Украина - the Ukraine

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
(The Ukraine)

The territory of Ukraine has been inhabited for at least forty four thousand years.
It is where the horse was first domesticated and a candidate site of the origins of the Proto-Indo-European language family.
According to a popular and well established theory, the medieval state of Kievan Rus was established by the Varangians in the 9th century as the first historically recorded East Slavic state.
It emerged as a powerful nation in the Middle Ages but disintegrated in the 12th century.
By the middle of the 14th century, present Ukrainian territories were under the rule of three external powers: the Golden Horde, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Kingdom of Poland, during the 15th century these lands came under the rule of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (since 1569), and Crimean Khanate.
In 1653 the greater portion of the population rebelled against dominantly Polish Catholic rule and in January 1654 an assembly of the people (rada) voted at Pereyaslav to turn to Moscow, effectively joining the southeastern portion of the Polish-Lithuanian empire east of the Dnieper River to Russia.
After the Partitions of Poland (1772–1795) and conquest of Crimean Khanate, Ukraine was divided between Russia and Austria, thus the largest part of Ukraine was integrated into the Russian Empire, with the rest under Austrian (known as Austro-Hungarian since 1849) control.
A chaotic period of warfare ensued after the Russian Revolution, with internationally recognized establishment of an independent Ukrainian People's Republic.
Independent Ukraine emerged from its own civil war.
The Ukrainian–Soviet War followed, which resulted in the Soviet Army establishing control in late 1919 Soviet victory.
The conquerors created the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which on 30 December 1922 became one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet government was hostile to Ukrainian language and Ukrainian culture; there were mass repressions of Ukrainian poets, historians and linguists.
Then there was a genocide of Ukrainians: millions of people starved to death in 1932 and 1933 in the Holodomor.
After the 1939 invasion of Poland by the Third Reich and Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR's territory was enlarged westward.
During World War II the Ukrainian Insurgent Army tried to reestablish Ukrainian independence and fought against both the Third Reich and the Soviet Union.
But in 1941 Ukraine was occupied by the Third Reich, being liberated in 1944.
In 1945, the Ukrainian SSR became one of the founding members of the United Nations.
In 1954, it expanded to the south with the transfer of the Crimea.
Ukraine became independent again when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.
This dissolution started a period of transition to a market economy, in which Ukraine suffered an eight-year recession.
Since then, however, the economy has experienced a high increase in GDP growth.
Ukraine was caught up in the worldwide economic crisis in 2008 and the economy plunged. GDP fell 20% from spring 2008 to spring 2009, then leveled off as analysts compared the magnitude of the downturn to the worst years of economic depression during the early 1990s.

Kievan Rus

The city of Kiev was established during the time when area around the mid- and low-Dnipro was the part of the Khazar state. He derived that information from local legends because no written chronicles from that period are left.
In 882, Kiev was conquered from the Khazars by the Varangian noble Oleg who started the long period of rule of the Rurikid princes.
During this time, several Slavic tribes were native to Ukraine, including the Polans, the Drevlyans, the Severians, the Ulichs, the Tiverians, the White Croats and the Dulebes. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kiev among the Polanians quickly prospered as the center of the powerful Slavic state of Kievan Rus.
In CE 941, the prince of Kiev invaded the Byzantine Empire but was defeated in the Rus'–Byzantine War (941).
In the 11th century, Kievan Rus' was, geographically, the largest state in Europe, becoming known in the rest of Europe as Ruthenia (the Latin name for Rus'), especially for western principalities of Rus' after the Mongol invasion.
The name "Ukraine", meaning "in-land" or "native-land", usually interpreted as "border-land", first appears in historical documents of 12th century, and then on history maps of the 16th century period.
The meaning of this term seems to have been synonymous with the land of Rus' propria - the principalities of Kiev, Chernihiv and Pereyaslav.
The term, "Greater Rus'" was used to apply to all the lands ruled by Kiev, including those that were not just Slavic, but also Uralic in the north-east portions of the state.
Local regional subdivisions of Rus' appeared in the Slavic heartland, including, "Belarus'" (White Ruthenia), "Chorna Rus'" (Black Ruthenia) and "Cherven' Rus'" (Red Ruthenia) in northwestern and western Ukraine.


