The prehistoric development in western Ukraine bears similarities to that in Poland, while eastern Ukraine is more distinct. Early Paleolithic finds are known, and rich Middle Paleolithic settlements have been investigated (see Molodova).
The hunter culture of the modern age is well known through extensive excavations of settlements, and from the Mesolithic over a hundred graves have been investigated. With the exception of early band ceramic elements at the far west, a developed agricultural culture west of the Dnieper can first be coated with the tripole culture (about 4000-2800 BC). At about the same time, a different cultural tradition was formed in the steppe area with well-developed contacts to the east and south-east. With some changes, it became dominant to the end of the Bronze Age; the oldest phase has been set by several researchers in connection with the earliest appearance of Indo-Europeans.
From the early Iron Age (600s BC) there was a clear dividing line between the forest zone’s cultures and the steppe area, which was first dominated by the Scythian culture, then by Sarmats. At the beginning of our era, influence from the northwest increased, and Germanic groups gradually gained the upper hand in large parts of Ukraine. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Ukraine.
At the end of the second century AD developed the distinctive Chernachov culture, largely similar to the ostrogothic sphere of power dissolved by the Huns in 375 AD. From the 400s, the first evidence of a distinct Slavic cultural tradition originates; however, there is much evidence that slaves were already part of the population that carried the Chernachov culture.
After the collapse of the female empire in the mid-400s, large parts of Ukraine were dominated by Avars, Bulgarians and Khazars in the steppe region. Slavic tribes lived in the north.
See also Crimea (Prehistory).
Ukraine is an East Slavic word for border area, and as such, constantly disputed and usually ruled by stronger neighbors, especially Russians and Poles, the fertile, strategically and communicatively important Ukrainian territory has worked throughout history. Independent Ukrainian political and social institutions and a specific Ukrainian culture have thus found it difficult to take root and develop. An independent Ukrainian state has existed only on two occasions, 1918-21 and after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Kiev-Russian era (800–1340)
In ancient historical times, Ukraine consisted of two distinct regions, a forest and agricultural region in the north and west, and a vast steppe region in the south. Until the 16th century (in some areas up to the 18th century), the steppe was controlled by various nomadic people, including petjeneger and kumans, among which Turkish languages were dominant. In the north of Ukraine in the 800s, the vast but divided Kiev-Russian empire, Kievrus, emerged. This state formation was a result of Viking merchants from the future Sweden on their way to Bysans came into contact with and became lords of East Slavic tribes that inhabited the area along the Dnieper. Trade in, among other things, fur mills and slaves seemed to be fertile in the development of society and contributed to the incorporation of Kievrus as an eastern outpost into a European community. Kiev, which the Viking prince Oleg conquered 882 and made the capital, grew in the 900s and 1000s into a powerful commercial and cultural center. Kiev Prince Vladimir I adopted in 988 Orthodox Christianity from Byzantium.
As a result of constant attacks by nomadic steppe people, increasingly serious internal strife between various princes, and shifts in trade routes, Kievrus from the latter part of the 12th century suffered a rapid dissolution process. Its eastern parts with the capital Kiev were severely ravaged by the Mongols in the 1240s, while its western parts, Podolia, Galicia and Volynia, escaped more lenient and retained some self-government. The latter areas came in the 1300s under Polish-Lithuanian dominion. The medieval divide gave rise to ethnic differentiation of the East Slavs into a northern and a southern group. The former ended up in the emerging Grand Principality of Moscow, later Russia’s sphere of interest. The latter came to be recognized by the Poles and Lithuanians as routes or Ukrainians.
The Polish-Lithuanian Era (1340-1795)
During this period, a process of social differentiation took place. The Ukrainians were mainly peasants, who gained an increasingly sacrilegious position, especially since noble Polish landlords were able to expand their property after most of the Ukrainian territory came under Polish rule in 1569. Jewish and Polish merchants and craftsmen moved to the cities. The growing Polish-Ukrainian contradictions were reinforced by cultural and religious tensions. The so-called Union in Brest-Litovsk in 1596 became the starting point for a Polish campaign to connect all subjects to the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, the unified Ukrainian Catholic Church arose in the border area, with Orthodox liturgy but with Catholic teachings and administrative subordination during the papacy.
The social and religious conflicts led to political opposition to the Polish state power, especially among the aspiring Ukrainian Cossacks, who rebelled against Poland in 1648 under the leadership of the Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytskyi (death in 1657). Poles and Jews were subjected to cruel persecution. After seeking support from, among others, the Swedish king Karl X Gustav , the 1654 tsarism in Moscow approached the belief that Ukraine would gain an autonomous position. However, after a Russian-Polish war, Kiev and the country east of the Dnieper after the peace in Andrusovo in 1667 were gradually incorporated as an integral part of Russia. During the Great Nordic War, the Hetman Ivan Mazepa attempted to cooperate with Karl The XII ‘s armies achieve autonomy or independence for these eastern parts, nothing went wrong with the Battle of Poltava in 1709.
