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Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, Ukrayina) is a large Slavic nation in Eastern Europe whose capital is Kiev (Kyiv).


Ukraine was known as the Ukrainian S.S.R. (1921-1991). It is also called Ukraina. The name Ukraine has been in common use since the late 19th century. It comes from an Old Slavic root word "krai" which is a homonym for both the word "border" and for the word "land", hence the name "Ukraina" is often described as meaning "borderland". Historically, The two principal names of the Ukrainian territory have been Rus' and Ukraïna. The name Rus' was used as early as the ninth century. Formerly the definite article was used with the country name ("the Ukraine") but the more modern usage is to simply use "Ukraine". Poland long controlled Ukraine, calling its inhabitants "Ruthenians."

The national flag consists of a blue horizontal stripe above a yellow horizontal stripe, symbolizing blue sky above golden grain. The national emblem is the trident (called the tryzub).


Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe, north of the Black Sea and northwest of the Sea of Azov. It is centered on the geographic coordinates 49 00 N, 32 00 E.

Ukraine has one time zone, UTC+2.

Ukraine's land area is 603,700[1] square kilometers (233,080 square miles) and it has 2,800 kilometers (1750 miles) of coastline.

The neighboring countries bordering on Ukraine are Russia, Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, and Slovakia.

Ukraine's physical landscape consists of mostly flat but fertile plains (called "steppes") and also plateaus, with some forests in the north and some mountains in the south. Major rivers include the Dnipro (Dnieper), Donets, Dniester, and Buh rivers. The climate is temperate continental, plus mediterranean in the south.

The mountains include the Carpathian Mountains (2000 meters or 6000 feet high), plus the Crimean Mountains in the southern Crimea peninsula.

The major cities include Kiev (the capital), Lviv, Odessa, Sevastopol (a Russian naval port), and Dnipropetrovsk.

Map of Ukraine.

Ukraine is divided into 24 provinces ("oblasti") plus the autonomous republic of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 but lacks international recognition under its new status. The 24 provinces are further subdivided into 494 districts ("raions"). The province ("oblast") names are:

  1. Cherkasy
  2. Chernihiv
  3. Chernivtsi
  4. Crimea (Russian-controlled)
  5. Dnipropetrovsk
  6. Donetsk
  7. Ivano-Frankivsk
  8. Kharkiv
  9. Kherson
  10. Khmelnytski
  11. Kirovohrad
  12. Kiev
  13. Luhansk
  14. Lviv
  15. Mykolaiv
  16. Odessa
  17. Poltava
  18. Rivne
  19. Sumy
  20. Ternopil
  21. Vinnytsia
  22. Volyn
  23. Zakarpattia
  24. Zaporizhia
  25. Zhytomyr


Ukraine's population is about 47 million (47,000,000), with a population density of about 80 per square kilometer (200 people per square mile).

The population is 73% Ukrainian and 22% Russian (with under 1% each of Poles, Jews, Bulgarians and others). Historically the countryside was heavily Ukrainian, while Russians dominated the cities, but in recent decades many Ukrainians have moved to the cities.

The country has been in demographic crisis since the 1980s. The population is shrinking 150,000 a year because of the lowest birth rate in Europe combined with one of the highest death rates in Europe. Life expectancy is falling. The nation suffers high mortality from environmental pollution, poor diets, widespread smoking, extensive alcoholism, and deteriorating medical care.[2]

The phenomenon of lowest-low fertility, defined as total fertility below 1.3, is emerging throughout Europe and is attributed by many to postponement of the initiation of childbearing. Ukraine, where total fertility (a very low 1.1 in 2001), is one of the world's lowest, shows that there is more than one pathway to lowest-low fertility. Although Ukraine has undergone immense political and economic transformations during 1991-2004, it has maintained a young age at first birth and nearly universal childbearing. Analysis of official national statistics and the Ukrainian Reproductive Health Survey show that fertility declined to very low levels without a transition to a later pattern of childbearing. Findings from focus group interviews suggest explanations of the early fertility pattern. These findings include the persistence of traditional norms for childbearing and the roles of men and women, concerns about medical complications and infertility at a later age, and the link between early fertility and early marriage.[3]

The government-imposed famines of the 1930s, followed by the devastation of World War II, comprised a demographic disaster. Life expectancy at birth fell to a level as low as ten years for females and seven for males in 1933 and plateaued around 25 for females and 15 for males in the period 1941-44.[4]

Language, Religion, Culture

Languages spoken in Ukraine include Ukrainian (70%), Russian (20%), plus 10% miscellaneous, such as Crimean Tartar and also Surzhyk in the southeast (a blend of Russian vocabulary with Ukrainian grammar and pronunciation).