Although Christianity had made headway into the territory of Ukraine before the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea  (particularly along the Black Sea coast) and, in western Ukraine during the time of empire of Great Moravia, the formal governmental acceptance of Christianity in Rus' occurred at in 988.
The major cause of the Christianization of Kievan Rus' was the Grand-Duke, Vladimir the Great (Volodymyr).
His Christian interest was midwifed by his grandmother, Princess Olga. Later, an enduring part of the East-Slavic legal tradition was set down by the Kievan ruler, Yaroslav I, who promulgated the Russkaya Pravda (Truth of Rus') which endured through the Lithuanian period of Rus'.
Conflict among the various principalities of Rus', in spite of the efforts of Grand Prince Vladimir Monomakh, led to decline, beginning in the 12th century.
In Rus' propria, the Kiev region, the nascent Rus' principalities of Halych and Volynia extended their rule.
In the north, the name of Moscow appeared in the historical record in the principality of Suzdal, which gave rise to the nation of Russia.
In the north-west, the principality of Polotsk increasingly asserted the autonomy of Belarus'. Kiev was sacked by Vladimir principality (1169) in the power struggle between princes and later by Cumans and Mongol raiders in the 12th and 13th centuries, respectively.
Subsequently, all principalities of present-day Ukraine acknowledged dependence upon the Mongols (1239–1240). In 1240, the Mongols sacked Kiev, and many people fled to other countries.


A successor state to Kievan Rus' on part of the territory of today's Ukraine was the principality of Galicia-Volhynia.
Previously, Vladimir the Great had established the cities of Halych and Ladomir (later Volodimer) as regional capitals for the western Ukrainian heartland.
This new, more exclusively Ukrainian predecessor state was based upon the Dulebe, Tiverian and White Croat tribes.
The state was ruled by the descendants of Yaroslav the Wise and Vladimir Monomakh.
For a brief period, the country was ruled by a Hungarian nobleman. Battles with the neighboring states of Poland and Lithuania also occurred, as well as internecine warfare with the independent Ruthenian principality of Chernigov to the east.
The nation reached its peak with the extension of rule to neighboring Wallachia/Bessarabia, all the way to the shores of the Black Sea.
During this period (around 1200–1400), each principality was independent of the other for a period of time.
The state of Halych-Volynia eventually became a vassal to the Mongolian Empire, but efforts to gain European support for opposition to the Mongols continued.
This period marked the first "King of Rus'"; previously, the rulers of Rus' were termed, "Grand Dukes" or "Princes."

14th Century

During the 14th century, Poland and Lithuania fought wars against the Mongol invaders, and eventually most of Ukraine passed to the rule of Poland and Lithuania.
More particularly, the lands of Volynia in the north and north-west passed to the rule of Lithuanian princes, while the south-west passed to the control of Poland (Galicia) and Hungary (Zakarpattya).
Also the Genoese founded some colonies in Crimean coasts until Ottoman conquest in 1470s.
Most of Ukraine bordered parts of Lithuania, and some say that the name, "Ukraine" comes from the local word for "border," although the name "Ukraine" was also used centuries earlier. 
Lithuania took control of the state of Volynia in northern and northwestern Ukraine, including the region around Kiev (Rus'), and the rulers of Lithuania then adopted the title of ruler of Rus'.
Poland took control of the region of Galicia.
Following the union between Poland and Lithuania, Poles, Germans, Lithuanians and Jews migrated to the region.
In 15th century decline of 'Golden Horde' enabled foundation of Crimean Khanate, which occupied present Black Sea shores and southern steppes of Ukraine.
Until the late 18th century, Crimean Khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East, exporting about 2 million slaves from Russia and Ukraine over the period 1500–1700.
It was vassal state of Ottoman Empire till 1774.
It was finally dissolved by Russian Empire in 1783.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

After the Union of Lublin in 1569 and the formation of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Ukraine fell under Polish administration, becoming part of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. 

Herb polsko-litewskiej Rzeczypospolitej
Coat of Arms of the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The period immediately following the creation of the Commonwealth saw a huge revitalisation in colonisation efforts. Many new cities and villages were founded.
New schools spread the ideas of the Renaissance; Polish peasants arrived in great numbers and quickly became mixed with the local population; during this time, most of Ukrainian nobles became polonised and converted to Catholicism, and while most Ruthenian-speaking peasants remained within the Eastern Orthodox Church, social tension rose.
Ruthenian peasants (Ukrainians and some from other nations) who fled efforts to force them into serfdom came to be known as Cossacks and earned a reputation for their fierce martial spirit.
Some Cossacks were hired by the Commonwealth (became 'register Cossacks') as soldiers to protect the south-eastern borders of Poland from Tatars or took part in campaigns abroad (like Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny in the battle of Khotyn 1621).
Cossack units were also active in wars between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Tsardom of Russia.

