Ukraine Old History

By | January 3, 2023

Ukraine is an independent nation in Eastern Europe. With the capital city of Kiev, Ukraine 2020 population is estimated at 43,733,773 according to countryaah. In what is today Northern Ukraine was founded at the end of the 8th century Kiev Empire which became a powerful principality. From the 13th century, the area came first under Mongolian and later Polish and Lithuanian supremacy. From the 17th century, the Russians dominated, and in 1922 Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine was hit by widespread famine and severe oppression under Soviet leader Josef Stalin in the 1930s, and during World War II, millions of Ukrainians died in wars, hardships and purges.

  • Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Ukraine, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

Early in history, various riders swept across the steppes that today make up Ukraine. In the 8th century BC, the first Oriental horsemen came, the Chimers, who were later replaced by the Scythians and the Sarmatians. At the same time, seafarers began to settle along the Black Sea coast. There are traces of Greek settlements dating back to the 6th century before our era. For Ukraine political system, please check computerminus.

Slavic people began to settle in the area from the 6th century AD. In the 800s, the first state formation arose. According to the Nestor Chronicle, the Kiev kingdom (Kyjivska Rus) in northern Ukraine was founded in 862 by Prince Oleh (Oleg in Russian), son of the Nordic Viking Rurik. Whether it was the Vikings who founded the Empire or not, the Vikings played an important role in Kiev’s early history, as the Empire lay along their trade routes between Northern Europe and Constantinople. When Prince Volodymyr (Vladimir in Russian) adopted Christianity from Östrom in 988, the Kiev kingdom became one of Eastern Europe’s most important political and spiritual centers. The most important building memory of this time is the Sofia Cathedral, built with the Sofia Church in Constantinople (Istanbul) as a model. Relatively soon, however, a downturn began due to the decline of the north-south trade routes. The end came in 1240, when the Mongols invaded Kiev.

Polish empire

The western parts of the empire, including the principalities of Galicia and Volynia, maintained a degree of self-government until 1340 when they fell under Polish supremacy. As the Mongol empire collapsed, the central and eastern parts of Lithuania were first incorporated and then Poland.

The Ukrainian nobility adopted Polish customs. Many privileges required conversion to Catholicism. The Polish system of goods and loans spread to Ukraine, and the former free Ukrainian peasants became viable. This led to social tensions between Poles and Ukrainians.

In that situation, the Cossacks came to play a crucial role. The Cossacks were peasants who had fled the livelihood and settled in the southeast, including around the Dnieper River. Conflicts with the Polish rulers became inevitable.

The first Cossack rebellion took place in 1591. The conflicts culminated in 1648, when the Cossacks leader (hetman) Bohdan Khmelnytskyj led an uprising against the Polish supremacy. In a short time, the Cossacks were able to take control of most of Ukraine. The victories of Khmelnytsky were accompanied by cruel persecution of Polish nobles and priests as well as Jews. However, the Cossacks needed an ally in the battle and therefore stood in 1654 under the protection of the Moscow chief.

Russian empire

The decision brought Ukraine into the Russian sphere. The immediate result was a war between Moscow and Poland, which ended with peace being struck over the heads of the Ukrainian Cossacks. In the peace of 1667, Ukraine was divided so that the area east of the Dnieper and Kiev went to Russia and the remainder went to Poland. The subsequent downturn is called the “ruin” in Ukrainian history writing.

A final attempt to assert Ukraine’s self-determination was made by the hitman Ivan Mazepa, who made alliances with the Swedish king Karl XII against Russia in the hope of achieving independence for the Ukrainians. The company ended in the defeat at Poltava in 1709, when Russia defeated Charles XII’s army. Subsequently, Russia gradually strengthened its grip on Ukraine.

The Russian conquest of eastern Ukraine was followed by continued Russian expansion westward. Following the divisions of Poland in 1793 and 1795, Russia received most of the Ukrainian territories west of the Dnieper except Galicia, which went to Austria. The Russians also continued south. In 1783, the Crimean Khanate, a remnant of the former Mongol Empire, was defeated. Russian supremacy was confirmed by the fact that the Russians founded new cities on the Black Sea: Odessa, Nikolaev (now Mykolaiv), Kherson and Sevastopol. Russian settlers were sent to southern Ukraine to grow up the previously crowded steppe. Other groups of people were also encouraged to settle there. Many were Germans, but there was also a small group of Swedes banished from Dagö in Estonia. Even today, around a hundred Swedish kittens still live in the village of Zmijivka (Old Swedish village).

Ukrainian nationalism

The national awakening in the Russian part of Ukraine began in the mid-19th century. The Ukrainian intelligentsia’s first attempt to challenge the Russian regime ended with the participants being arrested and deported. At the same time, within the intelligentsia, the class formed in society, a tug of war between those who fought for the liberation of the Ukrainians and Panslavists, that is, persons who emphasized the common interests of the Slavic peoples, took place. Also in Galicia in the west, nationalist sentiments were aroused by the Ukrainians. The city of Lviv and its university became the center of Ukrainian nationalism.

