History of Ukraine

From Academic Kids


Early pre-history

The first identifiable groups to populate what is now Ukraine were the Neolithic people of the Trypillian culture, followed by the Iranians (Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians), and Goths, among other nomadic peoples who arrived throughout the first millennium BC. During this period, the plains of Scythia were the road for the migration of peoples from Asia into Europe.

Around 600 B.C., the ancient Greeks founded on the north-eastern shore of the Black Sea the colonies of Tyras, Olbia, Hermonassa, perpetuated by Roman and Byzantine cities until the sixth century A.D.

In the 3rd century AD, the Goths arrived in Ukraine, which they called Oium and formed the Chernyakhov culture before moving on and defeating the Roman empire.

Slavic tribes occupied central and eastern plains of Scythia as early as the sixth century. Around this time the Antes civilization which may have been a largely Slavic nation, occupied much of Ukraine.

Kievan Rus'

In the 9th century, Kiev was conquered from the Khazars by the Varangian (Swedish Viking) Oleg. The Khazars were a Turkic semi-nomadic people from Central Asia who adopted Judaism. They founded the independent Khazar kingdom in the 7th century C.E. in the southeastern part of today's Europe, near the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. In addition to western Kazakhstan, the Khazar kingdom also included territory in what is now eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, southern Russia, and Crimea.

During this time, several Slavic tribes were native to Ukraine, including the Polanians, the Derevlianians, the Severians, the Ulychians, and Tivertsians, and Dulebians. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kiev among the Polanians quickly prospered as the center of the powerful Slavic/Scandinavian state of Kievan Rus.

In the 11th century, Kievan Rus' was, geographically, the largest state in Europe. During this time, Ukraine became known in the rest of Europe as Ruthenia (the Latin name for Rus', especially after the separation of Russia from Rus' propria). In addition, the name "Ukraine" first appears in recorded history on maps of the period. The meaning of term seems to have been synonymous with the land of Rus' propria--the principalities of Kiev, Chernihiv and Pereyaslav. The term, "Greater Rus' was used to apply to all the lands ruled by Kiev, including those that were not just Slavic, but also Finno-Ugric in the northeast portions of the state. Local regional subdivisions of Rus' appeared in the Slavic heartland, including, "Belarus'" (White Ruthenia), "Chorna Rus'" (Black Ruthenia) and "Cherven' Rus'" (Red Ruthenia) in northwestern and western Ukraine.

Although Christianity had made inroads into Ukraine before the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicea (particularly along the Black Sea coast) and, in Western Ukraine during the time of empire of Great Moravia, the formal governmental acceptance of Christianity in Rus' occurred at the Baptism of Kiev in 988. The major cause of the Christianization of Ukraine was the Grand-Duke, Volodymyr the Great. His Christian interest was mid-wifed by his grandmother, Princess Olga. Later, an enduring part of the Ukrainian legal tradition was set down by the Kievan ruler, Yaroslav, who promulgated the Russkaya Pravda (Ruthenian Truth) which endured through the Lithuanian period of Rus'.

Conflict among the various principalities of Rus', in spite of the efforts of Grand Prince Vladimir Monomakh, led to decline, beginning in the 12th century. In Rus' propria, the Kiev region, the nascent Ruthenian/Ukrainian principalities of Halych and Volynia extended their rule. In the north, the name of Moscow appeared in the historical record in the principality of Suzdal, which gave rise to the nation of Russia. In the northwest, the principality of Polotsk increasing asserted the autonomy of Belarus'. Kiev was sacked by Russians (1169), Polovtzians and Mongol raiders in the 12th and 13th centuries. Subsequently, all principalities of Ukraine acknowledged dependence upon the Mongols (1239-1240). The Mongol overlordship was very cruel, and people often fled to other countries. Ukrainian settlements appeared in Poland and Hungary.


The local successor state to Kyivan Rus' on the territory of both Kyiv and today's Ukraine was the principality of Halych-Volynia.

Previously, Volodymyr the Great had established the cities of Halych and Volodymyr Volynski as regional capitals for the western Ukrainian heartland. In the thirteenth century, the city of L'viv eventually became the national capital. This new, more exclusively Ukrainian state was based upon the Dulibian, Tivertsian and Bilyy Khorvaty (White Croatian) tribes. The state was ruled by the descendants of Yaroslav Mudry and Volodymyr Monomakh. For a brief period, the country was ruled by a Hungarian nobleman. Battles with the neighboring states of Poland and Lithuania also occurred, as well as internecine warfare with the independent Ukrainian principality of Chernihiv to the east. The nation reached its peak with the extension of rule to neighboring Wallachia/Bessarabia, all the way to the shores of the Black Sea.