Cossack Era

Ukranian Cossacks
Ilya Yefimovich Repin
The 1648 Ukrainian Cossack (Kozak) rebellion and war of independence (Khmelnytsky Uprising), which started an era known as the Ruin (in Polish history as The Deluge), undermined the foundations and stability of the Commonwealth.
The nascent Cossack state, the Cossack Hetmanate, usually viewed as precursor of Ukraine, found itself in a three-sided military and diplomatic rivalry with the Ottoman Turks, who controlled the Tatars to the south, the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, and the rising Russia to the East.
The reconstituted Ukrainian state, having recently fought a bitter war with Poland, sought a treaty of protection with Russia in 1654.
This agreement was known as the Treaty of Pereyaslav.
Commonwealth authorities then sought compromise with the Ukrainian Cossack state by signing the Treaty of Hadiach in 1658, but - after thirteen years of incessant warfare - the agreement was later superseded by 1667 Polish-Russian Treaty of Andrusovo, which divided Ukrainian territory between the Commonwealth and Russia.
Under Russia, the Cossacks initially retained official autonomy in the Hetmanate.
For a time, they also maintained a semi-independent republic in Zaporozhia, and a colony on the Russian frontier in Sloboda Ukraine.

Russian Empire and Austria-Hungary

Tsarist rule over central Ukraine gradually replaced 'protection' over the subsequent decades. 
After the Partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795, the extreme west of Ukraine fell under the control of the Austrians, with the rest as part of the Russian Empire.

Великий Герб Российской империи
(Great Coat of Arms of the Russian Empire)
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
As a result of Russo-Turkish Wars the Ottoman Empire's control receded from south-central Ukraine, while the rule of Hungary over the Transcarpathian region continued.
Ukrainian writers and intellectuals were inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring other European peoples existing under other imperial governments, and became determined to revive the Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions, and re-establish a Ukrainian nation-state, a movement that became known as Ukrainophilism.
Russia, fearing separatism, imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate the Ukrainian language and culture, even banning its use and study.
This led to an exodus of a number of Ukrainian intellectuals into Western Ukraine.

However, many Ukrainians accepted their fate in the Russian Empire and some were to achieve a great success there.
Many Russian writers, composers, painters and architects of the 19th century were of Ukrainian descent.
Probably the most notable were Nikolai Gogol, one of the greatest writers in the history of Russian literature, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest composers in the history of Russian music, whose father came of Ukrainian Cossack stock.
Kleines Wappen des Kaisertums Österreich
(Lesser Coat of Arms of the Austrian Empire)
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The fate of the Ukrainians was far different under the Austrian Empire where they found themselves in the pawn position of the Russian-Austrian power struggle for the Central and Southern Europe.
Unlike in Russia, most of the elite that ruled Galicia were of Austrian or Polish descent, with the Ruthenians being almost exclusively kept in peasantry.
During the 19th century, Russophilia was a common occurrence among the Slavic population, but the mass exodus of Ukrainian intellectuals escaping from Russian repression in Eastern Ukraine, as well as the intervention of Austrian authorities, caused the movement to be replaced by Ukrainophilia, which would then cross-over into the Russian Empire.
With the start of World War I, all those supporting Russia were rounded up by Austrian forces and held in a concentration camp at Talerhof where many died.

First World War, the Revolutions and Aftermath

When World War I, and series of revolutions across Europe, including the October Revolution in Russia, shattered many existing empires such as the Austrian and Russian ones, people of Ukraine were caught in the middle.

Emblem of the Ukrainian People's Republic
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Between 1917 and 1919, several separate Ukrainian republics manifested independence, the anarchist Free Territory, the Ukrainian People's Republic, the West Ukrainian People's Republic, and numerous Bolshevik revkoms.
As the area of Ukraine fell into warfare and anarchy, it was also fought over by German and Austrian forces, the Red Army of Bolshevik Russia, the White Forces of General Denikin, the Polish Army, anarchists led by Nestor Makhno.
Kiev itself was occupied by many different armies.
The city was captured by the Bolsheviks on 9 February 1918, by the Germans on 2 March 1918, by the Bolsheviks a second time on 5 February 1919, by the White Army on 31 August 1919, by Bolsheviks for a third time on 15 December 1919, by the Polish Army on 6 May 1920, and finally by the Bolsheviks for the fourth time on 12 June 1920.
The defeat in the Polish-Ukrainian War and then the failure of the Piłsudski's and Petliura's Warsaw agreement of 1920 to oust the Bolsheviks during the Kiev Operation led almost to the occupation of Poland itself.
In course of the new Polish-Soviet War purpose of which changed from the 1920 led to the signing of the Peace of Riga in March 1921, and after which the part of Ukraine west of Zbruch had been incorporated into Poland, and the east became part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Soviet Ukraine

