History of Ukraine
- Ukraine means borderland. lying on south-eastern edge of Europe, on the
threshold of Asia, along the fringes of the Mediterranean world, and astride
the once important border between sheltering forests & the open steppe.
- as a result, it has been repeatedly exposed to various competing cultures,
foreign invasions & conquests.
- except for the Carpathian Mountains in the west & the small Crimean
range in the south, 95% of Ukraine's territory is a plain that gradually
slopes from the elevated woodland plateau of Galicia, Volhynia & Podilia
in the northwest, down to the gently rolling forested plains on both sides
of the Dnieper River, and finally to the huge, flat, open steppe that
stretches along the Black Sea coast in the south. It is in these plains that
Ukraine's famous & remarkably fertile black soil (chernozem) regions are
found which encompass 2/3rds of the land.
- Ukraine is rich in mineral deposits esp. coal & iron ore which are
located in the south-east.
- flowing southward into the Black Sea are 3 major river systems that
provide Ukraine with an adequate water supply:
- Dnieper River - 2285km long, bisects the land
- Buh - southern
- stats: 600,000sq.km, extends 1300km from west to east & 900km from
north to south (2nd largest country in Europe)
- earliest traces of hominids date back to 150,000BC who appear to have
arrived on shores of Black Sea via the Caucasus & perhaps the Balkans.
- Cro-magnons appeared in the middle of the last ice age c40,000BC
- last of ice glaciers retreated by ~10,000BC
- Neolithic period in Ukraine 6,000 to 2,000BC when agricultural
- Trypillian culture:
- originated along Dnister, Buh & Prut rivers & later
Dnieper reached their high-point b/n 3,500-2,700BC, living in
villages as large as 600-700 inhabitants
- developed a drill for boring holes in wood & stone, and a
wooden plough & began to use the 1st metal - copper, an
innovation probably imported from Asia
- the nomads:
- herding of domesticated animals emerged in the steppes c3,000BC
- the Cimmerians:
- the 1st nomad horsemen appeared in Ukraine c1,500-1,000BC,
presumably migrating from the east
- mentioned by Homer, when referring to those along the north shore
of the Black Sea
- "drinkers of mare's milk" as the ancient Greeks called
- the 1st pastoralists in Ukraine to make the transition to the
nomadic way of life
- as a result of their contact with skilled metal workers of the
Caucasus, introduced the Iron Age to Ukraine
- the growing importance of mounted warriors led to social changes
such as the breakdown of extended family units & the evolution
of a military aristocracy
- inhabited the land between the Don & the Dniester rivers up to
700BC & then, under pressure from other nomads from the east,
withdrew to Asia Minor
- the Scythians:
- appeared on the Ukrainian steppe in the early 7thC BC, presumably
migrating from the east
- male-dominated society
- mentioned in the Old Testament
- after ravaging much of the Near East, they finally settled in the
steppes north of the Black Sea where they established the 1st major
political organisation based on the territory of the Ukraine
- became an important, albeit distant, part of classical Mediterranean
civilisation, with significant contacts with the Greeks including Greek
colonies on the north shore of the Black Sea which for the next 1000yrs
would serve as the outposts of urban civilisation in Ukraine & were
united from 500-100BC forming the Bosphoran kingdom near the mouth of
the Don River.
- visited by Herodotus in the 5thC & described them as
Indo-Europeans, part of the Iranian-speaking nomads that had dominated
the Eurasian steppes for millenia. He described several types.
- 513BC, the Persian king Darius invaded Ukraine, but was forced into
- in the late 5th & early 4thC BC, the Scythians expanded westward
& overran the Thracians on the Danube, but this brought them face to
face with Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.
- in 339BC, the Macedonians inflicted a crushing defeat of the nomads,
marking the beginning of the end.
- c200BC, the Sarmatians, a powerful nomadic people from the east
overwhelmed & assimilated most of the Scythians, only a remnant of
whom managed to find refuge in the Crimea, where their descendants
continued to live until the 3rdC AD.
- the Sarmatians:
- a loose federation of related & frequently feuding tribes (eg.