The western part of the Ukrainian territory remained Polish until the divisions of Poland in 1772–95, when they were divided between Russia and Habsburg Austria. In Austrian Galicia, centered in Lviv (Russian Lvov), the Uniatic church survived, while persecuted in Russia for being completely banned in 1839, under Nicholas I ‘s repressive regime.
The Russian Age and the Birth of Ukrainian Nationalism (1795–1917)
Already during the reign of Peter I (the Great) (1682-1725), work began to integrate Ukraine and its subjects into the Russian Empire by breaking down specifically Ukrainian institutions and banning Russian-separated Ukrainian writing languages developed since the early 1600s. the number. Russian and other non-Ukrainian peasants were encouraged to move to the fertile and sparsely populated Ukrainian area (compare the Swedish villagers). Ukrainian nobles were taken into Russian service, and the Cossacks were transformed into tsarist cavalry troops with the task of preserving internal order and expanding Russian territory. Catherine II (the great, reign 1762–96) made the expanded Ukrainian territory a Russian government.
During the 19th century, the boom increased even further when Ukraine began to industrialize and large numbers of Russians moved to mining areas and cities in Ukraine. Conceptually, the Russian imperial attitude towards Ukraine was expressed in that country was called Lesser Russia. The Ukrainian reaction became a first national awakening. The foreground figure was the poet Taras Shevchenko. Some Ukrainian intellectuals sought to mark a special Ukrainian identity by separating their own history and culture from the Russian, while the Russians chose to deny the existence of a particular Ukrainian history and portrayed the Ukrainian as a Russian dialect.
The refreshment efforts were temporarily mitigated during the revolution years around 1905, but the reaction afterwards and the outbreak of the First World War led to continued repression. Ukrainian nationalism gained its strongest foothold in the culturally more tolerant Austria. However, there were differing views among nationalists whether the target was a united Ukraine, an autonomous Ukraine within Austria-Hungary or a Ukraine integrated into an East Slavic dominated Russia. In 1899, a Ukrainian national party in Galicia was founded by historian Myhajlo Hrusjevsky (1866-1934). This, too, was suppressed since the Russians conquered Galicia in 1914, but during the 1917 revolution, new demands for Ukrainian autonomy could be put forward, especially by the so-called Central Council (Rada) formed in Kiev and led by Hruschevsky.
The First State and the Soviet Period (1918–91)
On January 22, 1918, the Central Council declared Ukraine an independent state. At the collapse of Austria-Hungary, on November 1, 1918, a Western Ukrainian republic was also proclaimed, which in January 1919 united with eastern Ukraine. However, the obstacles to the new state’s consolidation were many. One was the lack of experience of independent state and community building, another the internal situation, characterized by a large Russian population group that did not want divorce from Russia, a difficult political polarization between Bolsheviks and Ukrainian nationalists and a defective defense, a third the turbulent external the situation, with the end of the world war as well as revolutions and civil war in Russia. One testimony to the unrest and the divide is that Ukraine in 1918–21 had a total of nine different governments. At the peace in Riga in March 1921, Ukraine was divided between Bolshevik Russia and the resurrected Poland, and the country regained its traditional position as an independent border area. Areas in the south (Bukovina, Carpathian-Ukraine) were incorporated with Romania and Czechoslovakia, respectively.
In eastern Ukraine, which in December 1922 gained the status of Soviet republic, Sovietization was initiated, which included, among other things, political purges, cultural crackdown, economic centralization, hard industrialization and agricultural collectivization. The latter, combined with deportations and severe famine, harvested millions of human victims in 1932–33. The great famine in Ukraine in 1932–33 is sometimes called Holodomor (‘death of hunger’).
In authoritarian Poland, the Ukrainians also suffered from cultural forced assimilation. In connection with Germany’s attack on Poland in 1939, Poland’s Ukrainian territories were annexed by the Soviet Union.
After World War II, virtually all of the historic Ukrainian territory was included in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. The newly introduced areas were Sovietized, which, however, did not completely eliminate the differences between, on the one hand, the more agrarian, Central European-influenced and nationalist western Ukraine, on the other, the industrialized, more Russian-influenced eastern Ukraine.
Post-Soviet Ukraine (1991–)
The disintegration of the Soviet Union during the time of Mikhail Gorbachev in power led to a cautious national awakening in Ukraine, which was long resisted by the strong Communist Party. A triggering factor was the reactor failure in Chernobyl in 1986, which aroused many Ukrainians’ understanding of the insensitivity of Soviet central government, but also the far-reaching cultural and linguistic arousal contributed. In order to promote liberation and closer to the West, Ukrainian intellectuals in 1989 formed the national front Ruch, which gained its strongest foothold in western Lviv. In August 1991, the free state of Ukraine was proclaimed with the first national communist politician Leonid Kravtjuk transformed into a nationalist as the first president.
Ukraine was awaiting the cooperation organization discussed between several states before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, the Russian Federation gave continued cooperation with Ukraine a high priority. Therefore, in December 1991, the Heads of State of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus met in Belarus and agreed on the basics of what later became the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). However, Ukraine has not ratified the CIS agreement even though it participated to a limited extent until 2018, when the organization left the organization completely.