Emblem of the Ukrainian
Soviet Socialist Republic

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The Ukrainian national idea lived on during the inter-war years, and was even spread to a large territory with traditionally mixed population in the east and south that became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.
The Ukrainian culture even enjoyed a revival due to Bolshevik concessions in the early Soviet years (until early-1930s) known as the policy of Korenization ("indigenisation").
In these years, an impressive Ukrainization program was implemented throughout the republic.
The rapidly developed Ukrainian language based education system dramatically raised the literacy of the Ukrainophone rural population.
Simultaneously, the newly-literate ethnic Ukrainians migrated to the cities, which became rapidly largely Ukrainianised - in both population and in education.
Similarly expansive was an increase in Ukrainian language publishing and overall eruption of Ukrainian cultural life.
At the same time, the usage of Ukrainian was continuously encouraged in the workplace and in the government affairs as the recruitment of indigenous cadre was implemented as part of the korenisation policies.
While initially, the party and government apparatus was mostly Russian-speaking, by the end of 1920s the ethnic Ukrainians composed over one half of the membership in the Ukrainian communist party, the number strengthened by accession of Borotbists, a formerly indigenously Ukrainian "independentist" and non-Bolshevik communist party.
Despite the ongoing Soviet Union-wide anti-religious campaign, the Ukrainian national Orthodox church was created called the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
The Bolshevik government initially saw the national church as a tool in their goal to suppress the Russian Orthodox Church, always viewed with the great suspicion by the regime for its being the cornerstone of pre-revolutionary Russian Empire and the initially strong opposition it took towards the regime change.
Therefore, the government tolerated the new Ukrainian national church for some time, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church gained a wide following among the Ukrainian peasantry.
The change in the Soviet economic policies towards the fast-pace industrialisation was marked by the 1928 introduction of Joseph Stalin's first piatiletka (a five-year plan).
The industrialisation brought about a dramatic economic and social transformation in traditionally agricultural Ukraine.
In the first piatiletkas the industrial output of Ukraine quadrupled as the republic underwent a record industrial development.
The massive influx of the rural population to the industrial centres increased the urban population from 19% to 34%.

The Ukraine in World War II

Coat of Arms of Poland
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact - 1939
Following the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, in September 1939, German and Soviet troops divided the territory of Poland, including Galicia with its Ukrainian population.
Next, after France surrendered to Germany, Romania ceded Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to Soviet demands.
The Ukrainian SSR incorporated northern and southern districts of Bessarabia, the northern Bukovina, and additionally the Soviet-occupied Hertsa region, but ceded the western part of the Moldavian ASSR to the newly created Moldavian SSR.
All these territorial gains were internationally recognized by the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947.

Third Reich
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
When the Third Reich, with its allies, invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, many Ukrainians and Polish people, particularly in the west where they had experienced two years of harsh Soviet rule, initially regarded the Wehrmacht soldiers as liberators.
Some Ukrainian activist of the national movement hoped for a momentum to establish an independent state of Ukraine.
German policies initially gave some encouragement to such hopes through the vague promises of sovereign 'Greater Ukraine' as the Germans were trying to take advantage of anti-Soviet, anti-Ukrainian, anti-Polish, and anti-Jewish sentiments.

14th Waffen Grenadier Division
of the SS (1st Ukrainian)
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
A local Ukrainian auxiliary police was formed as well as Ukrainian SS division, 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Galicia (1st Ukrainian).
However, after the initial period of a limited tolerance, the German policies soon abruptly changed and the Ukrainian national movement was brutally crushed.
Some Ukrainians, however, utterly resisted the Nazi onslaught from its start and a partisan movement immediately spread over the occupied territory. Some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground formed a Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought both Soviet and Nazi forces.
In some western regions of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army survived underground and continued the resistance against the Soviet authorities well into the 1950s, though many Ukrainian civilians were murdered in this conflict by both sides.
The Geramn administrators of conquered Soviet territories made little attempt to exploit the population's possible dissatisfaction with Soviet political and economic policies.
Instead, the Germans preserved the collective-farm system, and deported many Ukrainians to forced labour in Germany.
In their active resistance to the Third Reich, the Ukrainians comprised a significant share of the Red Army and its leadership as well as the underground and resistance movements.
Total civilian losses during the War and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at seven million.
Of the estimated eleven million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Third Reich, about 16% (1.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians.
Moreover, Ukraine saw some of the biggest battles of the war starting with the encirclement of Kiev (the city itself fell to the Germans on 19 September 1941 and was later acclaimed as a Hero City) where more than 660,000 Russian troops were taken captive, to the fierce defence of Odessa, and on to the victorious storming across the Dnieper river.
On June 28, 1941 the town of Rivne (Równe) was captured by the Germans, who later established the city as the administrative centre of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine.
Kiev was recaptured by the Soviet Red Army on 6 November 1943.
During a period of March 1943 to the end of 1944 Ukrainian Insurgent Army committed several massacres on Polish civilian population in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia having every signs of genocide (Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia).
The death toll numbered up to 100 000, mostly children and women.