Iazygians, Roxolanians & the Alans) who emerged from the lower Volta
region, initially mingling with the Scythians, but as enemy tribes began
to pressure them from the east, they became more aggressive &
eventually over-whelmed the Scythians,
- dominated the steppes of the north & east of the Black Sea for
almost 400yrs from 2ndC BC to 2ndC AD
- prominent role of woman in society who bore weapons & performed
important religious functions, repeating a legend that the Sarmatians
were the offspring of a union between the Amazons & the Scythians.
- each tribe tried to establish its rule over Ukraine but their attempts
coincided with the prolonged, widespread population shifts commonly
called the Great Migration of Peoples which centred over Ukraine and
frequently challenged & disrupted Sarmatian rule.
- Ukraine at the birth of Christ consisted of 3 main groups of peoples:
- agriculturalists (Slavs) in the northern & north-western
wooded plains, sheltered from invaders by forests & swamps, these
oldest inhabitants were politically unorganised, militarily weak, &
sluggish in cultural development, but had tremendous staying power.
- nomads such as the Sarmatians ruled the steppes
- the Greek cities along the Black Sea coast in the south, which
remained an extension of ancient Greece & were not an organic part
of the Ukraine environment.
- in 2ndC AD, the Sarmatians were completely destroyed by the terrible
onslaught of the Huns from the east, the encroachments of the Germanic
Goths from the north, and determined Roman resistance in the west.
- the rise and decline of Kievan Rus':
- by the 6thC AD, the agrarian peoples of the north-western forests (the
Slavs) began to make their presence felt as the focal point of Ukraine
activity shifted inexorably from the sea coast and steppe to the the
- the original homeland of the Slavs were the northern slopes of the
Carpathians, the Vistula Valley & the Prypiat mashlands. From there,
the Slavs spread out slowly & generally peacefully in all
directions, particularly in the early 7thC AD reaching:
- Finno-Ugric lands around the Oka & upper Volga rivers in the
- the Elbe River in northern Germany in the west
- south to the Balkans where fertile land, a warmer climate, &
wealthy cities attracted the majority of Slavic migration.
- the spread of the Slavs resulted in their language evolving
into 3 main groups:
- West Slavic, from which Polish, Czech, & Slovak evolved
- South Slavic, from which Bulgarian, Macedonian &
- East Slavic, from which Ukrainian, Russian & Belorussian
- the East Slavs:
- in 7thC AD, the East Slavs were based on the right bank of the
- legend has it that the Polianian leader Kyi founded Kiev &
gave it its name in the 6th-7thC AD.
- throughout 7th & 8thC AD, the East Slavs continued to
subdivide & expand, eventually consisting of 14 large tribal
confederations that inhabited parts of Ukraine, Belorussia &
Russia. Of these, the most prominent were the Polianians who lived
in central Ukraine, on the banks of the Dnieper. Others were the
Derevlianians (northwest), Severians (northeast), Ulychians &
Tivertsians (southwest), Volhynians & Dulibians (west).
- the Viking control & stimulus on Kiev:
- in c830AD, two Varangians (Slavic name for the Vikings or
Normans), Askold & Dir sailed down the Dnieper with their
followers & noting Kiev's excellent position high on the river
banks, established control over the Polianian settlement &
imposed tribute on them.
- it is said the land of Rus' was 1st named in 852AD.
- apparently they prospered, for in 860, they launched a raid
against Constantinople, news of which when reaching the Norman
homeland, prompted their ruler, Oleh, to gather a force of
Varangians, Slavs & Finns in 862AD to sail down the Dnieper
& conquer Kiev by luring Askold & Dir outside the city
walls, accusing them of being usurpers & killed them.
- Oleh (d. c912) took control of Kiev & declared that it would
become the "mother of all Rus' cities" and united it with
Novgorod, the two main depots of the "Greek" trading
- subsequent rulers of Kiev were Ihor (912-45); Olha, wife of Ihor,
converted to Christianity in 955 (945-62); Sviatoslav (962-72);
Volodymyr the Great or Valdemar/Vladimir (980-1015); Iaroslav the
Wise (1036-54); Volodymyr Monomakh (1113-25);
- the decline of Kiev:
- the term "Ukraine" 1st appeared in chronicles in 1187
& referred to the lands on the periphery of Kiev.
