Brief Ukraine History.

Ukraine history is very unique. The story of Ukraine is intersected by the history of its many neighboring countries, because of this Ukraine has experienced many changes throughout its history, yet it has still maintained a certain national identity that makes it distinctively Ukrainian. Ukrainian history possesses two unique features.

1. Kievan Rus' is the predecessor of the three major regional nationalities - modern Belorussians, Russians, and Ukrainians.

2. The history of the Kievan Rus and Russia was written by foreigners. German historians were invited to Russia in 18th century in order to write its history. They created their own theory of Russia's origination, which didn't accurately reflect real historical facts.

Both of these features became the source of numerous debates around Ukrainian history. We can still hear arguing over the heritage of Kievan Rus and we're still not sure whether to consider certain historical figures as traitors or the greatest Ukrainian patriots of all time.

One can discuss, one can argue, but our past cannot be changed. Ukrainian history has many things to be proud of and we look forward to the happy future of the independent Ukraine.

In the Beginning of Ukraine History.

Ukraine History. Pectoral
Ukraine history.
The Pectoral from the Tolstaya Mogila

Archeological discoveries show that the earliest settlements in the Dnepr and Dniester valleys appeared several thousand years ago (1st century BC). The territory of present-day Ukraine was inhabited by Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, and Goths throughout the first millennium B.C.

Antes and the Ros', the ancestors of the Eastern Slavs, occupied central and eastern Ukraine in the 6th century A.D. About 14 East Slav tribe unions existed in Ukraine during the 6th - 9th centuries and they became the political foundation for forming the core of the powerful Kievan Rus.

It included the cities of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Pereiaslav, Novgorod, Halych, Smolensk, Rostov, Susdal and later Moscow.

Kievan Rus'

Princ Oleg is a founder
of the Kievan Rus'
Princ Oleg is a founder of the Kievan Rus'

Kievan Rus' is the beginning of the Ukraine history as a state. Kyivfn Rus' spread from the Black Sea to the White Sea, from the Carpathian Mountains to the Volga River.

According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, Kievan Rus' was founded by the Varangian (Swedish Viking) Oleg in 862. Some Slavic historians have debated the role of the Varangians in the establishment of Kievan Rus'. They consider that Oleg was not a Varangian but one of the Slavic princes.

During almost 100 years, Oleg, his successor Igor ( 912-945), Igor's widow Olga (who was regent until about 962), and Olga's son Sviatoslav (r. 945-972) turned the scattered Slavic tribes into an organized powerful state and Kyiv became the political center of the united Eastern Slavs.

Princess Olga.
Princess Olga.

The time of the greatest influence of the Slavic State was reached during the reigns of Prince Vladimir (Vladimir the Great, r. 980 -1015) and Prince Yaroslav (Yaroslav the Wise, r. 1019-1054).Vladimir's most important accomplishment was the Christianization of Kievan Rus'.

The successful military raids of the Prince expanded the borders of the Rus territory. At that time Kyiv had 400 churches, 8 markets and over 50,000 residents, compared to 20,000 in the cities London, Hamburg and Gdansk.

Yaroslav the Wise
Yaroslav the Wise.

Yaroslav's most important achievement was improved relations with the rest of Europe, particularly the Byzantine Empire. He promulgated the first East Slavic law code, Russkaya Pravda (Justice of Rus?), founded a school system, and built Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod.

After Yaroslav's death the Kievan Rus split into two principalities: Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west and several regional centers in the north-east that eventually became Muscovy. After the conquest of the Kievan Rus (13th cent.) by the Mongols of the Golden Horde, the history of Ukraine and Russia went their separate ways.

In the mid-14th century Lithuania and Poland began to enlarge their territory at the expense of their eastern neighbors. As a result of the dynastic union between Poland and Lithuania in 1386, Ukraine came under Polish rule. Meanwhile, the Turks and Tatars were making similar moves into the Crimea while at the same time the rising principality of Muscovy tried to control the vast area south of its borders.

After being pulled on from every direction, the end of the 15th century began a glorious period of struggle for national independence in the Ukraine. The Cossack Republic appeared on the European political map.

The Cossacks

Zaporozhian Cossacks Write a Letter to the Turkish Sultan.
Zaporozhian Cossacks Write a Letter
to the Turkish Sultan. By I.Repin.

The Cossack Republic is usually viewed as the precursor of Ukraine. Its appearance played an outstanding part in the historical route of Ukraine. The Cossack liberation movement is one of the most tragic and heroic periods in Ukraine history.

Due to serfdom and the oppressive domination of Polish rule, many men escaped beyond the area of the lower Dnepr rapids. There they established a military order called the Zaporozhian Sich ("clearing beyond the rapids"). These fugitives became known as Cossacks or Kozaks, an adaptation of the Turkic word Kazak, meaning "outlaw" or "adventurer."

Zaporozhian Sich is a cossack settlement
Zaporozhian Sich is a cossack settlement

The Cossacks initially were focused on the struggle against Turkey-Tatar aggression. But from 1648 to 1654, Cossacks under their Hetman (Ukrainian for Cossack leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky organized a series of revolts against the Poles. In order to secure a military ally against Poland, the Cossacks signed an agreement with Muscovy in 1654, known as the Pereiaslav Agreement.

By the terms of the Agreement, Ukraine was to be largely independent, but Ukraine found itself under the long lasting domination of the Russian Empire. The short period of Ukraine's sovereignty was followed by hundreds of years of colonial existence. In 1667, Moscow and Warsaw signed the Treaty of Andrusov, which partitioned Ukraine. The right-bank of the Dnepr River went to Poland while Russia obtained left-bank Ukraine.

