russian position as the official language in those parts of the country where at least ten percent of the residents have it as their mother tongue. Some perceived it as a threat to Ukraine’s independence in relation to Russia. When President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, Parliament voted to repeal the Language Act, which contributed to the strong Russian reaction to the change of power. The acting president, however, vetoed the decision after a few days and ordered that a new language law be drafted. In the fall of 2017, President Poroshenko signed a law that all school education from grade five onwards should be given in Ukrainian from 2020, with other languages possible as an option. A year later, the Lviv regional parliament tried to ban the use of the Russian language in culture of all kinds.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Ukrainians 78%, Russians 17%, Belarusians, Moldavians, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Jews, Armenians, Greeks and others
Number of residents
44 831 159 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
69.2 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
10.3 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
14.7 per 1000 residents (2016)
-0.4 percent (2017)
1.5 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
53.8 percent (2017)
71 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
76 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
67 years (2016)
Ukrainian is officially language 1
- many, however, only speak Russiansources
Crime investigation triggers unrest
The Prosecutor General’s decision to investigate Tymoshenko leads to rioting in Parliament, as members of her party entrench themselves in the plenary hall to prevent the next day’s meeting. The hall is stormed by government officials and a violent fight with outbursts breaks out. Several opposition members may be taken to hospitals for care.
Tymoshenko is prosecuted
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is charged with misuse of state funds in connection with the sale of emission allowances. Tymoshenko in turn accuses the government of witch-hunting and terror against the opposition.
Constitutional change is being torn down for the President’s benefit
The Constitutional Court states that the transfer of power from the Presidential Office to Parliament that occurred after the 2004 Orange Revolution violates the Constitution. President Yanukovych is thus given increased power. Opposition leader Julia Tymoshenko describes the decision as a crushing of democracy and the introduction of dictatorship.
The IMF provides financial assistance
Ukraine is requesting additional loans from the IMF, but is currently forced to borrow $ 2 billion from Russia to cover urgent needs. Eventually, the IMF gives $ 15.2 billion in loans for two and a half years.
Riot when the President goes to Russia
Yanukovych negotiates a new agreement with Russia, which gives the Russian Black Sea Fleet a deadline at least until 2042 for its base in Sevastopol in exchange for lower gas prices for Ukraine. The agreement is approved by Parliament in tumultuous forms. The opposition uses smoke bombs and throws eggs while fights erupt in the hall. Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko accuses Parliament of donating Ukraine’s territory.
The president’s ally takes over the government
The Tymoshenko coalition loses its majority in parliament and the government falls into a declaration of confidence. 243 of 450 members voted in favor of the proposal. A new government takes office, led by Mykola Azarov.
Yanukovych is elected president
In the second round of the presidential election, opposition leader Yanukovych gets close to 49 percent of the vote and Prime Minister Tymoshenko 45.5 percent (in the first round of January he got 35 percent and she 25 percent). Tymoshenko claims electoral fraud, but according to OSCE election observers, the election is largely open and fair. Tymoshenko refuses to recognize Yanukovych as victor and refuses to resign as prime minister.