Mission Field

Mission Partners International is a not-for-profit Christian organization partnering with individuals and organizations in East-Central Europe to meet the needs of the poor and underprivileged. Focusing on Ukraine, Belarus and Crimea, MPI ministers to both physical and spiritual needs. Here is some information about the places we work.

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 Ukraine

The country of Ukraine has a troubled history. Over the last several centuries, Ukraine has been conquered by most of the empires on their borders to the effect that it became known as the ‘Ukraine’, which means borderland. Despite the fact that since the 13th century Ukraine has spent relatively few years being self-governing, Ukrainians are fiercely proud of their ethnic heritage and are often passionately patriotic.

Geography

  • Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km² (233,062 mi²), which makes it the largest country with its entirety within Europe
  • The country of Ukraine is geographically slightly larger than France. It is the second largest country in Europe after Russia
  • The geographic centre of Europe is within the boundary of Ukraine
  • Ukraine is bisected by the large Dniepr River running north to south, emptying into the Black Sea

Politics and Economy

  • Ukraine’s government has both a president and a prime minister
  • Ukraine is one of the largest exporters of grain in the world
  • The national currency of Ukraine is called the Hryvnia
  • In 2014 and 2015, the Hryvnia lost about 70% of its value compared to the US dollar

Religion

  • Historically, Eastern Orthodoxy was the first Christian denomination to be practiced in Ukraine
  • Protestantism came to Ukraine in the 19th century partly because Protestant churches offered affordable and effective education
  • During the Soviet era, Christians of all denominations were persecuted systematically with home searches, literature confiscations, banishments, imprisonments, building destruction, driving many churches underground
  • Evangelical Christians in the Eastern provinces have been facing increasing opposition and persecution since the beginning of the recent conflict

The Capital

  • Kiev (Kyiv), the capital of Ukraine, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, predating the existence of the countries of Ukraine and Russia. It has a population of 2.8 million (2013)
  • Khreshchatyk Street in Kiev has the shortest yet widest main city street in the world. Its length is 1.2 km
  • Kiev has the deepest metro station in the world
  • Kiev is home to numerous beautiful Orthodox cathedrals

Language and People

  • The Ukrainian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Most Ukrainians in the east and central Ukraine speak Russian
  • Milla Jovovich, Hollywood actress and supermodel, was born in Kiev, Ukraine
  • Mila Kunis, Jewish actress, was born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine
  • Ukraine is the fourth most educated country in the world with 99.4% of Ukrainians over age 15 being able to read and write

Culture

  • A popular dish in Ukraine is a soup made with beets called borscht
  • Ukrainians wear their wedding rings on their right hand instead of their left

History

  • Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union on August 24, 1991
  • Ukraine built the first university in Eastern Europe (1576)
  • Ukraine was the first country to write and adopt a constitution in 1710, a document which regulated government and society
  • 17 million people are estimated to have died a violent death in the 20th century in Ukraine
  • The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 near the now abandoned Ukrainian town of Pripyat

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320px-flag_of_belarusBelarus

The land and people of Belarus have, historically, rarely experienced independence. At various times in the past, they have been ruled by Poland, Lithuania and Russia. During WWII, Belarus lost about one third of its population, including a large number of Jews. Most of their infrastructure was also destroyed, resulting in almost all the country needing to be rebuilt after the war. The name Belarus means “White Russia”.

Geography

  • 40% of Belarus is covered with forests (over 140 thousand hectares)
  • There are 11,000 lakes in Belarus
  • Belarus shared a border with Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia
  • Belarus has the world’s largest population of bison, which primarily live in Belovezhskaya the largest ancient forest in Europe

Politics and Economy

  • Belarus has a presidential system with a president and a national assembly
  • The two main industries are agriculture and manufacturing
  • Belarus is the only European country that still has the death penalty
  • The Belarusian currency is called the Ruble

Religion

  • Belarus was one of the first nations in Europe to have its own printed Bible (1517)
  • The official religion of Belarus historically has been Eastern Orthodoxy Christianity
  • Home worship is officially prohibited in Belarus
  • Religious freedom is restricted in Belarus as authorities control things like official registration, the right to distribute literature and denominational training schools

The Capital

  • Minsk is an older city than Moscow. It has been mentioned in historical records as early as 1067
  • The longest street in Belarus is in the capital city of Minsk and it has changed names 14 times
  • Minsk is a very green city with more than 844,000 trees
  • The national library of Belarus in Minsk is one the largest in the world. It contains 8 million items of various media and the building is 72.6 metres high.

Language and People

  • Belarus has two official languages, Russian and Belarusian
  • Both Ralph Lauren and Kirk Douglas were born to Jewish immigrants from Belarus
  • Isaac Asimov, writer of Science Fiction books like “I, Robot” was born in Belarus
  • The country of Belarus has a 99.7% literacy rate

Culture

  • Belarusians have over 300 recipes for potatoes
  • Traditional folk music and dancing remains popular in Belarus

 

History

  • Belarus gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. It celebrates its independence on July 3rd
  • WWII took the lives of about 25% of Belarusians
  • Every city in Belarus has a Lenin street named after Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist revolutionary
  • The capital city of Minsk has been destroyed several times and then completely rebuilt, especially during World War II
  • Belarus received 60% of the fallout after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986

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Crimea

Crimea is a located on a peninsula south of Ukraine, jutting out into the Black Sea. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became a semi-autonomous part of an independent Ukraine. In 2014, as a result of the political crisis that developed in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, the largely ethnic Russian population voted in an internationally unrecognized referendum to separate from Ukraine and become part of the Russian Federation.

Geography

  • Crimea has an area of 27,000 square km
  • The largest city in Crimea is Sevastopol
  • Crimea is divided into three zones, steppe, mountains and the southern coast along the Black Sea
  • The Crimean peninsula actually consists of many smaller peninsulas

Politics and Economy

  • Crimea’s primary industry is tourism with its many beaches along the coast
  • The second most important industry in Crimea is agriculture
  • The national currency of Crimea is now the Russian ruble
  • The Black Seas ports in Crimea are of major strategic importance as they offer quick access to the Mediterranean Sea for trade and military vessels

Religion

  • The majority of the Russian population in Crimea is Russian Orthodox
  • The majority of the Tatar ethnic group are practicing Sunni Muslims

Cities

  • The capital of Crimea is Simferopol and is located at the centre of Crimea
  • Sevastopol is a city located on the Bay of Sevastopol on the tip of the Crimean Peninsula
  • The port city of Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet. This port is Russia’s only warm water naval base
  • Marine biology is an important part of Sevastopol’s history. Dolphins have been studied and trained in the city since WWII

Language, People and Culture

  • According to a 2014 Russian census, 84% of Crimean inhabitants were Russian speaking and 7.9% were Crimean Tatar
  • Crimea has a large population of Tatars, a Turkic ethnic group that formed in the 13th-17th centuries
  • The language of the Crimean Tatars is called Crimean Turkish. The written language since Islamization is an Arabic script
  • Crimea has a very diverse culture, with sharp contrast between the European ethnic groups like the Russians and the Turkic Tatars

History

  • Crimea was first annexed by Russia in 1783
  • From 1853 to 1856, France, England, Russia and the Ottoman Empire fought to control the Crimean Peninsula
  • Crimea, became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954
  • In 1944 the Soviets forcibly deported many Tatars from Crimea to the Uzbek Republic