The history of Ukraine is characterized by the fact that the territories that today make up Ukraine throughout history have been populated by many peoples groups. From the 8th century, Ukraine was a core area for the East Slavs. The first East Slavic state formation, the Kiev Kingdom, was founded in the 880s.
The country has been subject to various kingdoms. The western part of Ukraine was subject to Poland between 1654 and 1772. Parts of this area remained under Austrian rule until 1918, and after that – between 1918 and 1939 – were again part of Poland. The rest of what is today Ukraine was, in two rounds – after 1654 and after 1793 – incorporated into the Russian Empire and subjected to strong Russification.
The first attempt to form a modern Ukrainian state was made in 1918 in Ukrainian territories in Poland. Soon after, Ukraine became a Union republic in the Soviet Union, which was from 1923 to independence in 1991. In the period after independence, the country has been marked by great political turmoil.
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The eastern and southern part of today’s Ukraine was from about 700 BCE. to 200 possibly populated by the shooters. In the south, along the Black Sea coast, there were from 500 BCE. Greek colonies. In the twentieth century the Goths settled in the region and established the so-called Chernjakhov culture, but this was suppressed by the Huns in the late 300s. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Ukraine.
Further north, the proto – Slavic Kiev culture experienced a flourishing period from the 100th to the 600s. In the 600s, the Khazars established control over the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine.
The Slavic population was organized in loose tribal communities. It is disputed to what extent they had fortified cities. In the 800s, Scandinavian Vikings moved eastwards by ships along the Volkhov and Dnieper rivers and established trading centers in Novgorod in the north and Kiev on the outskirts of the unsafe steppe land in the south. These became major cities in the first East Slavic state formation, the Kiev Kingdom.
The Scandinavian upper class was soon enslaved and adopted Slavic names and Slavic languages. In the 9th century, Christianity in its Orthodox version was introduced in the Kiev kingdom of Constantinople. The Kiev kingdom was a loose union of relatively independent small princely states. All the princes belonged to the Rjurik dynasty and recognized the supremacy of the Kiev prince, but were constantly feuding with each other.
Until Kiev was captured and ravaged by the Mongols in 1240, Ukraine’s history is largely identical to Russia’s history. Under Mongol supremacy, Kiev lost its leadership role and the Kiev kingdom disintegrated.
In the 1300s, Lithuania and Poland (which after 1386 were in a personnel union) pushed the Mongols back. The regions of northern and northwestern Ukraine (including Kiev) came under Lithuanian control, while western Ukraine with the old principality of Halych and the city of Lviv (Russian Lvov, Polish Lwów, German Lemberg) became Polish under the names Galicia and Podole.
Under Polish rule
When the Polish-Lithuanian Real Union was formed in 1569, most of today’s Ukraine came under direct Polish rule. Roman Catholic Polish magnates supplanted the old nobility and gained control of large land properties. The significant Polish-Ukrainian social contradictions this created were sharpened when the Union of Brest-Litovsk in 1596 initiated a partial Catholicization of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. As a result of this union, parts of the Orthodox population recognized the pope as their spiritual head against maintaining Orthodox liturgy and church practice. This was called the Hungarian or Ukrainian Catholic Church (see Religion in Ukraine).
At the head of the opposition to Polish supremacy were the Ukrainian Cossacks. The uprising under Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky in 1648 led to the formation of a de facto independent Ukrainian state. In 1654, however, Khmelnytskyi stood under the protection of the Tsar by the so-called Perejaslav agreement. The Cossacks perceived this agreement as a temporary military alliance, while in later Russian history writing it is referred to as “the reunification of Russian and Ukrainian land”.
The agreement initially gave the Cossacks the right to choose their own leader (hetman), keep their own army, collect taxes and enter into agreements with foreign powers. The Poles did not accept the agreement, but after a Polish-Russian war Ukraine was divided by the peace in Andrusovo in 1667 along the Dnieper (in addition, the tsar gained control of Kiev). The area “below the rapids” (Zaporizhzhia, in Russian Zaporozje) was to be a Polish-Russian condominium.