The Crimean Peninsula, which was transferred from the Russian Soviet Republic to the Ukrainian in 1954, and the one based on the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet became a seed of dispute between Ukraine and the Russian Federation in the division after the Soviet state (for subsequent years’ development see below).
However, in eastern Ukraine, where the Russian language also has a strong position, the financial elite has, in its own interest, supported the country’s sovereignty, and leading politicians such as Viktor Yanukovych have often pursued a protectionist economic policy. At the same time, several Ukrainian oligarchs settled through their private business in dependence on Russian economic and political power interests.
When the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence was submitted to a referendum in December 1991, 92 percent voted for it, and even in Crimea a majority voted for it. At this time, some of the Russians of Ukraine saw an advantage in sending their sons to the war in Chechnya through independence. Ongoing investigations have shown that involvement in the Ukrainian state has slowly declined except in the westernmost parts due to the inability of the state to develop the economy and to secure social services and other social functions, a trend that was to be reversed only in 2014. As a consequence of this development, citizens have more often identified with the region where they live than as Ukrainians and thus also with politicians with local roots.
One effect of the dissolution of the Soviet Union was that most prices were released. In Ukraine, as in almost all of the former Soviet Union, the development led to hyperinflation with price increases amounting to several hundred percent during certain months during the first two years. The country’s industrial production fell sharply compared to the last years of the Soviet Union’s existence, and it took almost ten years before it began to grow again.
The economic crisis contributed to Kravchuk losing the presidential election in 1994. He was succeeded by Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma, who skillfully continued to balance various conflicting power interests in Ukraine and in relations with the Russian Federation. But after the regime-critical journalist Giorgi Gongadze (1969–2000) was murdered and recorded conversations pointed out that the president could be involved, Kuchma was temporarily isolated by the Western powers. As a consequence, relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation were strengthened instead.
In connection with the 2004 presidential election, dissatisfaction with corruption and mismanagement grew. The election was between opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and when suspicions that Yanukovych won in the second round of elections by election fraud, a protest movement grew around the May Square in Kiev, which came to be known as the Orange Revolution. In the re-election, Yushchenko, who took office as president in January 2015, won. Under Yushchenko, the Ukrainian civil society grew and strengthened, the situation for the media became freer and a new constitution was adopted which created a more balanced division of power between the president and parliament. However, the problems of corruption and oligarchy remained widespread.
Viktor Yanukovych returned politically and emerged victorious in the 2010 presidential elections. Yanukovych also reinstated the former constitution and gathered more power for his own office. However, he continued negotiations with the EU on an association agreement, something that the Russian Federation tried to prevent by introducing trade barriers to Ukrainian products.
Yanukovych’s popularity declined rapidly across the country due to the mismanaged economy. While about half of the Ukrainians hoped that an association agreement with the EU could be a way out of the crisis, a minority in the east preferred a similar agreement with the Russian Federation. In November 2013, the protest movement that came to be named Euromajdan started. During the weekends from November 2013 to January 2014, the protests gathered between 400,000 and 800,000 people. Yanukovych responded to the protests by restricting the freedom of demonstration and giving Berkut’s Special Forces special forces greater powers to dissolve the demonstrations by force.
In January and February 2014, more than a hundred people – mostly protesters – were killed in protests between protesters and police. So-called titushki, violent workers and provocateurs recruited by the regime were behind much of the violence. The EU tried to mediate but in January Yanukovych chose to flee to the Russian Federation. From there, he appeared in Russian state television to call for a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. With the purported purpose of protecting ethnic Russians, Russian military annexed Crimea in February 2014.
Shortly thereafter, paramilitary groups with Russian support proclaimed support in the form of leadership, materiel and financing parts of two counties in eastern Ukraine as independent states. This was the beginning of the so-called Donbass conflict, which until the beginning of 2019 had harvested nearly 13,000 lives. Despite the unrest, in May 2014, a presidential election was held in which Petro Poroshenko received 55 percent of the votes already in the first round of elections.
During Poroshenko’s time in power, Ukraine signed an association agreement with the EU, and attempts at political and economic reform were initiated. Management was decentralized, energy reforms improved efficiency and led to a reduction of waste of natural gas and electricity. Several banks were decontaminated and increased transparency was achieved in the public sector. Political success for Poroshenko was the introduction of visa-free regime with the EU in 2017 and the establishment of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2018. However, corruption is considered to have remained high and the rule of law weak. No high-ranking politician has been convicted of corruption and no one has been held responsible for the shooting deaths at Majdan or for the incidents when at least 42 people were killed when a union building was set on fire in Odessa 2014.
In the 2019 presidential election, Poroshenko was defeated by Volodymyr Zelenskyj, a former actor who received 73 percent of the vote in the second round. In his election campaign, the politically inexperienced Zelenskyj talked about dealing with corruption and elite violence and brokering peace in eastern Ukraine. In the new parliamentary elections held in July 2019, Zelenskyj’s newly formed party of the People’s Servants prevailed.