Ukrainian history began in the 9th century with the rise of the city of Kyiv as the center of an empire that came to be
called 'Kyivan Rus'. In 988, the people of 'Kyivan Rus', then ruled by Volodymyr the Great (Prince Vladimir), adopted
Christianity as the state religion.
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. 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.
After the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the gentry of Ukraine voted for membership in the Polish
part of the Commonwealth 1569. The period immediately following the creation of the Commonwealth, 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 Ukrainianized; during this time, many Ukrainian
nobles became Polonized. Social tensions also grew. 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 Cossack's ill-fated military alliance with Muscovy, however, resulted in a gradual take-over by the Muscovites.
Poland quickly came to terms with Muscovy and the two nations partitioned Ukraine along the Dnipro River. The
Cossacks attempted to free themselves of Russian rule in 1709 by allying themselves with the Swedes and attacking
Muscovy. The Muscovites were victorious and from that day forward began to call themselves "Rus-sians." In 1775,
Czarina Catherine II destroyed the famed Zaporzhian Fort, the last bastion of Cossack independence in Ukraine.
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 (Galacia) and of the Russians elsewhere.
Ottoman Empire control receded from south-central Ukraine, while the rule of Hungary over the Trans-Carpathian region
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. All through the 18th and 19th centuries writers and poets like Taras Shevchenko kept
eastern Ukrainian hopes alive by writing about the glories of the past and urging Ukrainians to "cast off your chains."
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 czarist Russian regime was overthrown in 1917 and eastern Ukrainians established the Ukrainian National
Republic. On January 22, 1918, following the Communist takeover of Russia, the Ukrainian people declared their
independence from Russia. At about the same time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and a Republic of Western
Ukraine was created. On January 22, 1919, the two Ukrainian republics formally united during imposing ceremonies in
Kyiv, the national capital.
Ukraine was able to maintain its independence for three years against overwhelming odds. Poland wanted to annex
Galicia and invaded from the west. The communists wanted eastern Ukraine and invaded from the east. A czarist
Russian army, still hoping to retrieve "all of Russia," invaded Ukraine from the south. The communists eventually
defeated the Poles, the czarist Russian army, and the Ukrainians. Soviet Russia signed a peace treaty with Poland. By
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 which partitioned Ukraine once again.
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, who imposed terror campaigns, which ravaged the intellectual class. He also carried out a genocide
against the Ukrainian peasantry as part of his forced collectivization policies. Estimates of deaths from the 1932-1933
famine alone range from 7 million to 11 million.
After German and Soviet troops invaded Poland in 1939, the western Ukrainian regions were incorporated into the
Soviet Union. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, 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.
Initially, the Germans were warmly received as "liberators" by the Ukrainian population. It should be noted that this
generally stemmed from the ferocious repressions of the kulak peasants(a class that included almost all Ukrainians) by
Stalin, and not to a feeling of nationalism. Soon, however, the Germans began their bloody regime of genocide, killing
and deporting Jews and Ukrainian civilians and burning down entire villages, leading many Ukrainians to conclude that
Nazi rule was just as terrible, or even worse, than the Soviet regime.
The Nazi's forced many Ukrainians into slave labor. Kyiv and other parts of the country were heavily damaged. Some
Ukrainians began to resist Nazi Germany as well as the Soviet Union. Both Nazis and Soviets retaliated against the
Ukrainians with severe reprisals, including mass executions, destruction of villages, and scorched earth campaigns.
Resistance against Soviet Government forces continued as late as the 1950s.
Total civilian losses during the War and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at 7 million. 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 the first nation to fight the Axis powers during WW II in Carpatho-Ukraine
and one that saw one of the greatest bloodsheds during the War. In addition, the first troops to liberate the Auschwitz
Nazi concentration camp were from the Ukrainian SSR.
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
reactor exploded. The fallout contaminated large areas of northern Ukraine and even parts of Belarus.
Ukraine declared itself an independent state on August 24, 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and
became 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 Soviet Union formally ceased to exist in December 25, 1991, and with this Ukraine's independence
was officially recognized by the international community.
Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko
Sources: Myron B. Kuropas, The Ukrainians in America (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1972)
(1) 1991 Ukrainian Independence and Orange Revolution commentary by UGFF-USA, Inc.
A third Ukrainian state was created in the 17th century by the Cossacks,who established a
series of autonomous forts along the Dnipro River. The Cossacks, who elected all of their
"hetmans" (commanders-in-chief), eventually freed most of Ukraine from Polish rule and began
to create a republic. The 1648 Ukrainian Cossack rebellion and war of independence, also
known as "The Deluge", undermined the foundations and stability of the Commonwealth.
The reconstituted Ukrainian state sought a treaty of protection with the state of Muscovy in
1654. This ill-fated agreement was known as the Treaty of Pereyaslav.
Polish 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 Ukraine between Poland and Russia.
In the 11th century, 'Kyivan Rus' was, geographically, the largest state in Europe.
Conflict among the various principalities of Rus' and multiple invasions led to decline in
the 12th century. 'Kyivan Rus' rapidly began to decline soon after Kyiv was sacked by
the Mongols in 1240. The Mongol rule was very cruel and people often fled to other
countries. Ukrainian settlements appeared in Poland and Hungary.
Descendants of the Kyivan royal house, however, continued to rule various duchies
within the former empire. Three separate Slavonic people emerged from the Rus'
empire - the Byelorus' (Byelorussians), The Muscovites (Russians) and the Rus'
Following the decline of Kyiv, the center of Rus'-Ukrainian life shifted to the
southwestern provinces of Galicia and Volynia. A second Rus' state emerged when
Galicia and Volynia were united during the 12th century.
|Volodymyr the Great monument
in Kyiv, Ukraine
During the winter of 2004-2005 Ukraine experienced a peaceful political protest against
fraudulent Presidential elections in Ukraine. "Orange Revolution" The Orange
Revolution centered around Presidential contender Victor Yushchenko's orange
campaign for political reform and national unity. Ukraine inaugurated Victor Yushchenko
on January 23, 2005. In February of 2005, President Yushchenko pledged to expand
awareness of the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-1933 in Ukraine. The First Lady of
Ukraine, American-born Kateryna Chumachenko-Yushchenko is actively involved in
expanding global awareness of the Ukrainian Genocide through the her foundation