Industrialization in the Russian part of Ukraine at the end of the 19th century led to major social changes: immigration to the cities, the emergence of a working class and the strengthening of the gospel. In 1876, teaching in Ukrainian and publishing Ukrainian books and magazines were banned. This ban was lifted after the 1905 revolution in Russia.

Following the February revolution in Russia in 1917, when the tsar abdicated, thoughts of an independent Ukrainian state arose. Already in March, representatives of various political movements formed a provisional Assembly, the Central Council. The Communists, then called the Bolsheviks, joined somewhat later.

After the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia through the October Revolution the same year, a Ukrainian Soviet government was formed in the city of Kharkiv in the east. The Kiev Central Council, for its part, proclaimed Ukraine’s independence on January 22, 1918. It became the prelude to a confused civil war, which ended with peace in Riga on March 18, 1921, when Ukraine was divided. Poland regained Galicia and Volynia, while most of Ukraine went to the Bolsheviks. On December 30, 1922, Ukraine was one of the four republics that founded the Soviet Union.

Soviet Republic

After the Civil War and the famine of 1921–1922, the rest of the 1920s became something of a golden age for the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. The chaos forced a temporary retreat from the planning economic principles which said that all property would be owned by the state. The New Economic Policy (NEP) from 1921 to 1928 allowed private enterprise in agriculture, trade and small industry. The Bolsheviks also returned some land that had been nationalized. Cultural life flourished and a new language law gave the Ukrainian preference over Russian.

All this came to an abrupt end with Soviet leader Stalin’s brutal collectivization of agriculture from 1929. Then all land was nationalized and turned into so-called kolchoses, which on paper were collectively owned, or in large state farms, sovoshos. Well-to-do farmers, so-called kulaks, were banished with their families to remote areas where the majority died. In the fertile agricultural areas of Ukraine, severe famine broke out and millions of people starved to death in 1932–1933 in what the Ukrainian authorities today call a genocide, called holodomor. The political terror in the 1930s also demanded many human lives. The purges of those whom Stalin regarded as their enemies were very extensive in Ukraine.

During the outbreak of World War II, the Ukrainian territories of Poland were also incorporated with the Soviet Union. Ukrainian nationalists hoped that the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 would give them the opportunity to establish an independent Ukrainian state. For a time the nationalists fought on the Germans, but an attempt to proclaim independence was crushed by the Nazis. After a time, a Ukrainian army of insurrection was formed which waged guerrilla war against both the Soviet power and the Germans.

World War II had devastating consequences for Ukraine. About one in six people were killed. Most of the Jewish population was destroyed and several Ukrainian cities were totally destroyed. Throughout the war, however, virtually all Ukrainian territories were united. In addition to the former Polish territories, Ukraine received the Transcarpathian from Czechoslovakia as well as northern Bukovina and parts of Bessarabia from Romania.


After Stalin’s death in 1953, a political “thunderstorm” entered the Soviet Union under the new leader Nikita Khrushchev. Political oppression was alleviated, but the new spirit did not only bring benefits to Ukraine. The position of the Ukrainian language was weakened, for example, by the fact that Ukrainian was no longer compulsory in schools.

The new Ukrainian Communist Party leader Petro Sjelest, who was appointed in 1963, sought to strengthen the position of the Ukrainian language and defend Ukraine’s economic interests vis-à-vis Moscow. But in 1972 he was replaced by the more fierce Volodymyr Shtjerbysky, who made sure to keep Ukrainian nationalism under control through widespread persecution of all opposition.

The harsh rule of the Shtjerbysh clouds led to political changes lasting longer in Ukraine than in other Soviet republics, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev started his reform policy perestroika in the second half of the 1980s.

The nuclear accident in Chernobyl (Chornobyl) in northern Ukraine in April 1986 became an alarm clock. Millions of people were exposed to radiation and radioactive fallout, which led to environmental and health problems. The state’s handling of the disaster contributed to the formation of groups that worked for greater political freedom, civil rights and environmental protection.

The church, especially the resurrected Greek-Catholic church in western Ukraine, also came to play an important role in opposition to the communist regime. Mining strikes in the Donbas in the east loosened up the communist power monopoly. In 1989, Ruch was founded as the umbrella organization for the nationalist opposition, with a stronghold mainly in the west.

When a first election, which was at least partially free, was held in the spring of 1990, Ruch and related groups received about a third of the parliamentary mandate. The political climate was radicalized. Parliament’s new Speaker Leonid Kravtjuk, who was one of the Communist Party’s top leaders, now took a nationalist stance and approached Ruch.

The coup attempt in Moscow in August 1991, when a group of reform opponents made one last attempt to stop the disintegration of the Soviet Union, led Ukraine to declare independence on August 24, 1991. The same month, the Communist Party was banned. Independence was confirmed by an overwhelming majority in a referendum on 1 December. At the same time, Kravtjuk was elected with a good margin for president.

On December 8, 1991, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union and to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) instead.



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Ukraine Old History