During this period (around 1200-1400) each principality was independent of the other for a period of time. The state of Halych-Volynia eventually became a vassal to the Mongolian Empire, but efforts to gain European support for opposition to the Mongols continued. This period marked the first "King of Rus'"; previously, the rulers of Rus' were termed, "Grand Dukes" or "Princes."

Loss of Independence

During the 14th century, Poland and Lithuania fought wars against the Mongol invaders, and eventually most of Ukraine passed to the rule of Poland and Lithuania. More particularly, the lands of Volynia in the north and northwest passed to the rule of Lithuanian princes, while the south-west passed to the control of Poland (Galicia) and Hungary (Zakarpattya). Most of Ukraine bordered parts of Lithuania, and some say that the name, "Ukraine" comes from the local word for "border," although the name "Ukraine" was also used centuries earlier. Lithuania took control of the state of Volynia in northern/northwestern Ukraine, including the region around Kyiv (Rus'), and the rulers of Lithuania then adopted the title of ruler of Rus'. Poland took control of the region of Halychyna. Following the union between Poland and Lithuania, Poles, Germans, Armenians and Jews immigrated to the country.

The Commonwealth

After the Union of Lublin in 1569 and the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the gentry of Ukraine voted for membership in the Polish part of the Commonwealth. The period immediately following the creation of the Commmonwealth, saw a huge revitalization in colonisation efforts. Many new cities and villages were founded. New schools spread the ideas of the Renaissance; Polish peasants who arrived in great numbers were quickly Ruthenised; during this time, many Ukrainian nobles became Polonized. Social tensions also grew. Ruthenian/Ukrainian peasants (and some from other nations) who fled efforts to force them into servitude came to be known as Cossacks and earned a reputation for their fierce martial spirit.

The Kozak Era

See also: History of Cossacks

The 1648 Ukrainian Cossack (Kozak) rebellion and war of independence (Khmelnytsky Uprising), which started an era known as the Ruin (in Polish history, The Deluge), undermined the foundations and stability of the Commonwealth. The nascent Cossack state, the Zaporozhian Host, usually viewed as forerunner of Ukraine, found itself in a three-sided military and diplomatic rivalry with the Ottoman Turks, who controlled the Tatars to the south, the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, and the rising state of Muscovy to the East. The reconstituted Ukrainian state sought a treaty of protection with Muscovy (the predecessor to the modern Russian state) in 1654. This agreement was known as the Treaty of Pereyaslav. Commonwealth authorities then sought compromise with the Ukrainian Cossack state by signing the Union of Hadyach in 1658, but the agreement was later superseded by 1667 Polish-Russian Treaty of Andrusovo, which divided Ukrainian territory between the Commonwealth and Russia. Under Russia, the Cossacks initially retained official autonomy in the Hetmanate. For a time, they also maintained a semi-independent republic in Zaporozhia, and a colony on the Russian frontier in Sloboda Ukraine.

Partitions/Transition to Russian/Austrian Rule

See also: Partitions of Poland

Tsarist rule over central Ukraine gradually replaced 'protection' over the subsequent decades. Through the Partitions of Poland Ukraine fell under the control of the Austrians in the extreme west (see: Galicia) and of the Russians elsewhere. Ottoman Empire control receded from south-central Ukraine, while the rule of Hungary over the Trans-Carpathian region continued. Ukrainian writers and intellectuals were inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring other European peoples existing under other imperial governments and became determined to revive the Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions and re-establish a Ukrainian nation-state. The Russians in particular imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate Ukrainian language and culture, even banning its use and study. The fate of the Ukrainians was much more positive under the Austrians. During this time, the people of Ukraine began to accept a change of their name from Rus'/Rusyny (Ruthenia/Ruthenians) to Ukraine/Ukrainians.

The 20th Century

Missing image
Flag of SSR Ukraine

When World War I and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia shattered the Habsburg and Russian empires, Ukrainians declared independent statehood. Between 1917 and 1918, three separate Ukrainian republics manifested independence, including the Central Rada, the Hetmanate, the Directorate, and the Ukrainian People's Republic of Symon Petlura. However, with the failure of the Kiev Operation and the end of Polish-Soviet War, after the Peace of Riga in March 1921, the western part of the traditional territory had been incorporated into Poland, and the larger, central and eastern part became part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian SSR.

The Ukrainian national idea persevered during the inter-war years, and Ukrainian culture even enjoyed a revival due to Bolshevik concessions in the early Soviet years. By the late 1920s, however, the Soviet reaction was severe, particularly under Stalin.

To satisfy the state's need for increased food supplies and finance industrialization, Stalin instituted a program of collectivization of agriculture, which profoundly affected Ukraine, breadbasket of the USSR. In the late 1920s and early '30s the state compounded the peasants' lands and animals into collective farms. Starting in 1929 a policy of enforcement was applied, using regular troops and secret police to confiscate lands and material where necessary.

