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Much of the ensuing progress is attributed to the Varangians (or Vikings or Normans) who visited Rus in the mid-ninth century.

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It is bordered by the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, Moldova, and Romania to the south; Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland to the west; Belarus to the north; and Russia to the north and northeast.

Of its population, 73 percent are of Ukrainian ethnic origin.

Ukraine is officially named Ukrayina, which means "borderland." After Russia, it is the second-largest country in Europe in area.

It is comparable, both in population (about 52 million) and size (233,089 square miles) to France.

The earliest evidence of human settlement in Ukraine dates back 150,000 years.

Early inhabitants of the territory included the Balkans, the Cimmerians (the first nomadic horsemen to appear in Ukraine in about 1500 to 1000 ).Although most of western Ukraine is agricultural—it is a country that has served as the "bread-basket of Europe"—there are large petroleum and natural gas fields as well.Major industrial products include refined sugar, iron, steel, tractors, cement, glass, paper, and fertilizer.Olha had converted from paganism to Christianity in 955 and, with Volodymyr, is credited with bringing Christianity to a pagan land in 988.The reign of Jaroslav the Wise (1036-1054) is often seen as the pinnacle in the history of Kievan Rus.Olha took over leadership when her husband, Ihor, was killed and their son Sviatoslav was still too young to rule.

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