Ukraine Prehistory and Early History

By | December 24, 2021


The Middle Paleolithic, identified in sites of the Crimea, is characterized by lithic industries comparable to those of the Mousterian of Western Europe. For the most ancient period of the Ukraine, the open-air site Moldova I (Moldova) has 9 living levels, of which 5 are Mousterian, and remains of mammoth bones dated to 44,000 years ago; Moldova V covers the time span from the Mousterian to the Epipaleolithic. Sites in the Donec, Desna and Dnepr basins document complexes prior to or contemporaneous with the Magdalenian. Mežirič near Kiev has given remains of mammoths, including a skull decorated with ocher, dating back to 18,000-14,000 years ago. For Ukraine history, please check

In the South-West of the Ukraine, starting from the 5th millennium BC, the first Neolithic communities of Balkan origin, belonging to the Danubian culture, appeared; later the region was joined by the Tripol´e culture. Agricultural activity established itself in the fertile zone of black lands as early as the beginning of the 4th millennium, while to the west of the Dnieper and in the Crimea the Mesolithic tradition based on hunting, fishing and gathering continued. With the beginning of the Bronze Age, around 2000 BC, the groups of cordicella pottery arrived from central Europeand the globular amphora, partly merging with the pre-existing cultural tradition of Tripol´e. From the 13th to the 7th century. BC, movements of people from Siberia brought nomadic and warrior populations to the Ukraine they introduced metallurgy; Exchanges between the groups intensified, stimulated by the search for raw materials. In the eastern Ukraine populations belonging to the culture of the ‘wooden tombs’ exploited, from the 12th to the 5th century. BC, the copper mines; in the Iron Age metallotechnics evolved, with the presence of fixed furnaces (1st millennium BC).


From the origins to the Soviet period

The territories E and W of the Dnieper which would later be called Ukraine were occupied by Slavic populations in the 10th century. 6th-7th AD In the second half of the 9th century. they were under the political organization of Kievan Rus’ (➔ Russia). In 1139 the Rus´ was fragmented into numerous principalities, which the invasion of the Tatars in 1237-41 reduced to the condition of vassalage. In 1362 the Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas stole the entire land of Kiev from the Tatars to annex it to Lithuania; when in 1386 Poland and Lithuania decided on the dynastic union of the two states, the Poles began to advance eastwards in the vast territories that since then began to be designated as Ukraine(“at the border”). A part of the Ruthenian population then preferred to move to the SE, in the large region on the middle Dnieper.

The Cossacks of the Dnieper at the end of the 16th century. they established their center beyond the floodgates of the lower Dnieper, on the islands of the river and the Zaporožskaja Seč´ was formed, a political organization led by an Ethman elected by the assembly (rada) of the Cossacks. In 1569, the Cossack-colonized Middle Dnieper territory was separated from Lithuania and incorporated into Poland. The Poles, to subdue the Cossacks, hired some armed units in their service, demanding that the others return to the status of peasants. The differences of religious denomination in the population of the Ukraine (Catholics of the Latin rite, mostly Poles, Uniate Catholics, Ruthenians and Orthodox, mostly Cossacks) aggravated the differences. When the Poles built the fortress of Kodak near the floodgates of the Dnieper, the Cossacks rebelled several times and with the etman Bogdan Chmel´nitsky, after various events, they obtained the protection of the Tsar of Russia (1654). Chmel´nitsky’s successor, Vykovsky, tried to steal the Ukraine to the Russian protection, until with the treaty of Andrusovo (1667) the Ukraine it was divided between Poland, which had the territories on the right of the Dnieper, and Russia, which had those on the left of the river and the city of Kiev. The etman Pëtr Dorošenko then turned to Sultan Mohammed IV and in 1672 the Turks imposed the peace of Buczacz on Poland, for which the Ukraine Polish came under Turkish protection. Poland then recovered those territories in 1684 through the work of Giovanni Sobieski. In the Ukraine Russian, failed the attempt of the etman Ivan Mazepa to rebel against Russian power with the support of Charles XII of Sweden (1708), the Cossack state was gradually stripped of all autonomy and finally reduced to a Russian province. With the second partition of Poland (1793), the Ukrainian lands to the right of the Dnieper also passed to Russia.

Resistance to the Russification process intensified towards 1840, headed by Kiev. Following the persecutions suffered by the Ukrainian nationalists, and even more so after the restrictions imposed by the government on the use of the Ukrainian language, the center of activity of the Ukrainian patriots became Lviv, in Austrian territory. However, the conditions for independence matured only in the years of the First World War, when the Russian Empire was overwhelmed by the revolution of 1917 and the Hapsburg Empire by defeat in the war. Achieved independence between 1918 and 1919, in 1922 the Ukraine it became part of the Soviet Union, to whose fate it remained linked – with the brackets of the brutal Nazi occupation (1941-44) during the Second World War – once again in a context of heavy oppression, until the early 1990s.

Ukraine Prehistory