Ukraine under the Tsars
In the mid-1600s was Kiev-Mohyla Academy (created by Metropolitan Petro Mohyla) a center for Orthodox lessons in the Slavic world and a gateway for Renaissance ideas to the East Slavic area. Many Ukrainian theologians eventually moved to Moscow, helping to prepare the ground for Peter the Great’s cultural reforms in the early 18th century.
At the same time, Ukraine was increasingly reduced to a receding outskirts region (the name Ukraine also means “outskirts”). The dissatisfaction with the Russian regime was rising among the Ukrainian Cossacks. Several riots broke out; the most serious of them, in 1708-1709, was led by Hetman Ivan Mazepa. During the Great Nordic War he joined with Swedish King Karl 12 and in vain tried to establish an independent state in the Russian-controlled Eastern Ukraine. The plans were crushed by Karl 12’s defeat at the Battle of Poltava in 1709.
In the 1700s, Russian-controlled Ukraine’s autonomy became increasingly eroded, and under Catherine the Great the last hetman was deposed in 1764. The main base of the Zaporozje Cossacks was destroyed in 1775 and most of the Cossacks were forced to move to Cuban.
At the same time, Ukraine ceased to exist as its own administrative unit and was reorganized into regular Russian governments. The area was officially referred to as Little Russia (Malorossija), while the name Ukraine disappeared from public terminology.
At the three divisions of Poland in 1772–1795, Galicia went to the Austrian Habsburg Empire, but the majority of Ukrainians nevertheless came under Russian rule. At the same time, the Tsar power expanded southward. In 1783, the partially independent Crimean Khanate was annexed. This led to the sparsely populated steppe areas north of the Black Sea being opened for colonization of Russian, German, Ukrainian, Jewish and other settlers.
Ethnic Ukrainians were also under pressure in the cities: they constituted a minority in all the largest cities in Ukraine (Odesa, Kiev, Kharkiv and Yekaterinoslav). In 1804, the Tsar established a new university in Kharkiv as a center for Russian-language learning in Ukraine, while the Ukrainian Kiev-Mohyla Academy was closed in 1817.
The first sprouts of a Ukrainian national awakening appeared in the mid-1800s. In 1846, a group of Ukrainian intellectuals with historian Mykola Kostomarov formed at the head of the secret Cyrill and the Methodist fraternity, which advocated the establishment of a federation of free Slavic people and the abolition of life.
All expressions of Ukrainian nationalism, however, was suppressed by Tsar Nicholas I. In 1839, he disbanded the Unitarian Church and incorporated the members of the Orthodox Church. In 1847, Cyrill and the Methodist Brotherhood were dissolved and a number of members, including the later national poet Taras Shevchenko, were sentenced to long prison sentences or sent into exile. The reformist Alexander 2 also implemented an anti-Ukrainian policy. Although he abolished his life and carried out a series of liberal reforms, in 1863 he banned the teaching and printing of textbooks and religious literature in Ukrainian.
In 1876, the ban on Ukrainian-language literature was extended to all types of publications except historical documents. Only after the Russian 1905 revolution was this ban lifted. At the same time, from the 1870s, considerable immigration of Russian workers to the Donbass in eastern Ukraine took place in connection with the industrialization of this region.
Ukraine under the Habsburgs
In Habsburg East Galicia, on the other hand, the Ukrainian language and the national movement were encouraged by the authorities as a counterbalance to Polish nationalism. In 1846, the Poles in Galicia rebelled against the Habsburgs, a revolt the Ukrainians did not support. The following year, a professorship in Ukrainian language and literature was established at the University of Lviv, and in 1894 also a chair in Ukrainian history at the same university.
However, the desire to divide Galicia into a Ukrainian and a Polish part was not fulfilled. In the common land day of East and West Galicia, the Poles completely dominated.
Initially, the Ukrainian movement in Galicia was dominated by Russophile intellectuals. These perceived the Galicians as routers and as a fourth branch of the common Russian people, alongside the great Russians, Belarusians and Lesser Russians. Towards the end of the century, however, tsarist, non-Ukrainian elements overtook the national movement. These advocated the establishment of a common Ukrainian state that was independent of both Tsar Russia and Austria-Hungary.
