Ukraine – The Land and its People. An Introduction to its Geography

The Slaughter of the Jews in the Ukraine in 1919 – Elias Heifetz

In fact, before the Russian aggression in 2022, the name Ukraine meant nothing at all to many of us. To dispel this ignorance concerning “the second largest Slavic nation,” this little book was already written in 1910 by the famous geographer of the University of Lemberg. He divides his discussion into two sections: the ¿rst a treatise on the physical geography of Ukraine, describing its geographic unity, its general topography, and giving detailed information concerning its streams, climate, flora, and fauna; the second, concerned with the Ukraine’s anthropogeography, a clear and concise exposition of those national qualities which entitle the Ukrainians to an independent national existence. Such foundations for national independence are, in the words of the author, “independent anthropological characteristics: a distinct independent language; uniform historico-political traditions an aspirations, and independent culture, and a compact geographical territory.” A general survey of the natural and industrial resources of Ukrainia, and a description of her districts and settlements conclude the discussion.

Ukraine - The Land and its People. An Introduction to its Geography

Ukraine – The Land and its People. An Introduction to its Geography.

Format: eBook.

Ukraine – The Land and its People. An Introduction to its Geography.

ISBN: 9783849661946.



Excerpt from the text:


Ukraine as a Geographic Unit


There are few lands upon the whole globe so imperfectly known to geographic science as the one which we shall try to describe in this little work. The geographic concept of the Ukraine does not exist in the geography of today. Even the name has been almost forgotten in Europe in the course of the last century and a half. Only occasionally on some maps of Eastern Europe the name “Ukraine” shows timidly along the middle of the Dnieper. And yet it is an old name of the country, originating in the 11th Century, generally known throughout Europe from the 16th to the end of the 18th century, and then, after the abrogation of the autonomy of the second Ukrainian state, gradually fallen into oblivion. The Russian Government has determined to erase the old name of the land and the nation from the map of Europe. Little Russia, West Russia, South Russia, New Russia, were officially introduced in place of the old name Ukraine, the Austrian part of the Ukraine receiving the name of East Galicia. The people were named Little Russians, South Russians, Ruthenians, and all remembrance of the old name seemed to have been blotted out. But, in the speech of the people and in the magnificent unwritten popular literature of the nation, the name of the land could not be destroyed, and, with the unexpected rise of Ukrainian literature, culture, and a feeling of national political independence in the 19th Century, the name Ukraine came into its own again. Today there is not an intelligent patriotic Ukrainian who would use another name for his country and nation than Ukraine and Ukrainian, and, slowly, these designations are penetrating foreign lands as well.

The Ukraine is the land in which the Ukrainian nation dwells — a great solid national territory embracing all the southern part of Russia in Europe, besides East Galicia, Northwest Bukovina and Northeast Hungary.

This district is a definite geographic unit. A discussion of its exact boundaries shall be reserved for the anthropogeographical part of this book.

A division of Europe into natural regions almost invariably stops at Eastern Europe. While all the other portions of our globe have long been the object of the most detailed classification, Eastern Europe remains, as before, an undivided whole. To be sure, there have been many attempts at classification, but they are all based upon a non-geographical point of view. Only the Baltic provinces and Poland are, in their present political extent, regarded as possible geographic units.

These deficiencies in the geographic material relating to Eastern Europe are due, above all, to our imperfect knowledge of this great region. Russian science is devoting far more intensive study to the Asiatic borderlands of the immense empire than to the European home country. For this reason, our literary aids in this direction are few and unreliable. The latter criticism applies even to the twenty-volume Geography of Russia by Semyonoff and the Geography of Krassnoff. Apart from the consideration that it is relatively out of date, the fifth volume of Reclus’ “Gographie universelle” still offers the best insight into this unique region of Eastern Europe.