The religion is predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In 1992 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church split into two rival denominations. About 10%, primarily in the west, belong to Uniate churches with eastern rites but affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church of Rome. Poles are Roman Catholics of the Latin rite. The Tatars are Muslims. About 4% are atheists.

Ukraine is widely known for its lively cossack-style dancing ("hopak") and elaborately batiked easter eggs ("pysanky")

There are not only clear regional differences on questions of identity but historical cleavages remain evident at the level of individual social identification. Attitudes toward the most important political issue, relations with Russia, differed strongly between L'viv, identifying more with Ukrainian nationalism and the Greek Orthodox religion, and Donetsk, predominantly Russian and favorable to the Soviet era, while in central and southern regions, as well as Kiev, such divisions were less important and there was less antipathy toward people from other regions. However, all were united by an overarching Ukrainian identity based on shared economic difficulties, showing that other attitudes are determined more by culture and politics than by demographic differences.[5]

Important Ukrainian literary figures include Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, and Lesia Ukrainka.


Ukraine is classified as a lower middle-income nation, evolving into a post-soviet developing economy.

Approximate economic statistics are as follows:

  • Ukraine's GDP is $103 billion ($103,000,000,000), and has been growing at a rate of 6% fairly consistently.
  • Per capita GDP is $2,200, with per capita purchasing power at $7,700.
  • Foreign debt is 7% of GDP, and foreign investment is 2% of GDP.
  • Average monthly salary is 200 euros per month.
  • Commercial prime lending rate is 15%.
  • The inflation rate is currently 10%.

The Ukrainian currency is the hryvnia (worth about 20 cents, in $USD), which was introduced 1996 to stabilize runaway inflation (and is currently trading at 5:1 for United States dollars, and at 6:1 for European Union euros).

Taxation rates are as follows:

  • Personal income tax is 15%.
  • Corporate income tax is 25%.
  • Value-added tax (VAT) is 20%.
  • Social insurance tax is 30%.

Import/export goods include:

  • Metals (35%)
  • Machinery (25%)
  • Fuel & chemicals (10%)
  • Agricultural (10%)
  • Other (20%)

Mining includes fuel ores of coal, oil, and natural gas, and metal ores of iron, manganese, titanium, magnesium, nickel, and mercury.

Major trade partners are Russia (25%), then about 5% each for Germany, Poland, Italy, Turkey, and China, and others.

The Soviet legacy of Ukraine includes:

  • economic impoverishmnet
  • environmental disaster
  • ethnic resettlement
  • demoralized population


Ukraine's government is a Democratic Republic with a 450-member legislature, the "Verkhovna Rada" (Supreme Council), plus an executive branch with Viktor Yushchenko as president and Viktor Yanukovych as prime minister, plus a Supreme Court and a Constitutional Court.

There are many political parties, coalitions, and blocks, including Rukh, the Yulia Tymoshenko block, Socialists under Oleksandr Moroz, plus some old-time communists and also Russian separatists.

Ukraine is now nuclear-weapon-free (as of 1996) per the 1992 START and 1994 NNP Treaties, and has reduced its army from one million soldiers after the fall of the Soviet Union to around 300,000 soldiers.

Ukraine is neutral in its alliances, but has some limited military links to both NATO and CIS countries.

Current issues in Ukraine include:

  • The parliament was recently disbanded by the president and new elections will likely be required.
  • Russia has used its energy imports in attempts to control Ukrainian politics and economics.
  • A strong (20%) Russian minority (mostly in the south and east) is campaigning for partition.
  • The legal and ecomomic systems are still controlled by powerful and secretive oligarchs.