- political fragmentation & the principalities' desire for
independence from Kiev together with the calamitous economic effect
on Kiev of the decline of the great trade route along the Dnieper in
the 11thC which had always been exposed to attacks from nomadic
groups, severely weakened Kiev.
- in 1240, the invasion by the Mongols, resulted in the fall of Kiev
& for the next 80yrs, the Mongols became the titular overlords
of the Ukrainian lands, but due to endemic internal conflicts, they
were not able to exert extensive control over the Ukraine.
- 1300AD, the Orthodox metropolitan abandoned Kiev for the thriving
cities of the Russian northeast & eventually settled in Moscow.
Kiev also lost many of its boyars & leading merchants. For
extended periods of time it did not even have a resident prince.
The Polish-Lithuanian period:
- the political vacuum of Kiev, the inability of the Mongols to exert
extensive control over Ukraine, the extinction of the native dynasty in
Galicia & Volhynia which left them leaderless & vulnerable, together
with the concurrent rise & expansion of the neighbouring Lithuanian,
Polish & Muscovy societies, meant that the Ukraine land lay ripe for the
- the Lithuanians, having been united by Prince Mindaugas in
mid-13thC AD in order to withstand the Teutonic Order of the German
crusader-colonisers, moved into Belorussia in the early 14thC and by 1362
occupied Kiev. In 1363, after a crushing defeat over the Mongols, they moved
into Podilia & with much of Belorussia & Ukraine (half of old Kievan
Rus') under its control, the Grand Principality of Lithuania constituted the
largest political entity in Europe. in general, the rule of the Lithuanians
was welcomed as it was preferable to the pitiless, exploitive rule of the
- the Polish invasion & occupation:
- despite the impressive gains of the Lithuanians in Ukraine, it was
Polish expansion that would exert the more lasting & extensive
impact on Ukrainians.
- in 1340, the new Polish king, Casimir the Great, in cooperation with
Hungary, moved into Galicia under the pretext of protecting the
Catholics of the land. For more than two decades the Poles with the
Hungarians fought against the heathen Lithuanians & the schismatic
Orthodox Ukrainians for control over Galicia & Volhynia, which
finally ended in 1366 with the Poles occupying all of Galicia & a
small part of Volhynia.
- this control of the Ukrainians by the Poles who were of different
culture & religion evolved into a bitter religious, social &
ethnic conflict that lasted for the next 600yrs & permeated all
aspects of life in Ukraine.
- in 1385, Poland & Lithuania concluded the Union of Krevo,
where in return for a common monarch with the Poles, the Lithuanians
converted to Catholicism & gave the Lithuanian & Ukrainian lands
to the Crown of Poland "for all eternity". Despite this, the
Grand Principality which in a way was similar to Kievan Rus',
endeavoured to remain autonomous from the Poles.
- the rise of Moscow:
- meanwhile, in the late 15thC, Moscow rose to a position of prominence
amongst the Russian principalities of the northeast and by 1485 had
taken control over the last serious Russian rival, the principality of
Tver & cast off the centuries old Mongol yoke in 1480. It was
proclaimed that Moscow would become the Third Rome (after the
fall of Rome & Constantinople) and be the holy & universal
empire. Ivan III of Moscow began to title himself "sovereign (gosudar)
of all Rus' " & to claim that all lands that were once part of
Kievan Rus' should now belong to Moscow. Moscow gradually annexed parts
of Ukraine such as Chernihiv & Starodub in northeast in 1522.
- the mounting crisis as the Lithuanians were involved in a protracted
war with Moscow 1562-70, resulted in them asking for aid from Poland
which resulted in the Union of Lublin 1569 which increased
Poland's control over Ukraine.
- the rise of the Cossacks:
- this period resulted in the rise of the Cossacks, a word of
Turkic origin which originally referred to the free, masterless men who
lacked a well-defined place in society & who lived in the unsettled
periphery. Slavic Cossacks had 1st appeared in the 1480's, but it was
not until the development of serfdom in the mid-16thC that their numbers
- the 1st of the 5 major Cossack uprisings occurred in 1591, culminating
in the Great Revolt of 1648-57 and the formation of Hetmanate Cossack
system of government on the east of the Dniester which remained a
distinctly Ukrainian political, cultural & socioeconomic entity
governed by its own native elite for the next century.
