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March 8, 2023

The cities of Ukraine

Western nations are aligned in support of Ukraine, but the country itself is not well known to most. These are the cities of Ukraine.

By Silvia Pellegrino

The ongoing war in Ukraine has become one of the defining aspects of the early 2020s, with major Western nations largely aligned in their resolve to assist Kyiv and other cities in defence against aggression by Moscow.

Ukraine cities
The Ukrainian flag waves in the wind against the city of Kyiv. (Photo by Ingus Kruklitis/Shutterstock)

News coverage, along with refugees integrating into welcoming countries, has made the conflict feel all the more present in the lives of people in the UK and elsewhere, but how much does the average person know about the country we are supporting?

These are the cities and regions of Ukraine.

(Because of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the figures present in this article might not be completely up to date and can consequently change suddenly.) 

The history of Ukraine

Throughout its history, Ukraine has been ruled by many dynasties: from Cimmerians and the Bulgars in the first millennium to Slavic Tribes after the fourth century, the Mongols in the 13th century and then going under the rule of Poland and Russia in the 18th century. 

Ukraine came under Soviet rule after the First World War, being ruled by Joseph Stalin who led the country into the Holodomor, an intense famine that devastated the population and kept it under the control of Russia. 

The Holodomor was not the only tragedy Ukraine has seen in its time, with few being more widely known than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Ukraine gained independence from Russia in 1991, but the turmoil continued. When the pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych was elected in 2004, the Orange Revolution started after rigging rumours arose and, as a consequence, pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko took over.

However, more rallies and protests continued for the next decade when, in 2014, the government was overthrown in Kyiv’s Maidan mass rebellion. While the country was trying to recover, Russia invaded the autonomous republic of Crimea, which then declared independence from Ukraine in the same year.

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Since then, the situation between Ukraine and Russia has worsened, peaking in 2021, when Russia, under Vladimir Putin, began advancing through the border, culminating in an invasion in February 2022.

How many cities are there in Ukraine?

Ukraine is home to more than 400 cities – 461 to be precise. The country has a rich history, which started in prehistoric eras when settlements and communities began developing along what today are its borders. 

Around the sixth and seventh centuries, the Greeks from Miletus populated the shores around the Dniester River estuary, establishing one of the oldest cities of Ukraine: Akkerman, also called Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi – which today is in the Odesa Oblast and acts as the administrative hub of the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi Raion. 

The title of the smallest city belongs to Uhniv, on the west side of the country, almost touching the Ukraininan-Polish border. The total population of this city barely reaches 1,000 and most of the buildings were built in the 1800s, making it also a highly historical site.

Out of 461 cities, two have special status: Kyiv, which is the capital, and Sevastopol, in the disputed territory of Crimea. Special status, in this case, means that these two cities rely on their local administrations, which answer directly to the state and thus are the executive bodies of the territories. 

While Kyiv’s status derives from it being Ukraine’s capital, Sevastopol’s derives from it being under Soviet control and being the original headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet. These days, even if it is on Ukrainian territory, Sevastopol is under Russian federal control and has been since 2014. 

What are the largest cities in Ukraine?

Kyiv is the largest city both in terms of size and population. It is the capital of Ukraine and one of the most populous cities in Europe. Its population is around 2.8 million people, while its area covers 839km². It is situated near the Dnieper River and, similarly to Akkerman, was born between the 6th and 7th centuries, even if its official creation date is conventionally set in 482CE.

After becoming the first East Slavic region in the Kyivan Rus empire in the ninth century, Kyiv went through numerous downfalls, like in 1169 at the hands of Prince Andrew Bogolyubsky and in 1240 by the Mongol population led by Batu. The capital did not recover until 1516 when it gained its independence thanks to a charter.

In 1793, Kyiv went under the control of Russia and 1934 saw it gain the title of capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, in 1991, it was chosen as Ukraine’s national capital after the country claimed its independence from the Soviet Union

By population, Kharkiv is the second largest city in Ukraine, reaching around 1.4 million inhabitants. Today, it acts as one of Ukraine’s communication and transportation hubs, with numerous main-line stations and connections to other parts of the country, as well as being an important component of the country’s scientific and commercial industries. 

Donetsk and Odesa are the third and fourth-largest cities in Ukraine by population, with 1.02 and 1.01 million people living there, respectively. The latter in particular is also denominated “pearl of the sea” since it is a renowned port city in Ukraine and home of one of the Three Black Sea ports.

However, Odesa is also known for its cultural relevance, as it houses over 20 universities and 80 research facilities. Its importance is reflected in tourism too, as it is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, registering over 3.3 million visitors before the pandemic in 2019. 

In fifth position, there is Dnipro, with a population of one million. It is also an industrial city, along the Dnieper river. There days, it is a well-developed iron and steel producer, as well as having agriculture, medicine and railway engineering as points of interest. 

From a geographical point of view, the second largest city in Ukraine is Kryvyi, with an area of around 430 km². While the third and fourth positions belong to the cities of Makiivka and Horlivka, respectively at 426 and 422km². Dnipro, in fifth position population-wise, is also in fifth position by area, occupying around 409km².

What are the regions of Ukraine?

Ukraine’s territory can be divided in two ways, geographically and administratively. The former sees the area separated into four parts: the northern, the middle, the southern and the mountainous. 

From an administrative point of view, Ukraine can be divided into 27 areas. These entail 24 oblasts (or regions) alongside the other three parts: the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and the two special status cities Kyiv and Sevastopol. 

Consequently, each oblast is then subdivided into three to ten raions, which are administrative units in the country.

The first-ever oblasts, created in the 1930s by the Soviet Union, were:

  • Vinnytsia Oblast
  • Kyiv Oblast
  • Odesa Oblast
  • Kharkiv Oblast
  • Dnipropetrovsk Oblast

The way these regions operate is by having their own legislative and executive powers, and the majority of them fall under the government authorities of the capital. In addition, every region answers to the mutual Ukrainian government’s laws. Even financially, they exercise their independence, as all the oblasts administer their taxes and, in exchange, receive a part of the budget from Kyiv. 

[Read more: Why are so many ‘Homes for Ukraine’ refugees living in England’s small villages?]

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