In connection with the First World War and the subsequent Polish-Russian War in 1920–1921, two attempts were made to establish a separate state in East Galicia. However, the restored Polish state succeeded in taking military control over the entire region, and Galicia remained under Polish rule until World War II.
The approximately 4.5 million Ukrainians in pre-war Poland had very few cultural rights, which led to renewed demands for Ukrainian independence and the establishment of the liberation movement The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which carried out a series of attacks against Polish politicians and officials in 1930 -the years.
Ukraine during the Russian Civil War
Following the fall of the Tsar regime in March 1917 in connection with the Russian Revolution, a “Central Council” (Tsentralna rada) was established under the leadership of historian Mykhailo Hrusjevskyj, who served as the Ukrainian parliament. The Council was mainly dominated by Mensheviks and social revolutionaries.
On January 22, 1918, this Council proclaimed Ukraine as an independent state with Hruschevsky as president. The council’s representatives took part in the peace talks in Brest-Litovsk and entered into separate peace with the central forces in February 1918. In April 1918, the troops of the central forces again occupied Ukraine, and German-friendly Ukrainian nationalists created a new, conservative regime led by Pavlo Skoropadsky. Skoropadskyj was named hetman, and his board is often referred to as hetmanate.
After the withdrawal of the central forces as a result of the defeat in the world war, Skoropadskyj was overthrown in December 1918 and replaced by a five-man “directorate” with Social Democrat Symon Petljura in the lead. At the same time, the Russian Bolsheviks started a new offensive against Ukraine, and invaded Kiev in February 1919.
Throughout 1919, Petljura’s army, the Bolsheviks, the white voluntary army led by General Anton Denikin and Pyotr Wrangel, the peasant anarchist Nestor Makhnos, fought against each other on Ukrainian territory, but eventually Polish and Russian forces took over, which led to the Polish-Russian War in 1920–1921.
In this conflict, Petlura’s army fought with the Poles against the Bolsheviks, but without achieving its own Ukrainian state. At the peace in Riga in 1921, Poland and Soviet Russia divided the Ukrainian territory (Poland, as mentioned above, received Galicia and parts of Volhynia). The many parallel and intersectional fighting actions in the period 1917–1920, along with a drought disaster in 1921, led to a widespread famine in 1921–1922 with 2–3 million dead.
Soviet Republic of Ukraine
Russian and Ukrainian Bolsheviks created in 1919 a Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic which in 1922 was part of the formation of the Soviet Union (USSR). Soviet Ukraine gained its own government and a supreme Soviet seat in Kharkiv (capital of the Soviet Republic until 1934).
In the 1920s, the official policy was characterized by systematic Ukrainization. Ukrainian was increasingly used as an administrative and teaching language, even in traditionally Russian-speaking cities. Two leading representatives of the Ukrainian policy were Education Minister Oleksander Shumsky and his successor Mykola Skrypnyk. However, from the end of the 1920s a new Russification campaign was launched. Most prominent Ukrainian Bolshevik leaders were liquidated or deported as “bourgeois nationalists”. Already in 1926, Shumsky was condemned for nationalist deviance, while Skrypnyk committed suicide in 1933.
Collectivization and famine
Josef Stalin’s grand plans for modernization through industrialization and collectivization had far-reaching consequences for Ukraine. As part of the shocked industrial travel during the first and second five-year plan in 1928–1937, many hundreds of thousands of Russians moved to the Ukrainian industrial cities, which quickly regained their Russian character. Of even greater importance, however, was the forced collectivization of agriculture at the beginning of the 1930s.
In 1932–1933, “Europe’s grain chamber” was hit by a man-made famine, in Ukrainian referred to as “holodomor”, which killed several millions of its inhabitants. The Soviet authorities tried to keep the famine hidden, and there is no consensus on the number of victims – the estimates vary by several millions, although several leading historians today estimate there were about 3-4 million.
As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet army moved September 17, 1939, two weeks after the German attack on Poland, into eastern Poland and incorporated Galicia and Volhynia into the Ukrainian Soviet Republic (together with northern Bukovina and parts of Bessarabia which Romania was forced to relinquish in June 1940).