Early history to 1100AD

Beginning in the first millennium B.C., the territory of what is now Ukraine was populated by Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Goths, and other nomadic peoples. Ancient Greek colonists set up city-states in southern Ukraine. Eastern Slavic tribes settled in Ukraine in the sixth century A.D. Kiev was established in the sixth or seventh century and was taken by the Varangian prince Oleg of Novgorod in 882 A.D.. Well located at the intersection of major trade routes, Kiev soon developed into the center of a mighty state, Rus'. At its height under grand princes Vladimir I (980-1015) and Yaroslav I the Wise (1019-1054), Kievan Rus' was the largest state in Europe in terms of area. Vladimir I adopted Christianity in 988; Yaroslav the Wise codified the laws; he married his daughters advantageously to the kings of France, Hungary, and Norway.

Although Russian historians identify Rus' as the progenitor of modern Russia, it was also the progenitor of Ukraine and Byelarus. Ukrainian scholars are divided whether the Rus' comprised a loosely organized conglomerate of diverse peoples, or whether it was a more homogeneous nation of Ukrainians. Following the Communist collapse in 1992, two schools of historiography regarding Kievan (Kyivan) Rus' have competed, the Ukrainophile and the East Slavic. The Ukrainophile school promotes an identity that is "mutually exclusive" of Russia. It has come to dominate the nation's educational system, security forces, and national symbols and monuments, although it has been dismissed as nationalist by Western historians. The East Slavic school, an eclectic compromise between Ukrainophiles and Russophilism, has a weaker ideological and symbolic base, although it is preferred by Ukraine's centrist former elites.[6]

Decline of Rus'

Feudal fragmentation caused the decline of Kievan Rus' in the 12th century. In 1169 Kiev was sacked by Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky of Vladimir; in 1240 it was virtually destroyed by the Mongols under Batu Khan. The Principality of Galicia-Volhynia continued as the successor state of Kievan Rus' in what is now Ukraine until the 14th century, when it was annexed by Poland and Lithuania. In the 13th and 14th centuries the Ukrainian people developed a distinct culture.


Peasant refugees from Polish landlord rule escaped to the steppes of Ukraine in the 15th and 16th centuries, where they became frontiersmen called Cossacks.[7] Their main center was Zaporizhska Sich, a wild town on the lower Dnieper River. Outlaws and frontiersmen, fighters and pioneers, the Cossacks seized the Ukrainian imagination. They ranged the steppe in covered wagons, pulling them into tight squares to face a Tatar attack. Urged on by Polish subsidies, they launched lucrative raids on the ports of Poland's enemy Turkey, using sixty-foot‐long double-ruddered galleys. The men boasted splendid moustaches, red boots and wide baggy trousers as they danced, sang and drank horilka in heroic quantities.[8] Some Cossacks aligned with Poland; others led rebellions against the Poles in 1591, 1595, 1625, 1635 and 1637.

The rebellions climaxed in 1648-1654 in a popular uprising, accompanied by widespread pogroms against Jews, led by the Cossack hetman (general) Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1595-1657).[9] Khmelnytsky's victory over Poland led to a Cossack "state," the hetmanate.[10] As the creator of the first quasi-independent Cossack state in the 16th century, Khmelnitsky became immortalized in Ukrainian national sentiment. In the Communist era Moscow bolstered his status. The exploits of Khmelnitsky and the Cossacks became the focus of numerous ceremonial acts, exhibitions and dedications. Since 1991, however, Ukrainian scholars are more divided over the issue of whether he sold out the national interest to Russia.[11]

Polish and Russian control

In 1657-1686 came "The Ruin," a devastating 30-year war between Russia, Poland, Turks and Cossacks for control of Ukraine. For three years Khmelnytsky's armies controlled present-day western and central Ukraine, but deserted by his Tatar allies, he suffered a crushing defeat at Berestechko, and turned to the Russian Czar for help. In 1654, Khmelnytsky signed the Treaty of Pereiaslav, forming a military and political alliance with Russia that acknowledged loyalty to the Czar. The wars escalated in intensity with hundreds of thousands of deaths. Defeat came in 1686 as the "Eternal Peace" between Russia and Poland gave Kiev and the Cossack lands east of the Dnieper over to Russian rule and the Ukrainian lands west of the Dnieper to Poland. In 1709 Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1687-1709) sided with Sweden against Russia in the Great Northern War (1700-1721). Mazepa, a member of the Cossack nobility, received an excellent education abroad and proved to be a brilliant political and military leader enjoying good relations with the Romanov dynasty. After Peter the Great became czar, Mazepa as hetman gave him more than twenty years of loyal military and diplomatic service and was well rewarded. Eventually Peter recognized that in order to consolidate and modernize Russia's political and economic power it was necessary to do away with the hetmanate and Ukrainian and Cossack aspirations to autonomy. Peter refused to assist Cossack forces in protecting Ukraine from imminent attack by Sweden, thus abrogating treaty obligations between Russia and Ukraine. Mazepa accepted Polish invitations to join the Poles and Swedes against Russia. The move was disastrous for the hetmanate, Ukrainian autonomy, and Mazepa. He died in exile after fleeing from the Battle of Poltava (1709), where the Swedes and their Cossack allies suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Peter's Russian forces

The hetmanate was abolished in 1764; the Zaporizhska Sich abolished in 1775, as centralized Russian control became the norm. With the partitioning of Poland in 1772, 1793, and 1795, the Ukrainian lands west of the Dnieper were divided between Russia and Austria. From 1737 to 1834 expansion into the northern Black Sea littoral and the eastern Danube valley was a cornerstone of Russian foreign policy.

Lithuanians and Poles controlled vast estates in Ukraine, and were a law unto themselves. Judicial rulings from Cracow were routinely flouted. Heavily taxed peasants were practically tied to the land as serfs Occasionally the landowners battled each other using armies of Ukrainian peasants. The Poles and Lithuanians were Roman Catholics and tried with some success to covert the Orthodox lesser nobility. In 1596 they set up the "Greek-Catholic" or Uniate Church, under the authority of the Pope but using Eastern rituals; it dominates western Ukraine to this day. Tensions between the Uniates and the Orthodox were never resolved, and the religious differentiation left the Ukrainian Orthodox peasants leaderless, as they were reluctant to follow the Ukrainian nobles.[12]

The Cossack-led uprising called Koliivshchyna that erupted in the Ukrainian borderlands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1768 involved ethnicity as one root cause of Ukrainian violence that killed tens of thousands of Poles and Jews. Religious warfare also broke out between Ukrainian groups. Increasing conflict between Uniate and Orthodox parishes along the newly reinforced Polish-Russian border on the Dnepr River in the time of Catherine II set the stage for the uprising. As Uniate religious practices had become more Latinized, Orthodoxy in this region drew even closer into dependence on the Russian Orthodox Church. Confessional tensions also reflected opposing Polish and Russian political allegiances.[13]

19th century

In the 19th century the Ukrainian was a rural area largely ignored by Russia and Austria. With growing urbanization and modernization, and a cultural trend toward nationalism inspired by romanticism, a Ukrainian intelligentsia committed to national rebirth and social justice emerged. The serf-turned-national-poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) and the political theorist Mykhailo Drahomanov (1841-1895) led the growing nationalist movement. Nationalist and socialist parties developed in the late 19th century. Austrian Galicia, which enjoyed substantial political freedom under the relatively lenient rule of the Hapsburgs, became the center of the nationalist movement. The Russian government responded to nationalism by sponsoring pogroms against Jews and by placing severe restrictions on the Ukrainian language.

World War I

Defeat in World War I and the Russian revolutions of 1917 destroyed the Hapsburg and Russian empires. The Ukrainian elite declared statehood: the Ukrainian People's Republic was proclaimed at Kiev on Nov. 20, 1917, becoming independent on Jan. 22, 1918. The West Ukrainian People's Republic was proclaimed at Lviv on Nov. 1, 1918. A rival Ukrainian Soviet Republic was established at Kharkiv on Dec. 24, 1917. On Jan. 22, 1919, the two people's republics united. By then, however, the military situation was desperate, as Polish and Bolshevik armies pressed the Ukrainian nationalists from west and east and the peasant anarchists led by Nestor Makhno took control of large areas.

Soviet era to 1939

The war in Ukraine continued for another two years; by 1921, however, most of Ukraine had been taken over by the Soviet Union, while Galicia and Volhynia were incorporated into independent Poland.

