|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Prime minister||Mykola Azarov|
|Area||233,090 sq mi|
|GDP per capita||$7,832 (2007)|
Ukraine is an Eastern European country which was part of Russia and then the Soviet Union until its independence in 1991. To the north and east it shares a border with Russia; it shares a border with Belarus to the north and Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west. The counties of Romania and Moldova are to the south-west. The Black Sea is to the south and this offers access to the Mediterranean. The Capital city is Kyiv (Kiev) and the main religion is Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Current issues in Ukraine include:
- The worldwide Recession of 2008 hit Ukraine hard and it is seeking international aid.
- Ukraine is seeking to join NATO and the European Union, but Russia strongly objects.
- Politics has been chaotic recently.
- Russia has used its oil and gas exports to control Ukrainian politics and economics.
- A strong (20%) Russian minority (mostly in the south and east) is campaigning for partition.
- The legal and economic systems are still controlled by powerful and secretive oligarchs.
- Ukraine is neutral in its alliances, but has some limited military links to both NATO and Russia.
- 1 Geography
- 2 Demography
- 3 Language, Religion, Culture
- 4 Constitution
- 5 Recent politics
- 6 Military and security
- 7 Foreign Relations
- 8 Economy
- 9 History
- 10 See also
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External Links
The total area of Ukraine is 603,700 sq. km (233,090 sq. mi), making it, after Russia, the second largest country in Europe. Its coastline is 2,782 Km.
The land of Ukraine is mostly steppes and plateaus. There are mountains in the west of the country, the Carpathians, and in the Crimean peninsula in the south. The main rivers in Ukraine are the Dnieper and the Dniester.
The Ukrainian climate is considered temperate continental, but in the Crimea it is Mediterranean. The levels of precipitation are highest in the west and north, and lower in east and southeast. The winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland, and the summers are warm across the greater part of the country, and hot in the south.
Ukraine's population is about 46.5 million and falling, 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.
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.
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.
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 predominately Eastern Orthodox. 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 athiests.
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.
Important Ukrainian literary figures include Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, and Lesia Ukrainka.
Ukraine has a parliamentary-presidential system of government with separate executive, judicial, and legislative branches. The president nominates the defense and foreign ministers, and the Prosecutor General and Chief of the State Security Service (SBU), each of whom must be confirmed by the parliament. Beginning in 2006, the 450-member unicameral parliament (Supreme Rada) names the prime minister, who in turn nominates other ministers. The Supreme Rada initiates legislation, ratifies international agreements, and approves the budget. Its members are elected to five-year terms. Following free elections held on December 1, 1991, Leonid M. Kravchuk, former chairman of the Ukrainian Rada, was elected to a five-year term, and became Ukraine's first president. At the same time, a referendum on independence was approved by more than 90% of the voters.
Shortly after becoming independent, Ukraine named a parliamentary commission to prepare a new constitution, adopted a multi-party system, and adopted legislative guarantees of civil and political rights for national minorities. A new, democratic constitution was adopted on June 28, 1996, which mandates a pluralistic political system with protection of basic human rights and liberties. Amendments that took effect January 1, 2006, shifted significant powers from the president to the prime minister and Supreme Rada.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by law, although religious organizations are required to register with local authorities and with the central government. Minority rights are respected in accordance with a 1991 law guaranteeing ethnic minorities the right to schools and cultural facilities and the use of national languages in conducting personal business. According to the constitution, Ukrainian is the only official state language. In Crimea and some parts of eastern Ukraine--areas with substantial ethnic Russian minorities--local and regional governments permit Russian as a language for local official correspondence.
Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law and by the constitution, and authorities generally respect these rights. Prior to the "Orange Revolution," however, authorities sometimes interfered with the news media through intimidation and other forms of pressure. In particular, the failure of the government to conduct a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation into the 2000 disappearance and murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, in which then-government officials have been credibly implicated, negatively affected Ukraine's international image. Freedom of the media and respect for citizens’ rights have increased markedly since the government of President Yushchenko took office in January 2005.
