History of Ukraine

Brief history of Ukraine summarized

A brief overview of the history of Ukraine.

The early history of Ukraine

In the 7th century BC a people called the Scythians lived in what is now the Ukraine. Later, the Greeks settled on the northern shore of the Black Sea and founded city-states there. The Slavs settled in Ukraine in the 5th and 6th centuries AD

Then, in the 9th century, the Swedish Vikings sailed along the rivers into the heart of Eastern Europe. Some of them settled in Ukraine. In 882 a Viking named Oleg captured kyiv and made it the capital of a powerful state. In the year 988, under the command of Vladimir I, Ukraine converted to Christianity.

However, in the 11th and 12th centuries the state was divided into fragments. Disaster struck in 1240 when the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu, conquered southern and eastern Ukraine.

However, northern and western Ukraine remained independent until the 14th century, when it was taken over by the Poles and the Lithuanians. Little by little they pushed back the Mongols or Tatars. However, the Tatars still held Crimea and in the 15th century they came under the domination of the Ottoman Empire.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, some serfs (halfway between slaves and free men) fled from Polish landowners and settled in the steppes of Ukraine. They were called Kozaky (Cossacks), which means “monsters.” The Cossacks formed self-governing communities.

They eventually united to form the Cossack Hetmanate led by a hetman (general). However, by the end of the 17th century, Poland came to dominate Western Ukraine, while Russia dominated Eastern Ukraine. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, was determined to absorb eastern Ukraine into Russia.

The Cossack Hetmanate was abolished in 1764. Meanwhile in the 18th century Poland was declining and in 1772-1795 Russia and Austria decided to help themselves on Polish territory. Most of western Ukraine was taken over by Russia (except for a small strip in the far west, which went to Austria). Finally, in 1783, Russia conquered Crimea. Catherine the Great also founded Odessa.

Twentieth century

In the 19th century Ukraine was firmly under Russian control. However, from the mid-nineteenth century nationalism spread. In 1918, while Russia was in civil war, Ukraine briefly became independent. However, in 1921 the Russians forced Ukraine into the Soviet Union.

Stalin decided that the farms in the Ukraine should be collectivized. In other words, he would deprive peasants of their land and livestock and force them to work as farm laborers on land now owned by the state. Not surprisingly, many Ukrainian peasants bitterly resisted even slaughtering their own cattle rather than handing them over to the state.

However, Stalin was determined to crush the Ukrainian peasants and caused a terrible famine in 1932-33 that claimed the lives of millions of innocent people.

In 1932, the collective farms were assigned completely unrealistic quotas. Soviet law decreed that peasants would not be allowed to keep any grain until they met their quotas. They could not, of course, meet them, so the Soviet officers simply confiscated all the grain they wanted leaving the peasants hungry.

It is not known for sure how many people died in this man-made famine, but it was probably about 7 million. This horrible artificial famine is called the Holodomor.

However, Ukraine’s suffering is not over. During 1937-39 Stalin unleashed purges in which many Ukrainians were executed or sent to prison camps. Then in 1941 the Germans invaded. They murdered millions of Ukrainians.

However, by 1943 the Germans were losing the war, and the Red Army recaptured Kiev on November 6, 1943. Stalin then retaliated against anyone he suspected of being disloyal or collaborating with the Germans. All Crimean Tatars were deported.

In 1986, a disaster occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The authorities tried to cover up the disaster and that caused a lot of resentment. In the late 1980s Ukrainians were increasingly dissatisfied with the Moscow government and in 1989 the RUKH (Ukrainian People’s Movement for Restructuring) was formed and demonstrations were held in 1990.

With the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became independent again. However, the transition from socialism to capitalism was painful. Ukraine suffered from high inflation and economic decline for a few years. However, economic growth eventually started up again.

21st century Ukraine

The transition from dictatorship to democracy was not easy either. At the end of 2004, Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential elections. However, many people believed that the elections were rigged and supporters of the other candidate, Victor Yushchenko, demonstrated for 10 days.

A replay was eventually held and Yushchenko was chosen. He became president in early 2005. This was called the Orange Revolution. Ukraine suffered greatly in the economic recession of 2008-2009. However, this was temporary and Ukraine recovered.

In 2013 and 2014, a wave of demonstrations swept across Ukraine as President Yanukovych rejected an association treaty with the EU. In February 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to remove Yanukovych from power. Following the new elections, Petro Poroshenko became the president of Ukraine. At present, the population of Ukraine is 44 million inhabitants.

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