Map Explainer: Key Facts About Ukraine
Map Explainer: Key Facts About Ukraine
The modern state of Ukraine was formed nearly 30 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the country has often made headlines due to political instability and the looming threat of a Russian invasion.
In the map graphic above, we examine Ukraine from a structural point of view. What’s the country’s population composition? What drives the country’s economy? And most importantly, why is the country important within a global context?
Where Do People Live in Ukraine?
With a population of nearly 44 million people, Ukraine is the eighth-most populous country in Europe. For perspective, that is slightly smaller than Spain, and four times larger than Greece.
As the cartogram below demonstrates, a large portion of the country’s population is located in and around the capital Kyiv, along with the Donetsk region—which is front and center in the current conflict with Russia.
Not surprisingly, many of the country’s Russian speaking citizens live on the eastern side of the country, near the Russian border.
Key Facts About Ukraine’s Demographics
Ukrainians make up almost 78% of the total population, while Russians represent around 17% of the population, making it the single-largest Russian diaspora in the world.
Other minorities include:
- Belarusians: 0.6%
- Bulgarians: 0.4%
- Hungarians: 0.3%
- Crimean Tatars: 0.5%
- Romanians: 0.3%
- Poles: 0.3%
- Jews: 0.2%
The country’s population has been declining since the 1990s because of a high emigration rate, and high death rates coupled with a low birth rate.
The majority of the population is Christian (80%), with 60% declaring adherence to one or another strand of the Orthodox Church.
Ukraine’s Economy: An Overview
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine turned over thousands of atomic weapons in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the United States, and other countries. However, the defense industry continues to be a strategically important sector and a large employer in Ukraine. The country exports weapons to countries like India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
Furthermore, Ukraine is rich in natural resources, particularly in mineral deposits. It possesses the world’s largest reserves of commercial-grade iron ore—30 billion tonnes of ore or around one-fifth of the global total. It’s also worth noting that Ukraine ranks second in terms of known natural gas reserves in Europe, which today remain largely untapped.
Ukraine’s mostly flat geography and high-quality soil composition make the country a big regional agricultural player. The country is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat and the world’s largest exporter of seed oils like sunflower and rapeseed.
Coal mining, chemicals, mechanical products (aircraft, turbines, locomotives and tractors) and shipbuilding are also important sectors of the Ukrainian economy.
The Bear in the Room
Given the country’s location and history, it’s nearly impossible to talk about Ukraine without mentioning nearby Russia.
The country shares borders with Russia both to the east and northeast. For context, a car trip from Moscow to one of the Ukrainian border cities, Shostka, takes around 8 hours. To the Northwest, Ukraine also shares borders with Belarus—a country that is closely aligned with the Kremlin.
To the southeast is Crimea, a peninsula entirely surrounded by both the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. In 2014, Russia annexed the peninsula and established two federal subjects, the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. The annexation was widely condemned around the world, and the territories are recognized by most of the international community as being part of Ukraine.
The region was of particular interest to Russia since Moscow depends on the Black Sea for access to the Mediterranean. The Port of Sevastopol, on the southwest edge of Crimea, is one of the few ice-free deepwater ports available to Russia in the region.
Due to ongoing tensions between the two countries, Ukraine has been seeking to reduce Russia’s leverage over its economy. As a result, China and Poland have surpassed Russia as Ukraine’s largest country trading partners in recent years.
However, Ukraine still remains an important route for Russian gas that heats millions of homes, generates electricity, and powers factories in Europe. The continent gets nearly 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia.
Furthermore, Ukraine is connected to the same power grid as Russia, so it remains dependent on Moscow in the event of a shortfall. Even as conflict heats up, the two countries still share economic links, which will influence how the situation unfolds.
Conflict in the Donbas Region
Ukraine stands at the center of a geopolitical rivalry between western powers and Russia, and that rivalry is flaring up once again.
Two regions along the Russian border—Donetsk and Luhansk—have been a conflict zone since 2014, when pro-Russian separatists began clashing with government forces. The map below shows the relative contact zone between the two opposing forces.
Currently Russia has troops and military equipment amassed at various points along the border between the two countries, as well as in neighboring Belarus.
In recent days, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, recognizing them as independent states. This recognition serves as a definitive end point to the seven-year peace deal known as the Minsk agreement.
As this conflict heats up, it remains to be seen what will happen to the roughly 5 million people who live in the Donbas region.