Many resisted, and a desperate struggle of the peasantry against the authorities ensued. Some slaughtered their livestock rather than turn it over to the collectives. Wealthier peasants were labeled "kulaks", enemies of the state. Tens of thousands were executed or deported to labour camps.

Forced collectivization had a devastating effect on agricultural productivity. Despite this, in 1932 Stalin increased Ukraine's production quotas by 44%, ensuring that they could not be met. Soviet law required that the members of a collective farm would receive no grain until government quotas were satisfied. The authorities in many instances exacted such high levels of procurement from collective farms that starvation became widespread. At least four million starved to death in a famine, called the Holodomor in Ukrainian.

The Soviet Union suppressed information about the famine, and as late as the 1980s admitted only that there was some hardship because of kulak sabotage and bad weather. Today, its existence is accepted. Some historians consider the famine of 1932–33 to be the necessary consequence of Stalin's program of industrialization and collectivization. Others maintain that the famine was an avoidable, deliberate act of genocide.

After German and Soviet troops invaded Poland in 1939, (see: Polish September Campaign) some western Poland regions were incorporated into Ukrainian SSR. In 1940, after the Soviet demands, Romania ceded Bessarabia and the northern Bukovina. Ukrainian SSR incorporated Bessarabia's northern and southern districts and the northern Bukovina and ceded the western part of Moldavian ASSR to the newly created Moldavian SSR.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 (see: Operation Barbarossa), many Ukrainians, particularly in the west, welcomed them, but this did not last. In the encirclement battle of Kiev, acclaimed by the Soviets as a Hero City, more than 660,000 Soviet troops were taken captive.

Some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground fought both Nazi and Soviet forces. Others initially regarded the Nazis as "liberators", and hoped to establish an autonomous Ukrainian state. However, German rule in the occupied territories eventually aided the Soviet cause. Nazi administrators of conquered Soviet territories made little attempt to exploit the population's dissatisfaction with Soviet political and economic policies. Instead, the Nazis divided the territory of Ukraine, preserved the collective-farm system, systematically carried out genocidal policies against Jews, and deported others (mainly Ukrainians) to forced labour in Germany. Under these circumstances, the great majority of the Soviet people fought and worked on their country's behalf, thus ensuring the regime's survival. However, in some regions of Ukraine, resistance against Soviet forces continued as late as the 1950s.

Total civilian losses during the War and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at 7 million, including over a million Jews shot and killed by the Einsatzgruppen. The great majority fell victim to atrocities, forced labor, and even massacres of whole villages in reprisal for attacks against Nazi forces. Of the estimated 11 million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, about a fourth (2.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians. Thus, the Ukrainian nation is distinguished as one of the first nations to fight the Axis Powers in Carpatho-Ukraine and one that saw some of the greatest bloodshed during the War.


Little changed for Ukraine over the next few decades. During periods of relative liberalization — as under Nikita Khrushchev from 1955 to 1964 — Ukrainian communists pursued national objectives. In the years of perestroika, under U.S.S.R. President Mikhail Gorbachev, national goals were again advanced by Ukrainian officials.

The town of Pripyat, Ukraine was the site of the Chernobyl accident, which occurred in April 26, 1986 when a nuclear plant exploded. The fallout contaminated large areas of northern Ukraine and even parts of Belarus. This spurred on a local independence movement called the Rukh that helped expedite the breakup the Soviet Union during the late 1980s.

Ukraine declared itself an independent state on August 24, 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). On December 1, 1991 Ukrainian voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum formalizing independence from the Soviet Union. The Union formally ceased to exist in December 25, 1991, and with this Ukraine's independence was officially recognized by the international community.

Ukraine after Independence

The history of Ukraine after the independence between 1992 and 2004 was marked by the presidencies of Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma.

The "Cassette Scandal" of 2000 was likely to be the turning point in post-independence history of the country.

In 2004, Leonid Kuchma announced that he would not run for re-election. Two major candidates emerged in the 2004 presidential election. Viktor Yanukovych, the incumbent Prime Minister, supported by both Kuchma and by the Russian Federation, wanted closer ties with Russia. The main opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, called for Ukraine to turn its attention westward and eventually join the EU. In the runoff election, Yanukovych officially won by a narrow margin, but Yushchenko and his supporters cried foul, alleging that vote rigging and intimidation cost him many votes, especially in the eastern Ukraine. A political crisis erupted after the opposition started massive street protests in Kiev and other cities (Orange Revolution), and the Supreme Court of Ukraine ordered the election results null and void. A second runoff found Viktor Yushchenko the winner, 5 days later Viktor Yanukovych resigned from office and his cabinet was dismissed on January 5, 2005.

See also


External links

de:Geschichte der Ukraine eo:Historio de Ukrainio fr:Histoire de l'Ukraine pl:Historia Ukrainy ru:История Украины uk:Історія України


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