- the union with Moscow in 1654 resulted in Muscovite overlordship of
the Left Bank.
- the Polish ruled Right Bank:
- in contrast, those on the Right Bank of the Dniester remained under
Polish rule who divided the land into the four traditional provinces of
Volhynia, Podilia, Bratslav, & Kiev (the city itself remained under
Russian control). The Poles proceeded to sell or distribute vast
stretches of open land to a few magnate families, the most prominent
were the Lubomirski, Potocki, Czartoryski, Branicki, Sangusko &
- by mid-18thC, approx. 40 magnate families owned almost 80% of the
Right Bank who then encouraged influx of peasant workers who later
became oppressed, but whom now lacked the leadership of the Cossacks who
remained on the Left Bank.
Russian & Austrian imperial rule (late
Soviet Ukraine (1921-):
- Austrian rule of Eastern Galicia:
- upon the first partition of Poland in 1772, the Habsburgs of Austria
acquired Galicia & by the third & final partition of Poland in
1795, they acquired ethnically Polish lands (including Cracow).
- at this time, the vast majority of Western Ukrainians were enserfed
peasants living in poverty as the hilly terrain & small plots made
agriculture difficult whilst the exploitative rule of the Polish nobles
had left them in a state of economic & physical exhaustion. Life
expectancy was low, averaging 30-40yrs. To alleviate their misery, they
were encouraged to turn to alcohol.
- thus, most Western Ukrainians welcomed the Habsburgs as they were
introduced to the Habsburg imperial system at its best & willing to
create reforms including the emancipation of serfdom & the legal
recognition of peasant's rights.
- the Polish revolution in Galicia in 1848 in response to riots
in Vienna, the resignation of the hated Prince Metternich, & the
promises of the badly shaken Emperor Ferdinand to implement political
liberalisation & social reform, was not supported by the Ukrainian
constituents (who created their own Supreme Ruthenian Council
opposing the Poles) led to the Habsburgs finally abolishing serfdom with
Emperor Ferdinand issuing the historic manifesto abolishing the corvee
in Galicia resulting in Ukraine support for the Habsburgs, whilst a
payment for lost labour pacified the Polish nobles.
- the support of the Habsburgs led to the rise of Ukraine nationalism
led by the educated minority of Ukraines which further provoked
Pole-Ukraine antagonism in Galicia.
- the rise of Polish domination & oppression of Ukrainians:
- further weakness of the Habsburg Empire due to its defeat against
the French & Sardinians led to the restoration of a
constitutional parliament based in Vienna, but with each province
having its own diet which favoured the election of the upper
classes, and in Galicia, this meant the Poles so that Ukraines were
usually limited to less than 15% of the diet membership which
severely disadvantaged them.
- defeated by Prussia in 1867, the Habsburgs formed the
Austro-Hungarian Empire which encouraged the Poles to demand
complete control of Galicia. The Habsburgs informally allowed them
this by promising not to interfere with Polish conduct of Galicia's
affairs.Thus, until 1917, only Poles could occupy the office of
viceroy. The bureaucracy was purged of Germans & quickly
Polonised. Polish language became the official language in schools
- disenchantment with the Austrians led many Ukrainian as with other
slavic peoples in the region, to look to Russia - the Russophiles
- Ukrainian electoral protests of the 1890's led to Austria
abolishing the curial system of election & introduce universal
suffrage in 1907.
- in the late 19thC & early 20thC, many peasants emigrated to
colonise the prairie lands of western Canada
- repeated clashes between Polish & Ukrainian university
students in the 1st decade of 20thC, led Austria to intervene and
recommend a separate university for Ukrainians, but WWI broke out.
- Eastern Galicia was the scene of the biggest, bloodiest battles
fought on the Eastern front causing severe suffering from
destruction & dislocation resulting from the fighting as well as
from brutal wartime administrations of both the Russians & the
- the war highlighted the plight of peoples such as the Ukrainians,
who had no state of their own to protect their specific interests.