Ethnic tensions in Crimea during 1992 prompted a number of pro-Russian political organizations to advocate secession of Crimea and annexation to Russia. (Crimea was ceded by the RFSSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954, in recognition of historic links and for economic convenience, to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s union with Russia.) In July 1992, the Crimean and Ukrainian parliaments determined that Crimea would remain under Ukrainian jurisdiction while retaining significant cultural and economic autonomy.
Official trade unions have been grouped under the Federation of Trade Unions. A number of independent unions, which emerged during 1992, among them the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine, have formed the Consultative Council of Free Trade Unions. While the right to strike is legally guaranteed, strikes based solely on political demands are prohibited.
In July 1994, Leonid Kuchma was elected as Ukraine's second president in free and fair elections. Kuchma was reelected in November 1999 to another five-year term, with 56% of the vote. International observers criticized aspects of the election, especially slanted media coverage; however, the outcome of the vote was not called into question. Ukraine's March 2002 parliamentary elections were characterized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as flawed, but an improvement over the 1998 elections. The pro-presidential For a United Ukraine bloc won the largest number of seats, followed by the reformist Our Ukraine bloc of Viktor Yushchenko (who was then a former Prime Minister), and the Communist Party.
The campaign leading to the October 31, 2004 presidential election was characterized by widespread violations of democratic norms, including government intimidation of the opposition and of independent media, abuse of state administrative resources, highly skewed media coverage, and numerous provocations. The two major candidates--Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader (and former Prime Minister) Viktor Yushchenko--each garnered between 39% and 40% of the vote and proceeded to a winner-take-all second round. The November 21 runoff election was marred by credible reports of widespread and significant violations, including illegal expulsion of opposition representatives from election commissions, multiple voting by busloads of people, abuse of absentee ballots, reports of coercion of votes in schools and prisons, and an abnormally high number of (easily manipulated) mobile ballot box votes. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Kyiv and other cities to protest electoral fraud and express support for Yushchenko, and conducted ongoing peaceful demonstrations during what came to be known as the "Orange Revolution."
The OSCE International Election Observation Mission found that the November 21, 2004 run-off presidential election "did not meet a considerable number of OSCE commitments and Council of Europe and other European standards for democratic elections…Overall, State executive authorities and the Central Election Commission (CEC) displayed a lack of will to conduct a genuine democratic election process." Other independent observers were similarly critical. On November 24, 2004, the CEC declared Prime Minister Yanukovych the winner with 49.46% compared to 46.61% for Yushchenko. The U.S. and Europe refused to accept the result as legitimate due to the numerous, uninvestigated reports of fraud. European leaders traveled to Kyiv to mediate a political solution between the parties. On November 27, Ukraine’s Supreme Rada passed a resolution declaring that the election results as announced did not represent the will of the people. On December 1, the Rada passed a vote of "no confidence" in the government. On December 3, Ukraine’s Supreme Court invalidated the CEC’s announced results and mandated a repeat of the second round vote to take place on December 26. An agreement mediated by the European leaders resulted in new legislation being passed by the Rada and signed by the President December 8. The electoral law was reformed to close loopholes that had permitted pervasive electoral fraud. The constitution was amended, effective not earlier than September 2005, to transfer power, especially with respect to appointment of ministers, from the president to the cabinet. Yet another law was passed, in first reading, to devolve some powers of the central government to regional councils. In addition, Prime Minister Yanukovych requested and was granted a leave of absence, and Prosecutor General Hennadiy Vasilyev submitted his resignation.
The December 26 re-vote took place in an atmosphere of calm. While irregularities were noted, observers found no systemic or massive fraud. The OSCE Mission noted that "campaign conditions were markedly more equal, observers received fewer reports of pressure on voters, the election administration was more transparent and the media more balanced than in previous rounds…in our collective view Ukraine’s elections have moved substantially closer to meeting OSCE and other European standards." On January 10, 2005, after the CEC and the Supreme Court had considered and rejected numerous complaints and appeals filed by the Yanukovych campaign, the CEC certified the results: Yushchenko had won 51.99% of the votes, with 44.20% for Yanukovych. President Yushchenko was inaugurated January 23, 2005.
