To make it easier to understand the current political tensions in Eastern Europe, I put together a few historical facts about Ukraine. Some people asked me, plus I hear strange opinions about Ukrainian history, some of which clearly promoted by propagandists.
- The territory has been inhabited since 32,000 BCE. Prehistoric Ukraine, the Pontic–Caspian steppe, was the homeland of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language. As part of Scythia, it played an important role in Eurasian cultural contacts. Scyths were nomads of the Eurasian Steppe with urbanism, agriculture, and art.
- Settled by Gets in the migration period, Ukraine was the site of early Slavic expansion
- The medieval state of Kievan Rus emerged as a powerful nation in the Middle Ages. Several Slavic tribes were native to Ukraine: Polans, Drevlyans, Severians, Ulichs, Tiverians, White Croats, and Dulebes. In 882, Kyiv was taken from the Khazars by Viking Swed prince Oleg. In the 11th century, Kievan Rus was, geographically, the largest state in Europe. The name "Ukraine" first appears in historical documents of the 12th century.
Then, conflicts among the principalities started: autonomy of Belarus in the north-west, Moscow of Suzdal gave rise to Russia in the north. Struggle between princes and worsened by Polovtsy (Turkic nomads) raiders. In 1240, the Mongols besieged and destroyed Kyiv, and many people fled to other countries.
- In 14th century, Ukrainian territories were under the rule of three external powers:
- Mongol, later Turkicized, khanate Ulug Ulus.
- Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth - from 1569. East Slavs who fled efforts to force them into serfdom came to be known as Cossacks.
- Crimean Tatar Khanate - from the 15th century. In 1500–1700, the Khanate exported about 2 million slaves from Russia and Ukraine to the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East.
- After a 1648 uprising of the Ukrainian Cossacks, the Cossack Hetmanate was formed, with elected Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky. The Zaporizhian Sich signed a peace treaty in 1658, but after 13 years Ukrainian territory was divided between empires. Under Russia, the Cossacks initially retained official autonomy and maintained a semi-independent republic in Zaporozhia. Hetman Pylyp Orlyk’s Constitution was written in 1710 and established the principle of the separation of powers in government between the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches well before the publication of Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. It also limited the executive authority of the hetman, and established a parliament General Rada.
- After the War for Ukraine, in 1686, the eastern portion of Ukraine (east of the Dnieper River) came under Russian rule, and Galicia fell to the Austrian Empire. After 1795, the Russian Empire and Habsburg Austria were in control of all its territories. After the Ukrainian National Revival in the mid-18th century and peasant revolts of 1768-69, in 1793 right-bank Ukraine was annexed by Russia, which imposed strict limits on the Ukrainian language.
- In 1917, Ukraine (including Crimea), Kuban, and portions of Don Cossack lands with large Ukrainian populations, tried to break free from Russia after the revolution in St. Petersburg. The Free Territory (Makhnovshchina) and the internationally recognized Ukrainian People's Republic formed during international and civil wars of 1917–1921. Six different armies - Ukrainians, Bolsheviks, Whites, French, Poles, and the anarchists – operated on Ukrainian territory. Kyiv changed hands five times in less than a year. Cities and regions were cut off from each other and from the outside world by the numerous fronts. The Bolshevik Red Army took control in 1919 and established the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which in 1922 became one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union.
- In 1932 and 1933, millions of people in Ukraine starved to death in a devastating famine, known as Holodomor.
- Axis armies occupied Ukraine from 1941 to 1944. During World War II the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought for Ukrainian independence against both Germany and the Soviet Union. Galicia, South Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and Carpathian Ruthenia were added. In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations. Crimea was added in 1954.
- In 1990s, Ukraine suffered an eight-year recession with a corrupt government: the Ukrainian economy shrank by more than 10% yearly, with over 20% in 1994.
- Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country on 24 August 1991. More than 90% of the electorate expressed their support for the declaration of independence on December 1, 1991.
- After the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 21, Ukraine held about one third of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world at the time, as well as significant means of its design and production.
- In 1994, Ukraine agreed to destroy the weapons, and to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) with security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.
- After a peaceful Orange Revolution against electoral fraud in 2004-5, Viktor Yushchenko was elected president and survived assassination by poisoning attempt.
- Mass protests for European integration Euromaidan or the Revolution of Dignity changed the corrupt government in 2013- 2014.
- In 2014, masked Russian troops without insignia captured strategic sites across Crimea, including the parliament, which led to the installation of the pro-Russian government and declaration of independence on 16 March 2014 and formal incorporation into Russia two days later.
- After the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine and many other countries condemned it as a violation of international law, which led to the other members of the then G8 suspending Russia from the group as a first round of sanctions.
- Russo-Ukrainian Donbas war begun between the Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian government. In August 2014, Russian unmarked military vehicles crossed the border in several locations of Donetsk Oblast. The majority of members of the international community and organizations such as Amnesty International have condemned Russian regime for breaking international law and violating Ukrainian sovereignty. Many countries implemented economic sanctions against Russia, Russian individuals or companies.
- In 2016, the United Nations reaffirmed condemnation of
the temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine—the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
- As of 2019, 7% of Ukraine's territory is under occupation.