Ukraine's History in Summary

Ukraine’s History in Summary

A timeline of Ukrainian history:

Ukraine was the center of the first eastern Slavic kingdom, Kyivan Rus, which was Europe’s greatest and most powerful state during the 10th and 11th centuries. Weakened by internal strife and Mongol invasions, Kyivan Rus was absorbed into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, later, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Kyivan Rus’ cultural and theological legacy created the groundwork for Ukrainian nationalism in succeeding centuries. 

Following an insurrection against the Poles, a new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was created in the mid-17th century. Despite constant Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate managed to maintain its independence for over a century. The Russian Empire annexed the majority of Ukrainian ethnic areas in the late 18th century.

Following the fall of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine had a brief period of independence (1917-20) but was quickly reconquered and forced to suffer a terrible Soviet regime that created two forced famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) that killed over 8 million people. During World War II, the German and Soviet forces were responsible for an additional 7 to 8 million fatalities.

Although Ukraine gained definitive independence with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, democracy and prosperity remained elusive as the legacy of state control and pervasive corruption stymied efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil rights. A nonviolent public movement known as the “Orange Revolution” in the last months of 2004 drove the authorities to invalidate a fraudulent presidential election and enable a fresh internationally monitored poll, which brought a reformist slate led by Viktor YUSHCHENKO to power. Following internal squabbles within the YUSHCHENKO group, his challenger Viktor YANUKOVYCH staged a return in legislative elections and was elected Prime Minister in August 2006. An early parliamentary election was held in December 2007 as a result of a political crisis in the spring of 2007. Yuliya TYMOSHENKO, the leader of an “Orange” alliance, was installed as the next prime minister.

Viktor YANUKOVYCH was elected president in a run-off election in February 2010 that met most international criteria, according to observers. The next month, Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada, voted a no-confidence motion, forcing Yuliya TYMOSHENKO to quit as prime minister. Ukraine hosted the Rada elections in October 2012, which were widely denounced as unfair by Western observers because of the use of government resources to favor ruling party candidates, interference with media access, and intimidation of opposition candidates.

President YANUKOVYCH’s November 2013 withdrawal from a trade and cooperation deal with the EU in favor of greater economic relations with Russia sparked a three-month protest occupation of Kyiv’s major plaza. The final use of force by the government to break up the protest camp in February 2014 resulted in all-out clashes, scores of deaths, worldwide criticism, and the president’s quick removal. Acting President Oleksandr TURCHYNOV’s interim cabinet has called for new presidential elections on May 25, 2014.

Ukraine’s Demographics:

Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population, Russians 17.3%, Belarusians 0.6%, Moldovans 0.5%, Crimean Tatars 0.5%, Bulgarians 0.4%, Hungarians 0.3%, Romanians 0.3%, Poles 0.3%, Jews 0.2%, and others 1.8%. (2001 census)


Ukrainian (officially) account for 67%, Russian 24%, and others (small Romanian, Polish, and Hungarian-speaking minorities) account for 9%.


Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarchate has 50.4%, Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarchate has 26.1%, Ukrainian Greek Catholic has 8%, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox has 7.2%, Roman Catholic has 2.2%, Protestant has 2.2%, Jewish has 0.6%, and other has 3.2%. (2006 est.)

Ukraine’s Participation in International Organizations:

Ukraine and the United States are both members of the United Nations, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Ukraine is also a member of the Organization of American States. Ukraine has chosen a “non-bloc” foreign policy, including the withdrawal of its official NATO membership application.

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