- 3.5m Ukrainians fought for Russia and 0.25m fought for Austrian
forces - whilst both ignored their national interests & worse,
the Russians sought to destroy their national movements. Worse
still, Ukrainians, being combatants on each side were forced to kill
- the newly formed pro-Austrian General Ukrainian Council in Lviv
felt that victory over Russia would hasten Ukrainian liberation.
- the socialist, anti-tsarist Union for the Liberation of Ukraine
was the 1st group to announce that its goal was the formation of an
independent Ukraine state.
- both of these groups were forced to flee to Austria soon after
formation as Russian forces broke through.
- Polish-Ukrainian war of 1919:
- fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Oct 1918
- 1919-23: Ukrainian majority refuse to recognise the Polish state
as their legitimate government, boycotting elections.
- promising to grant Eastern Galicia autonomy, Poland was recognised
as sovereignty in 1923
- during the 1920's, a new form of Ukraine nationalism arose -
"integral nationalism" which espoused collectivism &
contained elements of fascism & totalitarianism
- phase 1:
- 1939 Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine for 21months,
initially attempted to win the hearts of the Ukrainians but then
began repression of both Poles & Ukrainians on a massive
scale from Spring 1940, deporting 400,000 Ukrainians from
Galicia alone, whilst 1.2m (mainly Poles) in Poland's eastern
territories occupied by the Soviets were deported to Soviet
east. The result was that the remaining Ukrainians would oppose
Soviet rule at all cost!
- Nazi occupation of Lemko & Kholm regions (containg 500,000
Ukrainians) on Polish border forming the "General
- Transcarpathia invaded by Hungary who executed hundreds of
Ukrainophiles, arrested thousands & causing 30,000 to flee
to Galicia where many were deported by Soviets to Soviet east.
- phase 2:
- 22 June 1941, the blitzkrieg, 3m Germans invade & conquer
the 2m Soviets, capturing 650,000pows in Kiev in Sept 1941,
& so within 4mths, Germany had occupied nearly all of
Ukraine taking 3.8m Soviet pows (1.3m were Ukrainian)!
- in their haste to evacuate, the NKVD executed thousands of
political prisoners in a week in 22-29th June 1941. The
retreating Soviets instituted a scorched earth policy destroying
all economic enterprises that may assist the Germans as well as
evacuating 10m skilled labourers & intellectuals beyond the
grasp of the Germans.
- in Western Ukraine in particular, the Germans were welcomed as
liberators, but the OUN had incompatible goals & interests
to the Nazis despite forming a Ukrainian military unit in the
German army called the Legion of Ukraine Nationalists.
- the OUN audaciously declared the establishment of a Ukraine
state without consulting Germany, but in Sept 1941, German SS
arrested & executed many members of the OUN.
- Nazi doctrines held that all Slavs were subhumans & their
only role was to serve the German master race & that Ukraine
was viewed as a colonial state with the Ukrainians as future
slaves. The ruthless, bigoted German administrator Koch,
in particular, who exploited the Ukraine, turned the Ukrainians
against the Germans.
- by the end of the war, of the 5.8m Soviet pows fallen to
Germans, 3.3m perished - most by starvation.
- July-Oct 1941, Nazi's daily air raids on Moscow as Nazi's
occupied most of Ukraine and their artillery moved to secure
resources in the southeast. The Nazi occupiers killed most Jews
and destroyed villages as well as Red Army pow's.
- Oct 1941, the Russian winter hits the Nazi's at the eastern
front just 20km from Moscow when Moscow was staring at defeat,
the freezing Winter (minus 35degC), lack of winter clothing for
the Nazi's and the mobilisation of fresh Soviet soldiers from
Siberia and the Far Eastern front halted the Nazi invasion &
forced them to retreat by late Dec 1941. The majority of
retreating Nazi soldiers perished - a third from hypothermia.
- yet, the Nazi's did not learn, they again invaded in summer of
1942, this time from the south of Russia and reached the
important Volga River transport routes & oil fields,
capturing Stalingrad with most of its 140,000 civilian
population destined to perish from war, starvation or
hypothermia. Unfortunately for the German 6th army, the Red Army
destroyed its rear support of Italians & Rumanians and by
Dec 1942 had totally surrounded the 300,000 German soldiers in
Stalingrad who were instructed by Hitler not to surrender - 95%
perished from starvation, hypothermia, wounds and suicide!
