Home Country guide History of Ukraine Historycal Overview

Historycal Overview

The early history of Ukraine is also an important chapter in the history of Russia. Kyyiv was the center of the Rus principality in the 11th and 12th centuries ad, and it is still known as the Mother of Russian Cities. In the 13th century the area was invaded by Tatar-Mongols, who inflicted extensive damage. The western Ukrainian principality of Galicia, founded in the 12th century, suffered less from the Mongol invasion than the rest of the area, and was annexed by Poland in the 14th century. At about the same time Kyyiv and the Ukrainian principality of Volhynia were conquered by Lithuania and later came, with the latter country, into the possession of Poland. Poland, however, could not subjugate the Ukrainian cossacks, who allied themselves with Russia. The lands east of the Dnepr River were ceded to Russia in 1667 (some parts of Ukraine had been annexed by Muscovy much earlier), and the remainder of Ukraine, except for Galicia (part of the Austrian Empire; 1772-1919), was incorporated into the Russian Empire after the second partition of Poland in 1793.
The Ukrainians under Austrian rule in Galicia and Bukovina and in the region of Hungary known as the Carpatho-Ukraine preserved their identity as a separate group and engendered a forceful nationalist movement; in 1917, the Ukrainians in Russia established an independent republic following the Bolshevik Revolution. Austrian Ukraine proclaimed itself a republic in 1918 and was federated with its Russian counterpart; the Allies took little cognizance of Ukrainian claims for Galicia, however, and following World War I (1914-18) awarded that area to Poland. In 1919 the Russian Ukrainian republic, under the leader Simon Petlyura, declared war on Poland. In the same year Ukrainian Communists established a second government and declared the existence of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1920 the advance of the Russian Bolshevik armies caused the Petlyura government and Poland to become allies; they were too weak, however, to prevent the Soviet government from assuming control of the country. In 1922 Communist Ukrainian delegate s joined in the formation of the USSR.
In the period between 1922 and 1939 drastic efforts were made by the USSR to suppress Ukrainian nationalism. Ukraine suffered terribly from the forced collectivization of agriculture and the expropriation of foodstuffs from the countryside; the result was the famine of 1932-33, when more than seven million people died. The ultimate goal of Ukrainian nationalism was the independence of a Greater Ukraine, embracing Russian Ukraine, Polish Galicia, and Czechoslovakian Ruthenia.
Following the Soviet seizure of eastern Poland in September 1939, Polish Galicia, comprising nearly 62,160 sq km (24,000 sq mi), was incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR. When the Germans invaded Ukraine in 1941 during World War II (1939-45), Ukrainian nationalists hoped that an autonomous or independent Ukrainian republic would be set up under German protection. Much to their disappointment, the Germans not only divided Russian Ukraine and West Ukraine (Galicia) but came as hostile conquerors. Ukraine was retaken by the USSR in 1944. In the same year parts of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina were added to it, and the Ruthenian region of Czechoslovakia was added in 1945. The Ukrainian SSR became a charter member of the United Nations in 1945. The Crimean region in Russia was added to Ukraine in 1954. Communism in the USSR collapsed in 1991. At the end of 1991, the USSR ceased to exist, and Ukraine became an independent republic.
After independence, political tension developed in Ukraine over several domestic and international issues. Crimea, which was part of Russia until 1954, became a source of contention between Moscow and Kyyiv. Shortly after Ukrainian independence in 1991, a Russian-led movement to secede from Ukraine was formed in Crimea, which succeeded in changing the status of the Crimean oblast to an autonomous republic. Crimea also issued a declaration of independence, which was rescinded in May 1992. In the same month, however, the Supreme Soviet of Russia declared the 1954 transfer of Crimea null and void. The Russian Supreme Soviet also laid claim to the Crimean port city of Sevastopol', the home port of the 350-ship Black Sea Fleet, despite an agreement to divide the fleet, which was signed by President Kravchuk and Russian President Boris Yeltsin (1991- ) in August 1992. Conflict between Ukraine and Russia also developed over several other issues, including possession and transfer of nuclear weapons, delivery of Russian fuel to Ukraine, the division of Soviet assets, and military and political integration within the CIS.
A second separatist movement developed in eastern Ukraine, where coal miners and other workers in eastern Ukraine went on strike in June 1993 to protest the poor state of the economy. A political crisis developed within the government over the pace of economic reform in 1993. In May 1993 Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma (1992- ) threatened to resign if he was not granted additional powers. In response to the threat of resignation, President Kravchuk proposed that the Ukrainian parliament grant Kuchma additional executive powers. The parliament rejected Kuchma's resignation and most of Kravchuk's proposals, but they did grant Kravchuk the power to rule by decree on some economic issues.