Ukraine held parliamentary and local elections on March 26, 2006. International observers noted that conduct of the Rada election was in line with international standards for democratic elections, making this the most free and fair in Ukraine's history. Unlike the first rounds of the 2004 presidential election, candidates and parties were able to express themselves freely in a lively press and assembled without hindrance. There was no systemic abuse of administrative resources as there had been under the previous regime. The Party of Regions and the bloc of former Prime Minster Tymoshenko, whose government the President dismissed in September 2005, finished ahead of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc. Other parties passing the 3% threshold to enter parliament were the Socialist Party of Ukraine and the Communist Party of Ukraine. No party held the majority of Rada seats needed to form a government. Following four months of difficult negotiations, a government led by Prime Minister Yanukovych and including representatives from the Party of Regions, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party took office on August 4, 2006. This, the first government formed after the extensive constitutional amendments brokered as part of the Orange Revolution, has been the focus the Prime Minister's growing influence, sometimes at the expense of the President. Amid shifting political alliances, the "Anti-Crisis Coalition" formed by the Party of Regions, Socialist and Communist parties has grown into a "Coalition of National Unity," as some members of the pro-presidential "Our Ukraine" bloc have moved into the Prime Minister's camp. Meanwhile, others have joined forces with Bloc Yuliya Tymoshenko.
Military and security
Security forces are controlled by the president, although they are subject to investigation by a permanent parliamentary commission. Surveillance is permitted for reasons of national security.
After independence, Ukraine established its own military forces of about 780,000 from the troops and equipment inherited from the Soviet Union. Under defense reform legislation passed in 2004, Ukraine is strengthening civilian control of the military, professionalizing its non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps, modernizing force structure to improve interoperability with NATO, and reducing troop numbers, all with an eye toward achieving NATO standards. Current force levels are approximately 225,000 (plus 90,000 civilian workers in the Ministry of Defense). The Ministry of Defense plans to continue force reductions by approximately 20,000 personnel per year to reach a final end state of 143,000 by 2011. Ukraine’s stated national policy is Euro-Atlantic integration, including with both NATO and the European Union. NATO offered Ukraine an "Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues" in April 2005. Ukraine had previously signed an agreement with NATO on using Ukraine's strategic airlift capabilities and has been an active participant in Partnership for Peace exercises, in Balkans peacekeeping, and Coalition operations in Iraq. Ukrainian units have been serving in the U.S. sector in Kosovo, and served in the Polish-led division in Iraq. Currently, Ukraine participates in six United Nations peacekeeping missions and has up to 50 troops serving in supporting roles in Iraq.
The government has declared Euro-Atlantic integration to be its primary foreign policy objective and has sought to maintain good relations with Russia. The European Union’s Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Ukraine went into force on March 1, 1998. After the 2004 round of EU expansion, the EU did not signal a willingness to consider Ukraine for an association agreement, as Ukraine had hoped for, but instead included it in a new "neighbor" policy, disappointing many Ukrainians. An agreement on intensified cooperation is possible after Ukrainian WTO accession. On January 31, 1992, Ukraine joined the then-Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--OSCE), and on March 10, 1992, it became a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Ukraine signed a Charter Agreement with NATO in 1997, sent troops to Kosovo in close cooperation with NATO countries, signed an agreement for NATO use of Ukrainian strategic airlift assets, and has declared interest in eventual membership. It is the most active member of the Partnership for Peace (PfP). In April 2005, NATO offered an "Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues" to Ukraine.
Ukraine maintains peaceful and constructive relations with all its neighbors, though there are some unresolved maritime issues along the Danube and in the Black Sea with Romania; it has especially close ties with Poland and Russia. Relations with Russia are complicated by differing foreign policy priorities in the region, energy dependence, payment arrears, disagreement over compliance with the 1997 agreement on the stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, and a dispute over bilateral boundaries in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. Ukraine co-founded the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on December 8, 1991, but in January 1993 it refused to endorse a draft charter strengthening political, economic, and defense ties among CIS members. Ukraine was a founding member of GUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova) and has taken the lead with Georgia to promote cooperation among emerging democracies in the Community for Democratic Choice, which held its first summit meeting December 1-2, 2005 in Kyiv.
