Ukraine is a country in the East of Europe. The area of 603,628 km² making it the largest country on the European continent. Ukraine borders on Russian Federation to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. Ukraine’s history began with the Kievan Rus’, the precursor to the East Slavs. From the 9th century the Kiev Rus’ became a large and powerful nation but disintegrated in the 12th century. After the Great Northern War (1700–1721) Ukraine was divided into regional powers and, by the 19th century, the largest part of Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire and the rest was left under Austro-Hungarian control. After a chaotic period of incessant warfare and several attempts at independence (1917–21) following World War I and the Russian Civil War, it emerged as one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union in 1922. following World War I and the Russian Civil War, it emerged as one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union in 1922. Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s territory was enlarged westward shortly before and after World War II, and southwards in 1954 with the Crimea transfer. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the founding members of the United Nations.