A powerful underground Ukrainian nationalist movement rose in Poland in the 1920s and 1930s, led by the Ukrainian Military Organization and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). The movement attracted a militant following among students and harassed the Polish authorities. Legal Ukrainian parties, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, an active press, and a business sector also flourished in Poland. Economic conditions improved in the 1920s, but the region suffered from the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The situation in Soviet Ukraine under Communist control were sharply different. The communists gave a privileged position to manual labor, the largest class in the cities, where Russians dominated. The typical worker was more attached to class identity than to ethnicity. Although there were incidents of ethnic friction among workers (in addition to Ukrainians and Russians there were Poles, Germans, Jews, and others in the Ukrainian workforce), industrial laborers had already adopted Russian culture and language to a significant extent. Workers whose ethnicity was Ukrainian were not attracted to campaigns of Ukrainianization or de-Russification in meaningful numbers, but remained loyal members of the Soviet working class. There was no significant antagonism between workers identifying themselves as Ukrainian or Russian; however, anti-Semitism was widespread.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content

Moscow encouraged a national renaissance in literature and the arts, under the aegis of the Ukrainization policy pursued by the national Communist leadership of Mykola Skrypnyk (1872-1933).


see Ukrainian Famine

With Stalin's change of course in the late 1920s, however, Moscow's toleration of Ukrainian national identity came to an end. Systematic state terror of the 1930s destroyed Ukraine's writers, artists, and intellectuals; the Communist Party of Ukraine was purged of its "nationalist deviationists"; and the peasantry was crushed by means of collectivization, resulting in the Great Famine or "Holodomor" (Голодомор) of 1932-1933, which claimed some 3-7 million lives as crops failed and remaining food stocks were forcibly removed by the government. Stalin had full knowledge of the destructive force of the famine. It was a by-product of his war on the peasantry that began with collectivization and dekulakization and as an attempt to eradicate peasant culture in its entirety. Ellman explains the causes for the excess deaths in rural areas of Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan during 1931-34 by dividing the causes into three groups: objective nonpolicy-related factors, like the drought of 1931 and poor weather in 1932; inadvertent result of policies with other objectives, like rapid industrialization, socialization of livestock, and neglected crop rotation patterns; and deaths caused intentionally by a starvation policy. The Communist leadership perceived famine not as a humanitarian catastrophe but as a means of class struggle and used starvation as a punishment tool to teach peasants to work well in the collective farms.[14]

It was largely the same groups of individuals who were responsible for the mass killing operations during the civil war, collectivization, and the Great Terror. These groups were associated with Efim Georgievich Evdokimov (1891-1939) and operated in Ukraine during the civil war, in the North Caucasus in the 1920's, and in the Secret Operational Division within General State Political Administration (OGPU) in 1929-31. Evdokimov transferred into Communist Party administration in 1934, when he became Party secretary for North Caucasus Krai. But he appears to have continued advising Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov on security matters, and the latter relied on Evdokimov's former colleagues to carry out the mass killing operations that are known as the Great Terror in 1937-38.[15]

World War II: 1939-1945

In 1939, after Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, Galicia and Volhynia were annexed to Soviet Ukraine. Northern Bukovina, formerly part of Romania, was incorporated into Ukraine in 1940, as was formerly Czechoslovakian Subcarpathian Ruthenia (the Transcarpathian Oblast) in 1945.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was welcomed by many Ukrainians at first; the OUN even attempted to establish a government under German auspices. Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946) considered Ukraine a strategically important region that should be occupied through capturing the hearts and minds of the Ukrainians. According to Rosenberg, everything should have been done to make the Ukrainians view the Germans as liberators. Though he presented his views on different occasions, Adolf Hitler's anti-Slavic racial views prevailed and overrode strategic considerations, leading to a harsh occupation. Very soon the realization that Nazi policies were brutal toward all the Ukrainians, and not only the Jews and Communists, drove most Ukrainians into opposition to the Nazis. Germany forced many Ukrainians to work within the so-called Reichskommissariat Ukraine (RKU) on tasks such as agriculture, road and railway building, and the construction of fortifications. The German authorities soon faced a serious local labor shortage, especially among skilled workers, as a result of Soviet evacuations before the invasion, the ongoing murder of the Jewish population, and the brutal recruitment, arrest, and deportation of other groups, usually with the cooperation of the local civilian, military, and police authorities. The pool of labor was further reduced as the Germans lost territory in the later stages of the conflict. Nazi administrator Fritz Sauckel's labor recruitment measures strained relations with local officials responsible for selecting the deportees, leading to bribery and corruption. The Kiev area was the main focus for recruitment and deportation, along with the Vinnitsa region of central Ukraine. Over a million locals and prisoners of war were forced into labor in the Ukrainian coal mines in the Donbas region (Donets Basin). The forced laborers endured fines, starvation, imprisonment, beatings, and hanging, but also had better chances for more food, money, and mobility.

In Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia the first stage of partisan development, from 1941 to the fall of 1942, was uncoordinated and resulted in a great many losses. The second stage, late 1942 to 1944, was better coordinated; partisan groups were better defined, and relatively large-scale operations were carried out, often in cooperation with the Red Army. Organized leadership and cadres were created, various forms of actions (such as diversions, sabotage, and direct attacks) were developed; the Germans responded with vicious punitive activities against the partisans. In all, more than 1.3 million partisans took part in actions in Germany's rear in 6,200 units; more than 300,000 received decorations for their actions. The OUN created a nationalist partisan fighting force, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA); many Ukrainians also joined the Soviet partisans and fought in the Soviet Army against the Germans. After World War II, the OUN and the UPA continued a hopeless guerrilla struggle against Soviet rule until 1953. The devastation caused by the war included major destruction in over 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages.

1945 to 1991

Reconstruction proceeded rapidly in the late 1940s and the 1950s, as the Soviets needed the food and raw materials of Ukraine. Political repression of nationally conscious Ukrainians also intensified. The widespread acculturation and assimilation of the Soviet Jews by the 1930s led Stalin to consider the "Jewish question" as settled; he now viewed the Jews as a national rather than a religious group. With the influx of Jews into the Ukraine and Russia from Poland, the Baltic states, Bessarabia, and Bukovina following the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, there followed an intensification of Jewish religious activity, and the reopening of many synagogues. However, political unrest preceding the creation of the state of Israel unleashed Stalin's massive repression against Jews during the "black years" of 1948-53. Suspected of Zionism and cosmopolitanism, Jews were systematically removed from positions of leadership in culture, science, medicine, politics, and economics. The anti-Semitic campaign ended only with the death of Stalin in March of 1953.

Stalin's death finally brought relief in many ways. The thaw initiated by Nikita Khrushchev, who had served as Ukrainian party chief in the 1930s, led to the emergence in the late 1950s and the early 1960s of the "sixties generation" of writers, artists, and intellectuals. Following Khrushchev's downfall in 1964, Moscow, under Leonid Brezhnev initiated a series of crackdowns on Ukrainian dissidents, including Ivan Dziuba (b. 1931), the author of Internationalism or Russification?; Vyacheslav Chornovil (b. 1938), the editor of the underground Ukrainian Herald; and Valentyn Moroz (b. 1936), the author of stinging attacks on Soviet policy. In 1972, Petro Shelest, the national-Communist Ukrainian party chief, was replaced by hardliner Volodymyr Shcherbytsky.

The Number Four reactor at Chernobyl exploded during a routine power test in April 1986. Radioactive contaminants from the Chernobyl disaster fell on northern Ukraine and several neighboring countries, reaching as far as Japan and the United States, causing casualties, sparking a major embarrassment for the Soviet Union, and inciting fears of nuclear energy.[16]

The arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 started a slow revolution. The Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 undercut trust in Moscow. "Glasnost" permitted Ukrainian intellectuals to discuss the "blank spots" in their history, and growing political liberalization led to the reemergence of dissident groups and the emergence of nationally minded cultural organizations. A major turning point occurred in late 1989, with the founding of Rukh and the removal of Shcherbytsky from power.