If we glance at the map of Eastern Europe, we perceive at once that the great uniformity of this immense region makes it quite impossible to apply to Eastern Europe as a criterion the division of Western or Central Europe. It is not seas and mountains that separate the natural regions and anthropogeographical units of Eastern Europe, but imperceptible morphological transitions, hydrographic and climatic boundaries, petrologic and floral conditions.

The Ukraine is an Eastern European country. Its situation, its decidedly continental character, its geologic history, tectonic construction and morphologic conditions, its climate, plant and animal life, its anthropogeography — all are characteristic of Eastern Europe. But within Eastern Europe the Ukraine occupies a unique position, which fully warrants our conceiving of this great land as a geographic unit standing on an equal basis with the other natural units, as Great Russia, North Russia, the Ural, White Russia, the Baltic Provinces. But it also forms a characteristic transition country from Eastern to Central and Southern Europe on the one side, and to Western Asia on the other.

The location of the Ukraine causes us necessarily to consider it as the easternmost of the Mediterranean countries of Europe. The Ukraine differs from these other Mediterranean countries in that it is not hemmed in on the north by mountains. The back-country of the Black Sea, which the Ukraine really is, therefore merges gradually into the lands lying further to the north — Great Russia and White Russia. Of all the regions of Eastern Europe, the Ukraine alone has access to the Mediterranean.

The geological history of the Ukraine is entirely different from that of the rest of Europe. The pre-Cambrian core of gneiss-granite of the Ukraine, unlike other parts of Eastern Europe, was not flooded by the sea either in the Cambrian period or the lower Silurian, while in the upper Silurian the sea covered only a slight part of Western Podolia and Northern Bessarabia. The Devonian sea crossed the boundaries of the Ukraine only in the farthest east (Donets Plateau) and west (Western Podolia). The carbon deposits and Permian formations, so widely distributed in Eastern Europe, are found in the Ukraine only on the Donets; Triassic rock hardly at all. The Jurassic Sea confined its action almost wholly to the plicated borderlands of the Ukraine, although it actually flooded great stretches of Eastern Europe. Only the extension of the chalk seas thru Eastern Europe affected Ukrainian territory, especially the northern and western borderlands. The old tertiary sea, on the other hand, confined itself for the most part to the Ukraine, with the result that a goodly section of the northeastern boundary of the old tertiary deposits coincides exactly with the anthropogeographical boundaries of the Ukraine. The inland seas of the lower green-sand formation of Eastern Europe, too, are confined almost entirely to Ukrainian territory.

The geologic history of the Ukraine in the diluvian period was also decidedly different from that of the other districts of Eastern Europe. The Northern European inland ice covered the northwestern borderlands of the Ukraine only in the main ice period, for the boundary set for the glaciation of the north, on the basis of the investigations of Russian scholars, applies in great measure only to the limits of the distribution of northern glacial boulders, which were carried to their present site not by ice but by flowing water. The two indentations of the glaciation-boundary in the Don and Dnieper district merely mark the sphere of action of two glacial river systems.

The absence of a one-time inland-ice-cap differentiates the Ukrainian district very markedly from the other parts of Eastern Europe. As we perceive, even from this short description, the Ukraine has had an entirely different geologic history from the rest of Eastern Europe.

More plainly still, the independence of the Ukraine as a natural unit is revealed in its contour-line and surface-relief. The Ukraine is the only portion of the Eastern European plain which has access to the mountainous region, for it rests upon the Carpathians, the Yaila Mountains and the Caucasus. Important individual districts of the Ukraine lie in these mountains and lessen the Eastern European uniformity of the country. The formation of the Yaila and the Caucasus began at the end of the Jurassic period — its completion and the building up of the Carpathians occur in the late tertiary period.

