Ukraine History

Main facts of turbulent Ukraine history.
The story of wars, challenges and revenges.


Ancient times

First settlements on present Ukraine territory appeared hundred thousands years ago as in other places of modern Europe. There were many tribes sweeping through this territory connecting vast Asian steppes with European continent. From 12th century BC till 8th century AD Scythians, Cimmerians, Sarmatians and Huns among other nomadic peoples stepped on modern Ukraine lands.

While dozen tribes were running back and forth on mainland, the coast of Black sea in the South was actively colonising by Greeks. Since 6 BC many Hellenic city-states were built in Crimea and Southern coast around present day Odessa. Later these towns continued as Byzantine cities till middle ages.

Kyivan Rus

However Ukrainians start counting their Ukraine history from Slavs being their direct heirs. Kyiv, founded in 5th century, one of the oldest European settlements, later became the capital of strong Eastern Slavic state Kyivan Rus. In fact that most population of this country were Slavs it was ruled by Nordic (Varangian) princes who came from Scandinavia.

By the end of 10th AD century Kyivan Rus became on of the strongest states in Europe having strong established trade relations with Byzantine, Vikings and Western European states. Its borders stretched from Volga river to Danube and Baltics. In 988 AD Christianity was adopted by population and close relations with Bizantine affected further Ortodox relevance and Ukraine history at all.

In 11th century local princes start to disintegrate central power and with Mongol invasion Kyivan Rus literally cease to exits. Slavic power then shifted to the North making the ground for modern day Russia to develop and to the West were Galych-Volynian kingdom took over the race of modern Ukrainian identity.

Galicia

Being close positioned to other European states Galych-Volynia kingdom flourished until when in 1340 it was annexed by Poland and Lithuania. Since then Western Ukrainian territories have not been in one state with Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine all way till World War Two. However, most important city Lviv and the region itself played a key role in long way to independence. Unlike their Eastern brothers, Ukrainians living in Galicia enjoyed comparably liberal rule from Poland and Austria having conditions within Ukraine history to preserve national traditions, customs and identity which is even seen today.

Tatars

Over time huge Mongol empire disintegrated into smaller states. One of them Crimean Khaganate established in 15th century encompassed the Black sea coast and Crimean peninsula. This Tatar country with capital in Bakhchysaray was pretty much the puppet state of Ottoman Empire with whom they regularly made raids on mainland to capture slaves.

Later Crimea was occupied by Russia where prime navy port of Sevastopol was built. In Soviet times thousands of Tatars were deported from their homes and persecuted and in 1954 Nikita Khrushchev annexed it to Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic granting autonomy. Finally only after independence Tatars came back to their original motherland.

Cossacks

As Polish and Lithuanian rule grew on present day Western and Central Ukraine more and more unsatisfied people where running away to Eastern steppes which still where unsettled. Their number grew rapidly and by the end of 15th century there were already enough people to form an independent state formation.

Cossacks, from Turkish meaning free person were heavy drinkers, good warriors and free spiritually people. From their base, Zaporizka Sich, in Khortytsia island they were making regular attacks on Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Crimean Khaganate and Ottoman Empire even assaulting Istanbul a few times. On their rise in mid 16th century Cossacks leading by Bohdan Khmelnytskyi organised one of the greatest military campaigns in Ukraine history against Poland almost reaching Warsaw but finally lost the war.

More about Ukrainian cossacks…

Russian occupation

Losing from Poland put Cossacks into very dangerous position, so they asked protection from already strong by then Moscow state (Russia from 17th c.). It is one of the greatest sad milestones in Ukraine history. Within the next hundred years Russia totally annexed Ukrainian lands, destroyed Cossacks and worked actively to assimilate local population and built great cities such as Odessa and Sevastopol on the Black Sea coast.

In 19th century while Ukrainians in Galicia (Western Ukraine) enjoyed autonomy and had representatives in Austro-Hungarian parliament, their brothers in the East were not allowed to speak Ukrainian language and the province was called “Malorosiya (Small Russia)”. It worth to add that without Ukrainian lands Russia would never become such a powerful country with access to the Black Sea, rich soil and numerous mineral resources.