- Soviet return to Ukraine in 1943 with a massive army of 2.3m
took 12mths from summer 1943 to Oct. 1944 to reconquer Ukraine,
but as the Soviets had done, the Germans too instituted a
scorched earth policy in their retreat.
- Soviet annexation of Western Ukraine:
- 1945, Stalin, to the great dismay of the Poles, annexes Western Ukraine in
an agreement with England & USA
- 1m Poles (incl. many Jews & Ukrainians masquerading as Poles)
migrated from Western Ukraine to Poland
- 0.5m Ukrainians in Poland were allowed or forced to return to Ukraine
- liquidation of the Greek Catholic Church in Western Ukraine
- 1947 Polish liquidation of the "Ukrainian problem" - killing
Ukrainian patriots & uprooting the 150,000 pop. of Ukrainian town
- see under Soviet Ukraine
- Russian rule:
- the rising power of the Russian empire had started to impact the left
bank since 1654
- the process of imposing imperial administrative structures on Ukraine
lands began in the 1770's, but it was not until 1830's that it assumed
its final form under Tsar Nicholas I (r. 1825-55).
- most of Right Bank except for Galicia, integrated into Russian Empire
- because Ukrainians were linguistically & culturally closely
related to the Russians, the Russian government found it easy to view
Ukraine essentially as a Russian land & control over it was more a
re-uniting of a "land that had been torn away".
- dreaded conscription was introduced in 1797, but for the most part,
Ukrainians responded willingly to the tsar's call to join the war effort
against Napoleon's invasion in 1812 which was successfully repelled.
- Tsar Alexander I's militaristic approach to government resulted in the
establishment in 1816-21 of the hated military colonies controlled by
500,000 soldiers who ran them like military camps & in which every
aspect of family life including permission to marry & timing of
children, was regulated by strict & detailed instructions.
- in 1830, young Polish officers in Warsaw ignited an uprising against
Russians which spilled over & involved Poles inVolhynia in 1831, but
due to lack of local support & Russian pressure, the uprising was
crushed, although for many years secret Polish societies continued to
conspire against the tsar.
- by 1830's, Ukraine was divided into 9 provinces (gubernii),
which could be grouped into three regions:
- Left-Bank Ukraine:
- where Cossack & starshyna traditions were strongest - ie.
Chernihiv, Poltava & Kharkiv
- the recently-acquired Right-Bank:
- where Polish nobles still exercised socioeconomic domination
over Ukrainian peasantry & where towns were populated mainly
by Jews - ie. Kiev, Podilia, Volhynia
- the newly colonised south:
- once the domain of the Zaporozhians & the Crimean Khanate
- ie. Katerynoslav, Kherson & Tavria (Crimea)
- in general, the Ukrainians adopted a "Little Russia" or
"Maloros" mentality, losing much of Ukrainian distictiveness.
- in 1854-5, Ukraine was severely impacted by the Crimean War in
which the alliance of England, France, Sardinia & the Ottoman Empire
attempted to halt the age-old Russian attempt to expand into the Balkans
to gain control of the Straits of Bosphorus & the Mediterranean
trade routes. When the tsar requested formation of volunteer militia,
the Ukrainian peasants construed this as meaning renewal of Cossackdom,
thus the Kievan Cossack movement of 1855 when 180,000 peasants
identified themselves as Cossacks , refused to serve their landlords
& demanded an end to serfdom, but order was restored with arrival of
- Alexander II (r. 1855-) abolished serfdom by manifesto in 1861,
but unlike other segments of society, emancipated serfs were still
obliged to pay the head tax and did not improve their economic
- educational, legal and local governmental (eg. zemstva) reforms in
1864 led to improved conditions, in particular, health with
substantial reduction of infant mortality & subsequent accelerated
population growth which would adversely impact ability of peasants to
provide for themselves with the increased population density and smaller
- decline of the nobility from mismanagement, failure to invest
in machinery, waste on ostentatious living & subsequent dependence
on high levels of borrowings such that by 1877, 75% of them were heavily
mortgaged, forcing many to sell their lands, usually to the ambitious
& industrious kulaks. From 1861 to 1914, Left Bank noble ownership
of land fell by 53%, whilst the extremely wealthy Polish landowners on
the Right Bank tended to retain their vast holdings.