The plains and plateau of the Ukraine, while at first glance quite similar to those of Central Russia, are in reality very different from these as to structure and surface-relief. The nucleus of the Ukrainian plateau group, which is surrounded by the two plain districts of the Ukraine, consists of the so-called Azof Horst (so named by E. Suess), which stretches from the banks of the Sea of Azof in a northwesterly direction as far as Volhynia and Austrian Podolia. This primeval rock surface, composed of granite gneiss, is bounded by quarries and edged with declivities, which are hidden by more recent sediment deposits. Since this extended Horst stretches thru practically the whole length of the Ukraine, we shall call it “the Ukrainian Horst.”

This Ukrainian Horst is of great importance for the entire process of folding, all over the earth. To the west of this Horst is the immense fold-system of the Altai, folded far into North America toward the north and northeast, in direct opposition to the main parts of the enormous system which lie to the east of it. In the east of the Horst we see the straight line of the mountain system of the Caucasus; in the west the winding guide-lines of Central Europe.

The region of the Ukrainian Horst has influenced not only the formation of the plicated country. In connection with it we find, arranged on a grand scale, but not very intensive, disintegrating lines, which traverse the entire Ukrainian country from N. W. to S. E. These tectonic disturbances have led to strong folding and dislocation of the more recent sedimentary layers which lie close to the Horst. This folding district can be observed only in the trunk range on the Donets and in a few isolated places to the northwest; beyond this it is buried under the huge cover of the tertiary layers. The folding process took place in the Donets Mountains, continuing with long interruptions from the end of the Paleozoic era to the beginning of the tertiary period. As pre-tertiary disturbances of this kind we consider the disturbance of Isatchky, Trekhtimirov, etc., as well as some dividing lines at the northwestern extremity of the Ukrainian Horst.

There is no doubt that the Ukrainian Horst was also the origin of more recent tectonic disturbances — tertiary and post-tertiary. The two main lines of Karpinsky (the northern — Volga, bend of the Don, source of the Donets, delta of the Desna, South Polissye, Warsaw; the southern — delta of the Don, end of the Porohy of the Dnieper, source of the Boh, Western Podolia) for the most part go back to these more recent post-Cretaceous  disturbances. Besides, we are already able, despite our insufficient morphological data on the Ukraine, to establish the fact that the entire Ukrainian plateau-group is the scene of a significant post-glacial elevation. The strikingly parallel courses of the main streams, the Dniester, the Boh, the Dnieper as far as Katerinoslav, the Donets and the Don, together with the precipices frequently accompanying them, lead us to infer the existence of tectonic influences. That the precipices of Podolia are very recent we may now confidently maintain, and that the precipitous bank of the Dnieper is quite as recent is shown by the familiar dislocation near Kaniv, where the tertiary is affected. Seismic movements of the most recent past and morphological observations show us that the tectonic disturbances of the Ukraine are continuing into our own day. From this tectonic characterization of the Ukraine we perceive that this country occupies an independent position in relation to the rest of Eastern Europe. The much more intensive tectonic disturbances of the Ukrainian region have produced a greater variety of plateau and plain country here than in White, Great or North Russia. The Ukrainian plateaus attain the contour-lines of 400 and even 500 meters and reveal precipices of tectonic origin, which for a long time were considered proof of Baer’s law and have recently been explained as Davis Cuestas. The extensive working out of valleys in the Ukrainian plateau regions, the characteristic canon-like type of the valleys, the frequent occurrence of hills formed by erosion, lack of glacial formations and deposits, but evidences of great erosive and flattening action — these are the chief elements of difference between the plateau lands of the Ukraine and other Eastern European plateau lands. The plains of the Ukraine possess similarities to neighboring Central Europe only in the Northwest. Beyond this, they are all more or less decided steppes, the like of which are not met with in Central Europe, Hungary not excepted. At the same time the character of the steppes of the Ukraine is different from that of the steppe-region of Eastern Russia as well, chiefly because of the detail of the country and the peculiarities of vegetation, which are occasioned by differences of climate.


Dieser Beitrag wurde unter European History (English), World History (English) veröffentlicht. Setze ein Lesezeichen auf den Permalink.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht.