Ukraine History

Ukraine History

Early to late antiquity

Already for the younger Paleolithic period around 50,000 to 10,000 years before the beginning of the Christian era, remains of dwellings, storage spaces and sculptures have been found in the area of ​​the upper Don and the Dnieper. The steppe zones north of the Caspian Sea were dominated by the Andronovo and Poltawka cultures in the Bronze Age (around 1700-800 BC). Both Scythian and Greek tribes settled in what is now Ukraine and were founded in the 3rd century BC. ousted by Iranian nomadic peoples, the Sarmatians. These came in the 1st century BC. to the mouth of the Danube.

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Medieval and modern times

In the 10th century AD Kievan Rus was founded as the first Slavic state and flourished under Yaroslav the Wise in the 11th century. Kiev remained the church’s center of Russia in the centuries that followed. The empire, however, fell apart in the centuries that followed and in the 13th century came under the influence of the Golden Horde, an empire founded by Mongols. After its power declined in the middle of the 14th century, the neighbors seized individual areas of Ukraine today: parts of Wolynia and Galicia came to Poland, Podolia, Kiev and part of Volynia came to Lithuania. A khanate developed in the Crimea in the 15th century, which in the following decades covered the neighboring landscapes with raids.

In 1458 a church province of Kiev and the whole of Russia independent of Moscow was founded, which in 1569 was largely connected to Catholic Poland after the unification of Poland and Lithuania. Poland abolished peasant liberties in the following decades and severe social conflicts followed. Under the leadership of the Cossacks (Turkish for “free warriors”), whose rider associations were recruited from peasants who had escaped serfdom, resistance to the regime increased in the first half of the 17th century. In 1648 there was a cossack and popular uprising under Bohdan Chmelnizky, which was also directed against the Jews living in the empire who fled to the west of Poland.

According to AbbreviationFinder, the Cossacks had already divided into two groups in the 16th century. The urban cossacks from the middle Dnieper had placed themselves under Russian protection and from then on devoted themselves primarily to border defense. The Zaporozh Cossacks (saporog = below the rapids) on the lower Dnieper meanwhile founded a center on the island of Sitsch and lived from forays and agriculture. However, after their attempt to establish an independent state against Poland-Lithuania, Ottomans and Crimean Tatars failed, they gradually came under the sovereignty of the Russian tsars.

In 1667 an armistice between Poland-Lithuania and Moscow was concluded and as a result the eastern part of Ukraine came under the rule of the Russian Empire. After a few years, this placed the Kiev metropolitan under the Moscow Patriarchate.

After the first division of Poland in 1772, Galicia and Bukovina fell to Austria, from where the area, which today belongs partly to Poland and partly to Ukraine, was centrally governed as the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. Under Emperor Joseph II at the end of the 18th century, around 5,000 German Protestants from the Palatinate were settled in Ukrainian eastern Galicia. The capital became Lviv (Ukrainian Lviv).

Russia had annexed Crimea the previous year, and when the second division of Poland was carried out in 1793, areas to the west of the Dnieper and Volhynian areas of Ukraine also came to Russia. The autonomy of the Zaporozhian Cossacks had already been abolished in 1775 and a russification policy began, which consisted in suppressing the Uniate Church on the one hand and the Ukrainian language on the other. In contrast, Ukrainian was promoted in the part of the country governed by Austria as a counterpoint to Polish influences. For example, a chair for Ukrainian language and literature was established at the University of Lviv in 1848.

Soviet domination

In 1917 there was a revolution in Petrograd and in the same year a pro-Soviet government was formed in Kharkov, which was hostile to the bourgeois forces in the country, which had already concluded a separate peace with the Central Powers. German and Austro-Hungarian troops occupied Ukraine until December 1918, in January 1919 the Bolsheviks entered Kiev and proclaimed the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. There was a civil was, during which the opponents of the war alternately ruled in Kiev. It was not until the Peace of Riga in 1921 that new regulations were implemented. Galicia remained with Poland, and the newly founded Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic founded the Soviet Union together with other Soviet republics. The Crimea became an autonomous Republic of the Crimean Tatars.

The Stalinist compulsory collectivizations led to severe famines in the 1930s, which killed between six and eight million Ukrainians. Opposition members had already been murdered or kidnapped in so-called purges.

Western Hitler was declared a Soviet zone of influence in the Hitler-Stalin Pact and incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR in 1939. This was followed by Germany’s declaration of war on Russia by the occupation of Ukraine by German troops and the murder and deportation of the Jewish population, as well as the deportation of about one million Ukrainian forced laborers to Germany. In 1943 the Red Army recaptured Ukraine, and in 1944 it also occupied western Ukraine including Lviv and the Carpathian Ukraine.

In 1945 Ukraine was a founding member of the UN, and until 1950 the communist rulers abducted around 300,000 Ukrainians to Siberia on the blanket charge of collaboration with the Germans. In 1954 the Crimea was rejoined to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

Until the 1980s, the domestic political situation was characterized by a crackdown by the Soviet government against the Ukrainian opposition. This only changed when the new Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.

An environmental disaster occurred in 1986, which is estimated to have killed more than 15,000 people in Ukraine: the largest nuclear accident to date at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has contaminated large areas of Ukraine and the surrounding countries as far as Western Europe.


Already towards the end of the 80s of the 20th century the Ukrainians striving for independence gathered in the popular movement “Ruch”. In 1990 Ukrainian was introduced as the state language. In 1991 the Communist Party was banned and Ukraine declared independence. The first freely elected President Kravchuk founded the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) together with Russia and Belarus. It was only in 1990 that Prime Minister W. Fokin, and from 1992 L. Kuchma, initiated economic reforms, the social consequences of which met with resistance in parliament and among the population. In 1993 Kuchma resigned as Prime Minister, J. Swjagilski succeeded him. In 1994 and 1998 the Communists became the strongest party in parliamentary elections (the Communist Party was re-admitted in 1993). The pro-Russian Vitali Massol became head of government until 1995, followed in 1995 by Yevgeny Marchuk and in 1996 by P. Lasarenko; L. Kuchma became the new president by runoff.

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Already in 1994 an agreement between the USA, Russia and Ukraine was concluded, through which the Ukrainian nuclear weapons were destroyed until 1996. Conflicts over the future of the Black Sea fleet and Crimea were settled in 1997 by Russia and Ukraine. In the same year, W. Pustowojtenko became the new head of government, who remained prime minister after the 1998 elections. Kuchma was also able to assert himself again in a runoff election in 1999 and declared that, on the one hand, he would continue the pro-western policy, and on the other hand, he wanted to take tough action against corruption. At the end of 1999, he appointed former West Bank governor Viktor Yushchenko as head of government. This announced far-reaching reforms in the economic and administrative areas. This included the reorganization of the collective farms and the streamlining of the government apparatus. At the same time, a Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty came into force. At the end of 2000, after tough negotiations with Western donors, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was finally taken off the grid. Yushchenko was overthrown by parliament in April 2001 and succeeded Anatoly Kinach.

After the 2004 presidential elections, which were associated with allegations of manipulation, there was massive unrest in the country (“Orange Revolution”); after a redial, the opposition politician Viktor Yushchenko became the clear winner. A constitutional revision restricted the president’s power. Yushchenko appointed Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minister. It was replaced in office by Yuri Yechanurow in the same year after internal political differences. There was a dispute with Russia at the turn of 2005/06 over price increases for imported natural gas, which was initially settled with an agreement in January 2006.

After the 2006 parliamentary elections, Yushchenko appointed his former rival for president, pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, as the new prime minister. Yanukovych tried to change the presidential system in such a way that the power of the president was restricted. In April 2007, Yushchenko dissolved the parliament; in the new elections in September, the reform-oriented coalition of Yulia Tymoshenko’s “Block Yulia Tymoshenko” and the Yushchenko electoral alliance “Our Ukraine – National Self-Defense” won 228 of the 450 seats.

The coalition broke up in September 2008. In October 2008, Yushchenko dissolved the parliament. A new coalition government was also led by Yulia Tymoshenko. At the turn of 2008/2009, the dispute with Russia about the gas price escalated. There was a week-long Russian gas delivery freeze.

In February 2010, Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential election against Yulia Tymoshenko. Parliament then withdrew its government’s trust. Mikola Azarov was elected as the new Prime Minister. In October 2010, the Constitutional Court rejected the 2004 constitutional revision, which had restricted the presidential power.

The domestic political discussion was dominated by the possible EU association of Ukraine. The Azarov government decision in November 2013 to suspend the signing of the Association Agreement led to a month-long protest movement (Euromaidan). After Viktor Yanukovych’s flight, Parliament decided to re-elect the President, which Petro Poroshenko won in May 2014 with a large majority. The constitutional changes of 2004 were declared valid again.

After the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in violation of international law in March 2014, pro-Russian separatists seized power in some areas of eastern Ukraine and, with the support of Russian citizens, proclaimed the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic “. The Ukrainian state then launched a so-called anti-terrorist operation (ATO) to restore state control. The Ukrainian forces made steady progress until August, but since then they have suffered some serious losses due to military support from Russia.

After early parliamentary elections in October 2014, Arseniy Yatsenyuk became prime minister in November.

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