Ukraine History

By | February 7, 2021

Ukraine History & State

Ukraine History & State

Independence Day: August 24, 1991

Head of state: Volodymyr Zelensʾkyj

Head of government: Denys Šmyhalʾ

Political system: Parliamentary-Presidential Republic

Democracy Status Index (BTI): Rank 36 of 129 (2018)

Corruption Index (CPI): Rank 126 of 180 (2019)

From Kyїver Rus’ until 1918

According to hyperrestaurant, Ukraine is a country located in Eastern Europe. Ukraine looks back on a complex and eventful history. Ukrainian historiography begins with the emergence of the Kyїver Rus’ (Kievan Rus), a state formation of Slavic tribes with the center in Kyїv. The Kyїver Rus’, founded by Varangian princes, existed from 880 to the middle of the 12th century. The phases under the rule of Volodymyr Velykyj (Vladimir the Great, 980-1015), who baptized the Rus to the Orthodox faith in 988, and of Jaroslav Mudryj (Yaroslav the Wise, 1019-1054), who was the first to write down the laws of the Rus. At that time the Kyїver Rus’ represented the largest country on the European continent. In Kyїv, which is on the “from the Varangians to the Greeks “and was a relatively prosperous city, around 50,000 people lived under the rule of Jaroslav the Wise. After the Mongols conquered Kyїv in 1240, eastern Ukraine came under foreign rule. The central territories went to the Grand Duchy Lithuania and later to Poland. Under Lithuanian rule the Ukrainian language flourished, but it declined again in the course of a subsequent strong Polonization.Until the 20th century, the territories of today’s Ukraine were dominated by foreign rule: Ottoman Empire, from the 16th century Rzecz Pospolita, Russian Empire and Habsburg Monarchy. During the interwar period (1918-1939) parts of the country belonged to four different states (see below).


An important epoch for the formation of the Ukrainian nation is the rule of the Cossacks, who controlled the basin of the Dnipro river from the 15th century and founded the “Zaporiz’ka Sič”. The Cossacks waged several wars to liberate Ukrainian territories. Between 1648 and 1654 the Cossack army under the leadership of Bohdan Hmel’nyc’kyj managed to establish its own state (hetmanate) against the resistance of the Polish-Lithuanian nobles. In order to defend himself against the Polish army, Hmel’nyc’kyj surrendered to the protectorate of the Russian tsar and signed the Treaty of Perejaslav in 1654which resulted in centuries of dominance by the Russian Empire. Tsarist Russia introduced a strong russification policy on the territory of Ukraine (e.g. Emsker Ukas of 1876 on the ban on writing in the Ukrainian language by the Russian Tsar Alexander the Second).

Ukraine 1918 to 1991

Famine, population decline in Ukraine

Famine, population decline in Ukraine

The first founding of the Ukrainian state in 1918 represents another important period. After the outbreak of the First World War, which caused Ukraine great population losses and economic hardship, many Central and Eastern European countries took the opportunity to establish nation states. In Ukraine, however, this attempt failed and it was divided between different countries. The western territories belonged to Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia. Central and Eastern Ukraine were annexed to Soviet Russia and were a founding member of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian SSR since 1922. The 1920’s were in the Soviet Union through the policy of ” korenizacija”, a liberal minority policy. The so-called Ukrainization took place in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, a cultural rebirth in which a Ukrainian national elite was able to develop. However, this phase lasted only until the end of the 1920’s and ended in Stalinist mass repression against Ukrainian intellectuals.

Holodomor (Famine) 1932-33

According to various research reports, between three and six million Ukrainians died in the winter of 1932/33, caused by a famine that was artificially triggered by the Soviet government – through confiscation and high export rates for grain and food. The famine was one of the “white spots” in Ukrainian history that was only open to public debate after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2006 the Holodomor was recognized by the Ukrainian parliament as “genocide against the Ukrainian people”. This thesis is not undisputed in science.

World War II and post-war period

Ukraine was one of the main theaters of World War II and suffered great human and material losses. Shortly after the start of the war and the attack on Poland by German troops, as a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, there was a Soviet invasion of the Polish part of Ukraine (Eastern Galicia). In 1941 German Wehrmacht troops occupied almost all of Ukraine. Most of the Ukrainian Jews were exterminated during World War II. Only 500,000 of the original 3 million Jews on Ukrainian territory survived the war.

After the Second World War there was territorial growth: Carpatho-Ukraine, eastern Galicia and northern Bukovina fell to the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR, respectively. In 1954 the Crimean peninsula was handed over to Ukraine. In 2014, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. Parts of the Donecʾk and Luhansʾk areas have been declared the so-called People’s Republics, but are not recognized under international law.

Independent Ukraine

After the Čornobyl catastrophe and in the wake of the “ Perestroika ” movement, the struggle for independence and the national movement in Ukraine intensified. On August 24, 1991 the parliament of the then Ukrainian Soviet Republic proclaimed the country’s independence. This was approved by 90% of the population in a nationwide referendum in December 1991. Leonid Kravčuk became the first president elected a former member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In 1994 he was replaced by Leonid Kučma, who remained in office until 2004. Kučma’s achievements are ambivalent. He pushed economic reforms and achieved an average growth of 7%. But his term of office is characterized by corruption scandals, the emergence of oligarchy, deterioration of human rights, the suppression of freedom of the press, violence against journalists and critics (” Gongadze case “).

Orange Revolution and after

The “ Orange Revolution ” was a peaceful protest movement in Ukraine in the autumn of 2004 that was triggered by massive election fraud in the presidential elections. After the candidate Viktor Janukovyč, supported by Leonid Kučma, was declared the winner in the second ballot against the opposition candidate Viktor Juščenko, although the so-called exit polls (polls on election day) for Juščenko showed a lead of over 10%, the mass protests began at the end of November in the central square Maidan Nezaležnosti in Kiev. Viktor Juščenko and Julia Tymošenko became the leading figures of the Orange Revolution. The protesters called for the runoff election, which took place on December 26th, to be repeated. Juščenko emerged victorious and took office on January 23, 2005 as President of Ukraine. The term of office of Juščenko is considered ambivalent by experts.