Note: As of February 23rd, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale military operation into Ukraine. The situation is still evolving rapidly.
Map Explainer: Sudan
This comprehensive map explainer covers both key facts about Sudan, as well as information on the violent power struggle unfolding there
Map Explainer: Sudan
The African nation of Sudan has been in the headlines, as intense fighting has rocked the country. As this bloody power struggle plays out, the map infographic above aims to provides key information on the conflict, as well as general facts and context about the country.
To begin, what exactly is happening in Sudan?
The 2023 Conflict in Sudan: A Primer
As explosions echo throughout Khartoum—Africa’s sixth largest urban area—many around the world are left wondering how the conflict escalated to this point. Here are five things to know:
- Two generals have been sharing power since a coup in 2021. The first is General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who leads the Sudanese Army. The second is General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (aka Hemedti), who leads the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group. This power-sharing arrangement was meant to be temporary, with an eventual transition to a civilian-led democracy. Instead, the situation devolved into conflict.
- Fighting broke out around the country in mid-April, with Khartoum becoming a major flash point. Flames billowed over the Khartoum airport, and the city’s military headquarters was reduced to a burned-out husk.
- As violence began to grip Sudan’s largest city, there was an exodus of foreign officials and citizens. In one particularly dramatic scene at the U.S. Embassy, nearly 100 people were escorted onto an aircraft by Navy SEALs and flown to nearby Djibouti.
- There have been a number of ceasefire agreements so far, but they’ve done little to stem the intense fighting.
- The stream of refugees fleeing the violence continues to grow. There is growing concern that this conflict will cause further instability in the region, as most of Sudan’s neighbors have their own histories with recent conflict, and many areas are facing food insecurity.
Unfortunately, Sudan is no stranger to conflict, having been ruled by the military for much of its existence. As of the writing of this article, there is technically a ceasefire in place, but fighting rages on. It remains to be seen how far these warring generals are willing to push the situation to assert their power.
Fast Facts About the Country of Sudan
Beyond headlines of conflict, Sudan is not a well-known country to many in the West. In the map above, we’ve also included more general information about geography, climate, population centers, and more.
Geography and Climate
Sudan is the third largest nation in Africa (16th globally), so there is a lot of climate and geographic variance within the country’s borders.
The country is located in Northeast Africa, directly below Egypt. Roughly speaking, its climate changes along a north–south axis, moving from arid to tropical. About two-thirds of the nation is arid and semi-arid, which is typical of countries with territory that includes the Sahara Desert.
The further south one goes in Sudan, the greener the surroundings get. The map below (which also includes the relatively new country of South Sudan) shows the extreme difference in vegetation from the north to south in the region.
The Nile River is a prominent feature running across this arid region, providing two-thirds of the country’s fresh water. In the south, the Blue and White portions of the Nile enter the country from South Sudan and Ethiopia, respectively. The rivers meet midway through the country and the Nile River flows northward, eventually reaching Egypt.
This flow of water from country-to-country can sometimes be a point of contention between Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt, who all rely on the river for power, fresh water, and irrigation.
Over 43 million people live in Sudan, which ranks it ninth in terms of population in Africa. Below, we can see that much of the Sudanese population is clustered in a couple of key areas, while much of the country remains sparsely populated.
Khartoum, the capital and largest city, is located in the interior of the country at the strategic point where the Blue and White Niles converge. This fast-growing city is shaped by the three sections surrounding the river junction—with Khartoum, North Khartoum, and Omdurman making up a metro area of 6.3 million people.
Sudan is divided into 18 states, five of which form the Darfur region in the west. If the name Darfur is familiar, it’s for good reason. In the 2000s, the region experienced a conflict marked by widespread violence, human rights abuses, and displacement, resulting in a humanitarian crisis. One of the generals involved in the current crisis, Hemedti, previously commanded the Janjaweed militias, which carried out some of the most egregious atrocities of the Darfur conflict.
In the northwest, Sudan borders the strategic Red Sea route. Port Sudan serves as the main entry point for imports and the primary export outlet for Sudanese commodities, including agricultural products (such as cotton, gum arabic, and sesame), minerals (such as gold), and livestock. The city has also been tapped to host a Russian naval base in the near future, though the recent power struggle in Sudan has potentially complicated negotiations.
As violence continues to rage in residential areas and people flee for safer areas, it remains to be seen how this conflict will influence population patterns within the country. How many people will be displaced? And once the smoke clears, will they return?
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