- railroad building reached its zenith in the 1870's
- harsh terms of military service amended in 1874
- restrictions on Ukrainian language, media & nationalism in 1876
- rise of industry & the cities and influx of Russians & Jews
- two areas in south-eastern Ukraine - the Donets basin (coal) &
Kryvyi Rih (iron ore) - stimulated by a coal & railroad boom,
became the fastest growing industrial regions in the empire, &
quite possibly, in the world.
- prior to 1861, urban growth was sluggish with the 10% of the
population who were urban, mostly lived in towns with populations
less than 20,000 with only Odessa having a population higher than
- by 1900, 4 large urban areas dominated Ukraine - Odessa (pop. now
400,000); Kiev (250,000); Kharkiv (175,000); Katerynoslav
- but still only 13% of population were urban as the rural peasants
also rapidly increased (in England at this time, 72% were urban!)
- Ukrainians accounted for only a third of the educated & a
third of the urban population with Russians & Jews accounting
for the rest (in Odessa, Ukrainians were only 5.6% in 1897 falling
to 2.9% in 1920). Even in 1917, only 11% of students in Kiev
University were Ukraine.
- the low rates of urban Ukrainians was mainly due to the much
earlier industrialisation of Russia & the ready supply of
skilled Russian workers to migrate to the more efficient, new
industrial centres in Ukraine.
- Jewish population on the Right Bank increased by 844% b/n
1844-1913 (cw 265% rise in total population), so that at end of
19thC, of the 5.2m Jews in Russian Empire, 2m lived in Ukraine -
mostly on Right Bank where they formed 12.6% of population (8% of
total Ukraine pop; 4% of total Russian Empire pop;). The Jews were
restricted by tsar from living in rural areas which reinforced their
urban tendency (33% of urban pop of Ukraine were Jews, reaching
70-80% in poverty-stricken small towns - shtetls- on Right Bank).
75% were petty traders & artisans & constituted the Jewish
"middle class", with a wealthy minority being the owners
of most of Ukraine's distilleries, saw mills, tobacco producers
& sugar refineries.
- eastward emigration of late 19thC & early 20thC:
- population of Russian Empire grew from 73m in 1861 to 125m in 1897
& 170m in 1917. In Ukraine population jumped 72% in less than
40yrs from 1861-97. Desperate for land, many peasants emigrated to
other parts of Russia, esp. the Amur basin near the Pacific coast
which was facilitated by the construction of the trans-Siberian
railroad after 1896, resulting in some 1.6m Ukrainians migrating
eastward between 1896-1906. Discouraged by difficult conditions,
many of these returned home. By 1914, 2m Ukrainians lived in the Far
- political activism in 1890's & early 20thC:
- General Ukrainian Organisation (GUO)
- The Revolutionary Ukrainian Party (RUP), succeeded by Ukrainian
Social Democratic Workers' Party (USDWP)
- Ukrainian component of Russian Social Democratic Party, favoured
- Russia's 1st revolution 1905 resulted in:
- lifting of restrictions on Ukrainian nationalism that were imposed
- rise of cooperatives, usually headed by Ukrainian activists
- tsarist guarantees of constitutional government
- tsarist concessions resulting in split among the revolutionaries
- see also above under Eastern Galicia
- Russian revolutions of 1917:
- fall of the tsardom in Feb. 1917
- in Ukraine, the Ukrainians established their own government, the Central
Rada, but without an army and without a bureaucracy, anarchy
broke out and then in July, the disintegration of the Russian army
in Galicia resulted in influx of millions of heavily armed,
radicalised & rampaging Russian soldiers into Ukraine with an
impact "worse than the Tatar hordes", graphically exposing
the impotence of the Central Rada.
