Ukraine in Eastern Europe,bordered by Russia to the east and northeast; Belarus to the northwest; Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to the west; Romania and Moldova to the southwest; and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014 but which Ukraine and most of the international community recognise as Ukrainian. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km(233,062 sq mi) making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world
The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus' forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. A Cossack republic emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but its territory was eventually split between Poland and the Russian Empire, and later merged fully into Russia.
During the 20th century three periods of independence occurred. The first of these periods occurred briefly during and immediately after the German occupation near the end of World War I and the second occurred, also briefly, and also during German occupation, during World War II. However, both of these first two earlier periods would eventually see Ukraine's territories consolidated back into a Soviet republic within the USSR. The third period of independence began in 1991, when Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in the aftermath of its dissolution at the end of the Cold War. Ukraine has maintained its independence as a sovereign state ever since. Before its independence, Ukraine was typically referred to in English as "The Ukraine", but sources since then have moved to drop "the" from the name of Ukraine in all uses.