The Crimea in the 20th and 21st Centuries

During the Russian Civil War following the overthrow of the Russian Empire, Crimea changed hands a number of times and was a stronghold of the anti-Bolshevik White Army.
It was in Crimea that the White Russians led by General Wrangel made their last stand against the Anarchist forces of Nestor Makhno and the Red Army in 1920.
Approximately 50,000 White prisoners of war and civilians were summarily executed by shooting or hanging after the defeat of General Wrangel at the end of 1920.
This is considered one of the largest massacres in the Civil War.
On 18 October 1921, the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was created as part of the Russian SFSR, which then became part of the Soviet Union.
Crimea experienced two severe famines in the 20th century, the Famine of 1921–1922 and the Holodomor of 1932–1933.
During World War II, Crimea was the scene of several bloody battles.
The Axis forces under the command of Germany suffered heavy casualties in the summer of 1941 as they tried to advance through the narrow Isthmus of Perekop linking Crimea to the Soviet mainland.
Once the Axis forces broke through, they occupied most of Crimea, with the exception of the city of Sevastopol, which held out from October 1941 until 4 July 1942 when the Germans finally captured the city.
From 1 September 1942, the peninsula was administered as the Generalbezirk Krim (general district of Crimea) und Teilbezirk (and sub-district) Taurien.
In spite of heavy-handed tactics by the Germans and their allies, the Crimean mountains remained an unconquered stronghold of the native resistance until the day when the peninsula was freed from the occupying force in 1944.
On 18 May 1944, the entire population of the Crimean Tatars was forcibly deported in the "Sürgün" (Turkish (Crimean Tatar) for exile) to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin's Soviet government as a form of collective punishment, on the grounds that they had collaborated with the German occupation forces, and formed anti-Soviet Tatar Legions.
An estimated 46% of the deportees died from hunger and disease.
On 26 June of the same year, the Armenian, Bulgarian, and Greek population was also deported to Central Asia.
By the end of summer of 1944, the ethnic cleansing of Crimea was complete.
In 1967, the Crimean Tatars were rehabilitated, but they were banned from legally returning to their homeland until the last days of the Soviet Union.
The Crimean ASSR was abolished on 30 June 1945 and transformed into the Crimean Oblast (province) of the Russian SFSR.
On 19 February 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union issued a decree transferring the Crimean Oblast from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The transfer of the Crimean Oblast to Ukraine has been described as a "symbolic gesture," marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian Empire.
The General Secretary of the Communist Party in Soviet Union was at the time the Ukrainian Nikita Khrushchev.
In post-war years, Crimea thrived as a prime tourist destination, built with new attractions and spas for tourists.
Tourists came from all over the Soviet Union and neighbouring countries.
Crimea's infrastructure and manufacturing was also developed, particularly around the sea ports at Kerch and Sevastopol and in the oblast's landlocked capital of Simferopol.

Following a referendum on 20 January 1991, the Crimean Oblast was upgraded to that of an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on 12 February 1991 by the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea became part of the newly independent Ukraine, which led to tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
With the Black Sea Fleet based on the peninsula, worries of armed skirmishes were occasionally raised.
Crimean Tatars began returning from exile and resettling in Crimea.

'Украинский Пасха'
'Ukranian Easter'

'Пастушка и ее овец - Украина'
'Shepherdess and her Flock  - Ukraine'
Vladimir Orlovsky

'Весенний день в Украине'
'A Spring Day in Ukraine'
Vladimir Orlovsky

'Пейзаж в Украине'
'Landscape in the Ukraine'
Vladimir Orlovsky

'Посмотреть вблизи Лубны - Украина'
View near Lubni, Ukraine
Iosif Krachkovsky

'Весенний день в Украине'
'Spring Day in the Ukraine'
Sergey Vasilkovsky

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014