- Lenin & the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917
- Ukrainian revolution & civil wars:
- like most Russians in Ukraine, the Bolsheviks opposed Ukraine
nationalism, fearing it would undermine the unity of the working
- Russian Bolsheviks invade Ukraine in December 1917, but after
signing an agreement with the Germans, the Central Rada retained
control when in Feb 1918, 450,000 German & Austrian soldiers
forced the Bolsheviks out of Ukraine.
- however, the Ukraine support for the Central Rada fell as most
sections were disillusioned & when the Germans realised that
the young ideological leaders of the Central Rada were inept and
not able to govern sufficiently to pay them the agreed food, the
German army disbanded the Central Rada in April 1918 resulting
in a period of relative calm hiatus of German control who
instituted "hetman" reminiscent of the Cossack hetman
administration in an attempt to get food supplies going again.
But Ukraine activists were mainly socialists and refused to be
party to a Hetman government which existed for only 8 months
before anarchy broke out in 1919.
- for the 2nd time, the Russian Bolsheviks invaded Ukraine in
Jan 1919 but were again forced out - this time by the White
- 3rd Ukrainian Soviet Govt Dec 1919
- 3rd invasion of Ukraine by Russian Bolsheviks in Dec 1919,
this time, 3.5m soldiers, assured them of victory, although
peasants, esp. kulaks continued an uncoordinated guerrilla
warfare. The Bolsheviks finally won control of Ukraine in late
- the innovative 1920's:
- the formation of the Soviet Union
- the traumatic 1930's:
- Stalin's genocide by starvation:
- When Stalin took power in 1927, he made a test case out of Ukraine
for his ideas about 'harmful' nationalism. In 1932-33 he engineered
a famine that killed as many as 7 million Ukrainians.
- Execution and deportation of intellectuals further depopulated the
- Stalin also went after the country's premier religious symbols,
its churches and cathedrals, destroying over 250 buildings.
- During the purges of 1937-39, millions more Ukrainians were either
executed or sent to Soviet labour camps.
- WWII brought further devastation and death, with 6 million
perishing in the fighting between the Red Army and the German
- It's estimated that during the first half of the 20th century,
war, famine and purges cost the lives of over half the male and a
quarter of the female population of Ukraine.
- Nazi rule
- of 2.7m Jews in Ukraine in 1930, only 0.8m remained
- Stalin evicts 0.65m Germans & 0.2m Crimean Tatars to Central Asia
with only half surviving the journey
- Soviet annexation of Western Ukraine:
- 1947 Polish liquidation of the "Ukrainian problem" - killing
Ukrainian patriots & uprooting the 150,000 pop. of Ukrainian town
- post-WWII reconstruction & retrenchment:
- Chernobyl disaster 1986:
- The 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and the appallingly slow
official Soviet response provoked widespread discontent, and the Uniate
Church emerged from isolation two years later.
- The Ukrainian People's Movement for Restructuring, an umbrella
nationalist movement founded in Kiev by prominent intellectuals and
writers, won local seats across the country in 1990. In July of that
year, the parliament issued a sovereignty - but not secession -
declaration to little effect.
- Shortly after the failed Soviet coup in August 1991, the Communist
Party of Ukraine (CPU) was banned, and in December the population voted
overwhelmingly for independence.
Independent Ukraine (1991-):
- Leonid Kravchuk, former chairman of the CPU, was elected as the first
president of Ukraine.
- Factionalism forced the government's resignation in September 1992, and
disagreements with Russia over Ukraine's cache of inherited nuclear weapons
and control of the Black Sea fleet (harboured in the Crimean port of
Sevastopol) strained relations between the two countries.
- Meanwhile, skyrocketing inflation, fuel shortages and plummeting consumer
power plagued the country and exacerbated regional and ethnic differences.
Pro-Russian reformer Leonid Kuchma beat Kravchuk in the 1994 presidential
- The CPU benefited from the political and economic turmoil, capturing a
substantial majority of parliamentary seats in the 1994 elections.
- In the late 1990s, new tensions arose between Ukraine and Russia over
Ukraine's closer ties with NATO.
- A worrying turn from political stability occurred in late April 2001 with
the dismissal of the Prime Minister, Viktor Yushchenko. He has vowed to
return, but in the short term, Ukrainian politics looks fragile indeed.