History of Ukraine: Key Events

The lands that make up the modern territory of Ukraine have been home to different peoples, states, religions, and cultures.

In the 7th and 8th centuries BC, the warlike nomads Scythians lived on the lands of modern Ukraine, as attested to by Greek and Roman historians, including Herodotus. The Scythians traded with the Greeks and fought with the Persians. Great Scythia fell into decline when these lands were taken over by another nomadic people, the Sarmatians.

Later, Slavs settled on the territory of modern Ukrainian lands. Over time, the Slavic ancestors of Ukrainians formed a powerful medieval state called Rus’, or Rus’ Land. This state reached its peak at the turn of the 11th century. About 100,000 people lived in Kyiv, the modern capital of Ukraine, which exceeded the total population of London and Paris at that time.

In the 13th century, Rus' princes were the first in Europe to face the Mongol invasion, which weakened the state. Most of the Ukrainian lands fell under Mongol rule or became dependent on the Horde.

From the 14th to the 18th centuries, Ukrainian lands fell under the rule of neighboring states, Lithuania and Poland. Ukraine became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The next important stage in Ukraine's history was the uprising of 1648-1657 led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky, during which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lost control of the central part of the Ukrainian lands. The Ukrainian Cossack state, led by the hetman, emerged. 

At the same time, the Crimean Tatars were developing in their own state, the Crimean Khanate. History has united the Crimean Tatars and the Cossacks into a coalition and pitted them against each other in bloody battles. Eventually, both the Crimean state and the Hetmanate were conquered by Muscovy.

From the late 18th to the early 20th century, Ukrainian lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. In the 19th century, Ukrainians joined other Europeans in developing their national identity; the fight for the preservation of the Ukrainian language and culture developed into the struggle for civil and political rights. 

After the chaos of World War I and the fall of both empires in 1917-1921, Ukraine attempted to build its own nation-state. Eventually, it became a part of the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia in the interwar period. During the Second world war, the territory of Ukraine was one of the main places of the heavy battles against Nazi Germany and mass violence. In WW2, Ukraine lost 8-10 million people, including 1.5 million Jews killed by Nazis in the Holocaust.

The period when Ukraine was ruled by the totalitarian Soviet regime was full of tragedies, from forced collectivization and the Holodomors to deportations and cultural oppression.

In 1991, as the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine declared independence and became a free, democratic, and sovereign state within internationally recognized borders. In 2014, these borders were violated by Russia, which illegally occupied Crimea and moved its troops into eastern Ukraine. Since then, the hostilities in eastern Ukraine have not stopped.

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and Ukraine is still living in the reality of it. Ukrainians are fighting for their independence and the right to be free, liberating their villages and towns occupied by Russia. This unprovoked war is once again costing many Ukrainian lives.

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