Following Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, all of Ukraine was occupied within a few weeks by the advancing German forces. Some Soviet hostile and fascist elements of the Ukrainian population went into German service, but the German occupants were soon challenged both by the Soviet partisan movement and by Ukrainian nationalists.
The UPA, a guerrilla army affiliated with the OUN, fought against both the Germans and the Soviet power at the same time (the UPA was also involved in terror targeting the Polish people in Western Ukraine). After the war, UPA groups continued their struggle against Soviet power until the 1950s.
Ukraine’s material and human losses during World War II were enormous. Estimates of the number of civilian victims range from 5 to 7 million people, of which nearly one million are Jews. The Jews were not only victims of the Nazi cleansing, but also of Ukrainian collaborators and nationalists. In addition, it is estimated that 2.7 million of the soldiers who fell on the Soviet side were ethnic Ukrainians.
World War II resulted in virtually the entire Ukrainian settlement area being gathered within the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. In 1945, Czechoslovakia renounced Carpathian Ukraine (Transcarpathia) to the USSR. In the newly acquired areas of western Ukraine, a massive Sovietization campaign was launched. Many hundreds of thousands of people were arrested and deported to Siberia. At the Council of Lviv in 1946, the Hungarian church in the newly acquired areas was also forcibly united with the Russian Orthodox Church.
However, Stalin’s death in 1953 led to a clear change in Moscow’s policy towards Ukraine. The Stalinist first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party, Leonid Melnikov, was deposed accused of trying to Russianise Western Ukraine. In 1954, the Crimean Peninsula was transferred to Ukraine from the Russian Soviet Republic (RSFSR).
The new strong man in the Kremlin, Nikita Khrushchev, had been party leader in Ukraine in 1938–1949, and under his leadership many other Soviet top leaders were also recruited from Ukraine, including Nikolaj Podgornyj (Soviet president in 1965-1977) and Khrushchev’s successor as Secretary-General, Leonid Brezhnev. Most of these came from the Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, especially from Dnipropetrovsk, formerly Yekaterinoslav.
In the 1960s, Ukrainian party leader Petro Sjelest opened a new Ukrainian campaign, though by no means as comprehensive as in the 1920s. In 1972, however, Shelest was accused of nationalism and replaced by the Brezhnevite, Volodymyr Shchytersky. In the same year, a series of arrests were made of Ukrainian intellectuals, especially from western Ukraine.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, cultural differences between western and eastern Ukraine gradually increased. As the westernmost part of the Republic became increasingly Ukrainian- speaking, more and more of the Donbass residents moved to speak Russian. From the westernmost parts there was an initial emigration of ethnic Russians, while the Russians’ share of the total population of Ukraine as a whole was increasing. In 1979, the Russians made up over 10 million people, or approx. 20% of the total population.
Popular organization and independence
On April 26, 1986, one reactor burned at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Northern Ukraine, triggering the serious Chernobyl accident. Despite the launch of its glasnost campaign by the head of the Soviet Union, General Mikhail Gorbachev, the authorities initially sought to escalate the disaster. The accident gave rise to the creation of the Green World environmental movement, one of the first independent popular movements in Ukraine under the perestroika.
A Ukrainian national front, Rukh, was formed in 1989. It soon gained great support, but almost exclusively in the capital and in Western Ukraine. In eastern Ukraine, too, the population mobilized, but here the fighting was economic and not nationalistic.
In the summer of 1989, the miners in Donbass, together with their colleagues in Siberia and Northern Russia, carried out a series of strikes demanding better working conditions and higher wages.
In September 1989, the conservative Shchybysky sky was forced to step down from the post of leader of the Ukrainian Communist Party. He was succeeded by Volodymyr Ivashko, who for a time was both party leader and chairman of parliament. In the summer of 1991 he had to leave both positions, and the important position of chairman of the increasingly important parliament (Supreme Soviet) fell to Leonid Kravchuk.
It was also Parliament that on July 16, 1990, adopted a declaration of sovereignty, which stated, inter alia, that Ukrainian law was superior to Soviet law. This became an important step towards the independence Ukraine gained as a result of the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.