Independence, 1991-

In 1990 Leonid Kravchuk, formerly in charge of ideology in the CPU, was appointed chairman of the presidium of a revamped supreme soviet, one fourth of whose deputies were nationalists and "democrats" elected in the semifree elections of 1990. On July 16, 1990, Ukraine proclaimed its sovereignty, an ambiguous formula that meant independence to the nationalists and autonomy to the Communists. On Nov. 21, 1990, Ukraine and Russia signed a treaty recognizing each other's sovereignty and promising not to interfere in each other's affairs.

As the Communist system collapsed in 1991, Ukraine, Russia, and the other republics engaged in lengthy negotiations with Gorbachev over the form of a new union. In August 1991 an abortive coup by conservatives in Moscow destroyed Gorbachev's strength and impelled the republics to go their own way. Ukraine declared independence on Aug. 24, 1991. Several days later the CPU was suspended and its property was confiscated. A popular referendum on independence was held on December 1, and over 90 percent of the voters supported the declaration. Most of the countries of the world recognized Ukraine in the months that followed. Ukraine became a member of the Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Monetary Fund, the Consultative Council of NATO, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The nominal successor to the Soviet Union was the Commonwealth of Independent States; Ukraine joined on Dec. 8, 1991. Serious tensions soon emerged with Russia as Moscow seized all former Soviet government property, while some Russian politicians wanted the Donbas and the Crimea; the latter, conquered by Russia in 1783, had been transferred to Ukraine by the Soviet authorities in 1954. The Ukrainian government responded by taking steps to create its own army and navy. The pro-secessionists elected Yuri Meshkov as president of the Crimea in early 1994. The government established closer economic and political ties with Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Ukraine's fears of Russia led it to postpone action on its earlier promise to give up strategic nuclear missiles, prompting concern in the West. After the signing of a tripartite agreement by the presidents of Ukraine, Russia, and the United States in early 1994, Ukraine began shipping these weapons to Russia. Thereafter, Ukraine's relations with the United States and western Europe improved.

Leonid Kravchuk, the most powerful politician, became Ukraine's first popularly elected president, with over 60 percent of the vote, on Dec. 1, 1991. His authority, like that of the legislature, declined precipitously, however, as he proved unable to solve the country's mounting economic difficulties. In contrast to Rukh, which had split into pro-Kravchuk and anti-Kravchuk factions in 1992, the former Communists remained strong, controlling many local government councils, industrial plants, and collective farms. The CPU was officially reconstituted as a powerful political force in late 1993. An extreme right-wing movement also emerged. Elections for the supreme soviet in March 1994 yielded a legislature in which the CPU and its left-wing allies were the strongest bloc, followed by the center-right nationalist democrats grouped about what remained of Rukh and the centrist pro-government "independents." Kravchuk ran for reelection in the presidential election in June 1994. No candidate won a majority, so a second round was held in July, pitting Kravchuk against former premier Leonid Kuchma. Kuchma won the election with 52 percent of the vote.

The national goal was the creation of a market-oriented economy and the establishment of stable democratic institutions and a system of laws. However the goals were partly frustrated by political deadlock, inexperience, an inefficient state apparatus, a collapsing economy, and tensions with Russia. In the first years of independence, corruption became widespread, culminating in rampant criminality during the mid-1990s. In the latter 1990s, Viktor Yushchenko, as chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, tamed rampant inflation and introduced responsible economic controls. From 1999 to 2004, Ukraine's GNP nearly doubled.

Kuchma's second term in office as president (1999-2004) was characterized by the collapse of the national democratic-centrist alliance, the "Kuchmagate" crisis, the rise of a non-Communist opposition in the 2002 elections, and the election of Viktor Yushchenko in 2004 following the protests that sparked the Orange Revolution. The deep divisions that have become evident under Yushchenko had their origins in Ukraine's regionalism, the "Kuchmagate" crisis, antiregime protests, and different attitudes to dealing with the past. The country is divided by linguistic and regional cleavages that appear sharply in regional polarization in national elections. These divisions have led to constant questioning of the viability of the Ukrainian state and predictions of violence and civil war. Secessionist movements have made few inroads, however, and violence has been nonexistent. Because the "minority" group in Ukraine is actually quite large, it has had great influence in the state without resort to regional autonomy or secession. The balance of power between Ukraine's regions and ethnic groups has ensured that neither side has dominated. This did not make for rapid reform, but it created a temporarily stable state.

