Ukraine - Cradle of the Rus
As the ship moves down the Dnieper River approaching Kiev, you are struck by the beauty of the cluster of churches in the monastery complex of the Pecherskaya Lavra. As the gold cupolas glisten in the sunlight, you wonder whether you are in Russia or the Ukraine. But then you find out that Kiev―capital of the Ukraine― was the centre of the kingdom of Rus, long before Russia existed.
Ancient Kiev was the headquarters of Grand Prince Vladimir (see Articles) who united the various disparate states under him by introducing Byzantine Christianity.
To the south, on the shores of the Black Sea, lies Odessa the largest of the Black Sea cities. Like St Petersburg, it was established to be a window on the west with its trade and commerce. Its first governor was the Frenchman, Duke de Richelieu, and among its most prominent early philanthropists was the German, Baron Arrest Mass, who also headed the council for the Reformed Christian community in Odessa. To some people Odessa looks more like a Mediterranean city displaying French and Italian architecture. Its people are very cosmopolitan and strongly independent.
Culturally, eastern Ukraine is primarily Russian-speaking and Christian Orthodox, while the west is Ukrainian-speaking and Greek Catholic.
Politically, Ukraine is caught between the desire of some to belong to Western Europe, and the desire of others to find stability in its relationship with Russia.