In 1999-2001, Ukraine served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Soviet Ukraine joined the United Nations in 1945 as one of the original members following a Western compromise with the Soviet Union, which had asked for seats for all 15 of its union republics. Ukraine has consistently supported peaceful, negotiated settlements to disputes. It has participated in the five-sided (now "5+2") talks on the conflict in Moldova and under President Yushchenko has actively boosted efforts to seek a resolution. Ukraine has also promoted a peaceful resolution to conflict in the post-Soviet state of Georgia and has advocated a return to democracy in neighboring Belarus. Ukraine has also made a substantial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations since 1992.
With rich farmlands, a well-developed industrial base, highly trained labor, and a good education system, Ukraine has the potential to become a major European economy. After eight straight years of sharp economic decline from the early to late 1990s, the standard of living for most citizens declined more than 50%, leading to widespread poverty. Beginning in 2000 economic growth has averaged 7.4% per year, reaching 12.1% in 2004 and 7.0% in 2006. Personal incomes are rising. The macro economy is stable, with the hyperinflation of the early post-Soviet period now reduced to just over 11.6% (2006). Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in September 1996 and has remained stable despite a small nominal appreciation in April 2005. While economic growth continues, Ukraine's long-term economic prospects depend on acceleration of market reforms. The economy remains burdened by excessive government regulation, corruption, and lack of law enforcement, and while the government has taken steps against corruption and small and medium enterprises have been largely privatized, much remains to be done to restructure and privatize key sectors such as energy and telecommunications and to allow the free sale of farmland.
Ukraine is rich in natural resources. It has a major ferrous metal industry, producing cast iron, steel, and steel pipe, and its chemical industry produces coke, mineral fertilizers, and sulfuric acid. Manufactured goods include airplanes, turbines, metallurgical equipment, diesel locomotives, and tractors. It also is a major producer of grain, sunflower seeds, and sugar and has a broad industrial base, including much of the former U.S.S.R.'s space and rocket industry. Although proven onshore and offshore oil and natural gas reserves are small, it has important energy sources, such as coal, and large mineral deposits, and is one of the world's leading energy transit countries, providing transportation of Russian and Caspian oil and gas across its territory.
Ukraine encourages foreign trade and investment. The foreign investment law allows Westerners to purchase businesses and property, to repatriate revenue and profits, and to receive compensation in the event that property were to be nationalized by a future government. However, complex laws and regulations, poor corporate governance, weak enforcement of contract law by courts and particularly corruption have discouraged broad foreign direct investment in Ukraine. While there is a functioning stock market, the lack of protection for minority shareholder rights severely restricts portfolio investment activities. Total foreign direct investment in Ukraine was approximately $21.2 billion as of January 1, 2007. At $447 per capita, this was one of the lowest figures in the region.
While countries of the former Soviet Union remain important trading partners, especially Russia and Turkmenistan for energy imports, Ukraine’s trade is becoming more diversified. Europe is now the destination of over one third of Ukraine's exports, while around one quarter of Ukraine's exports go to Russia and the CIS. Exports of machinery and machine tools are on the rise relative to steel, which constitutes over 30% of exports. Ukraine imports over 80% of its oil and 73% of its natural gas. Russia ranks as Ukraine's principal supplier of oil and Russian firms now own and/or operate the majority of Ukraine's refining capacity. Natural gas imports come from Russia and Turkmenistan, which deliver the gas through a pipeline system owned and controlled by Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas monopoly. In 2005 and 2006, Ukraine switched from barter to cash payments for gas imports. Ukraine controls the gas pipelines on its territory that are also used to transit Russian gas to Western Europe. The complex relationship between supplier, transporter, and consumer has led to some tensions, including Russia's decision to cut off gas supplies for three days in January 2006.
The Government of Ukraine's 12-month $605 million precautionary standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expired in March 2005, and Ukraine currently does not receive IMF financing. In Article IV Consultations, the IMF recommends fiscal discipline and structural reforms, particularly of Ukraine's pension system. In July 2005, the World Bank approved a $250 million Development Policy Loan (formerly a Programmatic Adjustment Loan) to support reforms to improve the investment climate, public administration and financial management, and social inclusion. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) project outlays more than doubled in 2005 to 530 million Euros, bringing its portfolio to 2.2 billion Euros.