Between two World Wars

As Austria lost in First World War many national states started to appear in Central Europe. In 1918 West Ukrainian National Republic with capital in Lviv proclaimed independence. In the East after the Red Revolution in Russia Ukrainian National Republic enjoyed independence for a short time. Unfortunately within a year both states were acquired by Polish and Bolshevik troops respectively. Lviv continued to play key role in newly established Polish state while Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine were among the founders of Soviet Union.

It was the time of rapid industrialisation. Big Eastern Ukrainian cities (Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk etc.) formed a core of Soviet economics. In a meantime Ukrainian intelligency was brutally murdered or sent to Siberia to prevent any possible national uprising. The peak was is 1932-1933 when almost 8 million people died caused by artificial famine organised by Stalin and Soviet government.

World War II

When Germany attacked Poland in September 1939 Soviet troops invaded it from the East annexing Lviv and the rest of Galicia to Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic. Finally after almost 800 years of Ukraine history both sides of Dnieper were together but not in their own country still. It was declared as liberation of Western brothers followed by liberation of hundred thousands souls from their bodies and numerous persecutions.

German-Soviet front rolled back and forth sweeping villages and towns. Almost a quarter of population died in war times and almost no Jews stayed alive. Some partisans of Ukrainian Insurgent Army were fighting with both sides, Germans and Soviets, and even continued till 1950s. After the war Stalin, Churchil and Roosevelt agreed in Yalta’s Livadia Palace on post-war Europe administration and present day Ukrainian borders were formed within the Soviet Union. Transcarpathia with Uzhgorod and Bukovyna with Chernivtsi was took over from Hungary and Romania respectively.

Postwar Soviet period

In post war times of Ukraine history the country seen massive further industrialisation making it second most important republic in Soviet Empire. Kyiv grew to third largest city and heavy industrialised Eastern region of Ukraine became an integral part of Soviet central governed economic. A lot of Soviet leaders were Ukrainians with the most famous one Leonid Brezhnev at the top. Ukraine has the third biggest military nuclear arsenal after the United States and Russia and it was also called “the breadbasket of Europe”.

Economically the country was developing but mostly covering military “A” sector leaving people’s needs way behind strategic improvements. Chernobyl exploded in 1986 but no info was announced by the authority. More and more people begin to concern prospective movements and even an independent still was a dream its spirit was already floating in the air. First from nationalistic Lviv and then to the rest of country massive demonstrations rolled like in other republics. Soviet Union was on the edge.

Independence and modern Ukraine

On the 24th of August 1991 Supreme Council proclaimed independence. It took almost a millennium when Kyiv became the capital again uniting both sides of Dnieper river. However it is a challenge for a young country. Soviet leaders covered with blue-and-yellow curtain continued to rule. Massive privatising involved corruption and generated new social group of oligarchs, while a lot of people in villages grew food in their backyards to survive.

However middle class is quickly growing as a result of which was an Orange Revolution when the country strongly said it word in the democratic world. Unfortunately new pro-western leaders were too busy arguing about the reforms and on last elections the old company on the head with Viktor Yanukovych and other oligarchs came to power. Five years and millions people’s dreams finished with nothing.

Despite such hard history Ukrainians are looking forward into the prospective future. They have what to remember from glorious past and are ready for further challenges whether it is facing economical crisis which affected the country significantly or hosting top sport event on a continent (EURO-2012). Within years of Ukraine history people learned how to survive and will definitely do well in the nearest future.

“Since the end of February 2014, demonstrations by pro-Russian, ultranationalist, and anti-government groups have taken place in major cities across the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, in the aftermath of the Euromaidan movement and the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. During the first stage of the unrest, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation after a crisis in the region, Russian military intervention and an internationally criticized referendum. Protests in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts escalated into an armed separatist insurgency.

This led the Ukrainian government to launch a military counter-offensive against the insurgents, which resulted in the ongoing War in Donbass.” –  from wikipedia

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