The last Hetman of Ukraine was forced by Empress Catherine II to resign in 1764.The Zaporozhian Sich was razed by Russian troops in 1775, and Ukrainian its political autonomy was terminated. The glorious period of Cossack Republic in Ukraine history was over. The country was drawn into the vortex of civil war, political crisis and economic displacement for many years.

Ukraine History and the USSR

Mikhailo Grushevsky is a first President in Ukraine Hystory.<BR>
Zaporozhian Sich is a cossack settlement
Mikhailo Grushevsky is a first President in Ukraine History.

The revolutionary events of 1917 put an end to the Russian Empire. On January 22, 1918, Ukraine proclaimed its independence for the first time in its history. Mykhailo Hrushevsky, an outstanding historian and a noted cultural figure, became President of the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR). He was the first President in Ukraine history.

Ukraine was simply not ready for political independence and its independence was short lived. The Ukrainians did not have a clear policy of national independence or a single prominent leader who could unite them. The dream of an independent Ukraine ended in 1922 when the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Ukrainian SSR) was founded. For74 years Ukraine history became an organic part of the USSR history.

Ukraine as the part of the Soviet Union had its own organs of state authority and administration, its own budget and Constitution. It was a clearly defined nation and territorial entity having its own capital, Kharkiv, from 1919-1934 and Kyiv, starting in 1934. In the years following the devastation of WW I and the civil war, reconstruction of industry began and hundreds of factories were built in Ukraine, bringing it level with the world's industrialized countries.

But at the same time there were also a lot of "Hero Projects"- public works programs which relied heavily on slave labor. Throughout the Stalinist era, and later, the KGB spent much of its time rounding up supposed "enemies of the state" to be sentenced for construction work in Siberia.

A forceful agricultural collectivization and artificial famines, as part of the collectivization policies killed millions of previously independent peasants and others throughout the country. Estimates of deaths from the 1932-33 famine alone range from 3 million to 7 million.

World War II

T-34-the best tank in the world during WWII.
T-34 - the best tank in the world during WWII was designed and built in Ukraine.
A Vice President of Ukrainian Academy of Science Y.O. Paton took part
in the design of T-34. Source:

Under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in 1939, the USSR occupied Ukrainian lands under Polish control. In the early 1940s, the Ukrainska Povstanska Armiia (UPA), otherwise known as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, was formed in Western Ukraine and fought the Soviets, Nazis, and Poles.

In 1941 the Nazis invaded the USSR and all of Ukraine fell under the Germans' control. During World War II many Ukrainians, particularly in the west, welcomed the Germans as liberators and collaborated with them against the USSR. However, the Nazis' harsh occupation from 1941-44 of Ukraine turned many of them into anti-German guerrilla fighters.

The German field commanders couldn't understand this tenacious resistance, wondering why anyone would fight to return to Stalin's rule. The answer was very simple, the Soviet people defended their homes and families.

According to UNRRA, Ukraine's material losses during the war amounted to one thousand 1000 billion US$, 714 towns and cities, 28,000 villages, 2 million buildings, over 16,000 industrial enterprises, 28,000 state and 870 collective farms were devastated. More than 5 million civilians were tortured to death during the Nazi occupation and 3 million Ukrainians were killed in the war.

When the war ended, most Ukrainian cities - notably Kiev, Dnipropetrovs'k and Sevastopol - were in ruins. The Dnepr River was a major German defence line prior to the general retreat of 1944 and these cities suffered prolonged sieges.

In the early post-war period Ukraine's economy was restored by the strenuous selfless effort of the entire nation. Ukraine history has always been rich in human talents.

During periods of relative liberalization - as under Nikita Khrushchev from 1955 to 1964 - Ukrainian communists pursued national objectives. In the years of perestroika under USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, national goals were again advanced by Ukrainian officials.

Ukraine History after the Breakup of the USSR.

Mikhail Gorbachev was only the sixth leader since the USSR's birth in 1922, and he was to be the last one. After the coup on August 21, 1991, some Soviet republics had already begun moves to break away. The Soviet Union was disbanded on December 8, 1991 at the Belovezh Forest Meeting near Minsk. The leaders of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Most of the other republics soon signed up for the new union.

  • On July 16, 1990, the Parliament of Ukraine - Verkhovna Rada adopted a historic document titled the Declaration of Nation Sovereignty of Ukraine. It was the beginning of the new period in the Ukraine history.
  • On August 24, 1991, the Act of Independence of Ukraine was proclaimed.
  • An all-Ukrainian referendum took place on December 1, 1991. It confirmed this historical choice with more than 90% of the votes; Leonid Kravchuk was elected President of Ukraine.
  • 1994 - Ukraine became a member of the Council of Europe.
  • 1994- Kravchuk lost his presidency to his former Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma. Since his election, President Kuchma has implemented a few market reforms, but the economy remains dominated by huge, inefficient state-run companies and has not improved significantly.
  • On July 28, 1996, Verkhovna Rada passed the new Constitution.
  • The 2004 presidential election appeared to mark a significant turning point for Ukraine, and led to the events known as the "Orange Revolution." In late December, after a few election tours Victor Yushchenko became the new President of Ukraine.
  • January 2010 Victor Yanukovych won the second round of the election with 48.95% of the vote against Tymoshenko's 45.47%. He is thus the first directly elected president in Ukraine's history to win with less than 50% of the vote. (source:

The collapse of the Soviet Union has not only brought new freedoms and opportunities, but completely transformed the lives of all those who once lived there.

A new page of Ukraine history has been turned over and is being written. There are a lot of expectations for major changes in the country, but at the same time there are still severe economical, political and social problems.

Will the new Ukrainian politicians of 2010 become a team which is capable to create a new civil society in Ukraine history? Only time will tell.

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