In 1992, Ukraine became a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is a member of the EBRD but not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Ukraine applied for membership in the WTO in 1995. Progress on its application had been slow but picked up momentum in 2006. The government has made accession to the WTO a priority in 2007.
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.
Ukraine is interested in cooperating on regional environmental issues. Conservation of natural resources is a stated high priority, although implementation suffers from a lack of financial resources. Ukraine established its first nature preserve, Askania-Nova, in 1921 and has a program to breed endangered species.
Ukraine has significant environmental problems, especially those resulting from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986 and from industrial pollution. In accordance with its agreement with the G7 and European Commission in 1995, Ukraine permanently closed the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in December of 2000. Urgent measures for radiation and worker safety as well as structural improvements to the "sarcophagus" erected by the Soviet Union are largely complete, and the contract for construction of the new shelter to be built around the sarcophagus is expected to be awarded in 2007.
Ukraine also has established a Ministry of Environment and has introduced a pollution fee system, which levies taxes on air and water emissions and solid waste disposal. The resulting revenues are channeled to environmental protection activities, but enforcement of this pollution fee system is lax. Ukraine ratified the Kyoto Protocol in April 2004.
Construction of a shipping canal through a UN-protected core biosphere reserve in the Danube Delta, which began in May 2004, is an environmental issue of international interest.
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.
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. 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. 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). Khmelnytsky's victory over Poland led to a Cossack "state," the hetmanate. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 wtocks 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.
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.
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.
By mid-1941, the Ukrainian SSR had the largest population of Jews in Europe. The addition of the eastern provinces of Poland in late 1939 as well as the seizure of sections of Romanian territory in June 1940 led to some 2.7 million Jews living within the borders of the newly enlarged republic. About 85% lived in cities. By 1944, 1.6 million of these Jews had died at the hands of the Germans and their allies and auxiliaries. Unlike the majority of the Holocaust's victims who died in the industrialized mass murder of the death camps, the overwhelming bulk of Ukraine's Jews died in mass shootings during the initial stages of the war.
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 n\eeded 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.
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.
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.
Orange Revolution: 2004Viktor 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 immense 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 does not make for rapid reform, but it has created a stable state.
The scholarly study of the Ukraine's history emerged from romantic impulses in the late 19th century. The outstanding leaders were Volodymyr Antonovych (1834-1908), based in Kiev, and his student Michael Hrushevsky (1866-1934). For the first time full-scale scholarly studies based on archival sources, modern research techniques, and modern historical theories became possible. However, the demands of government officials--especially Soviet, but also Czarists and Polish--made it difficult to disseminate ideas that ran counter to the central government. Therefore exile schools of historians emerged in central Europe and Canada after 1920.
Strikingly different interpretations of the medieval state of Kievan Rus' appear in the four schools of historiography within Ukraine: Russophile, Sovietophile, Eastern Slavic, and Ukrainophile. The Sovietophile and Russophile schools have become marginalized in independent Ukraine, with the Ukrainophile school being dominant in the early 21st century. 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. 
Many historians in recent years have sought alternatives to national histories, and Ukrainian history invited approaches that looked beyond a national paradigm. Multiethnic history recognizes the numerous peoples in Ukraine; transnational history portrays Ukraine as a border zone for various empires; and area studies categorizes Ukraine as part of Eurasia, or more often as part of East-Central Europe. Plokhy (2007) argues that looking beyond the country's national history has made possible a richer understanding of Ukraine, its people, and the surrounding regions.
After 1991, historical memory was a powerful tool in the political mobilization and legitimation of the post-Soviet Ukrainian state, as well as the division of selectively used memory along the lines of the political division of Ukrainian society. Ukraine did not experience the restorationist paradigm typical of some other post-Soviet nations, including the Baltic states, although the multifaceted history of independence, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Soviet-era repressions, mass famine, and World War II collaboration were used to provide a different constitutive frame for the new Ukrainian nation. The politics of identity (which includes the production of history textbooks and the authorization of commemorative practices) has remained fragmented and tailored to reflect the ideological anxieties and concerns of individual regions of Ukraine.
BibliographyCanadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, partly online
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- He is called Bogdan Khmelnitsky in Russian and Bogdan Chmielnicki in Polish.
- The Cossacks 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.
- 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
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