Conflicts of 2014

Following violent disagreements over whether the Ukraine should be drawing closer to Russia or to the European Union, the victory of the pro-EU faction in driving out the elected president to gain control of the government led to armed conflict with secessionist elements in the Crimea and the east of the country. Those in the Crimea succeeded in the secessionist attempt and the province was accepted into the Russian union. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring this invalid;[17] a similar resolution in the Security Council was vetoed by Russia.[18] The new interim authorities in Kiev held new elections for president, but areas controlled by Russian and pro-Russian forces did not take part. Russia has been accused of active support for the opponents to the currently elected government.


  1. Figures include the Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. This annexation is unrecognized by most countries, including Ukraine.
  2. Hanna H. Starostenko, "Economic and Ecological Factors of Transformations in Demographic Process in Ukraine" Uktraine Magazine #2 1998 online at [1]
  3. Brienna Perelli-Harris, "The Path to Lowest-low Fertility in Ukraine" Population Studies 2005 59(1): 55-70. Issn: 0032-4728; not online
  4. Jacques Vallin; Meslé, France; Adamets, Serguei; and Pyrozhkov, Serhii. "A New Estimate of Ukrainian Population Losses During the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s." Population Studies (2002) 56(3): 249-264. Issn: 0032-4728 Fulltext in Jstor
  5. Oksana Malanchuk, "Social Identification Versus Regionalism in Contemporary Ukraine." Nationalities Papers 2005 33(3): 345-368. Issn: 0090-5992 Fulltext in Ebsco
  6. Taras Kuzio, "Nation Building, History Writing and Competition over the Legacy of Kyiv Rus in Ukraine." Nationalities Papers 2005 33(1): 29-58. Issn: 0090-5992 Fulltext: in Ebsco
  7. See for more details
  8. Reid (2000) p. 30
  9. See for biography. He is called Bogdan Khmelnitsky in Russian and Bogdan Chmielnicki in Polish.
  10. The Cossaks formed a military regime but most historians say the hetmanate was not a fully formed state, as it lacked borders, stable laws, an administrative apparatus or an ethnic population base. Apart from Russia it did not seek diplomatic recognition through the exchange of ambassadors. See for details
  11. Serhii Plokhy, "The Ghosts of Pereyaslav: Russo-Ukrainian Historical Debates in the Post-soviet Era." Europe-Asia Studies 2001 53(3): 489-505. Fulltext: in Jstor Zenon E. Kohut, "In Search of Early Modern Ukrainian Statehood: Post-Soviet Studies of the Cossack Hetmanate." Journal of Ukrainian Studies 1999 24(2): 101-112. Issn: 0228-1635 not online
  12. Reid (2000) p 27-30
  13. Barbara Skinner, "Borderlands of Faith: Reconsidering the Origins of a Ukrainian Tragedy." Slavic Review 2005 64(1): 88-116. Fulltext: in Jstor
  14. Michael Ellman, "The Role of Leadership Perceptions and of Intent in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1934." Europe-Asia Studies 2005 57(6): 823-841. Issn: 0966-8136 Fulltext in Ebsco
  15. Stephen G. Wheatcroft, "Agency and Terror: Evdokimov and Mass Killing in Stalin's Great Terror." Australian Journal of Politics and History 2007 53(1): 20-43. Issn: 0004-9522 Fulltext in Ebsco; Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet collectivization and the terror-famine (1986). Mark B. Tauger, "The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933" Slavic Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 70-89, notes the harvest was unusually poor. online in JSTOR; R. W. Davies, M. B. Tauger, S. G. Wheatcroft, "Stalin, Grain Stocks and the Famine of 1932-1933," Slavic Review, Vol. 54, No. 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 642-657 [2]; online in JSTOR]; Michael Ellman. "Stalin and the Soviet famine of 1932-33 Revisited," Europe-Asia Studies, Volume 59, Issue 4 June 2007 , pages 663-93.
  16. Jim T. Smith, and Nicholas A. Beresford, Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences. Springer, 2005. 310 pp.
  17. 100 votes in favour, 11 against, 58 abstentions, 24 members absent
  18. 13 votes in favour, 1 veto, 1 abstention