Ukraine History

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History[edit | edit source]

The history of Ukraine, like many countries in Eastern Europe, is complex. The area that is now Ukraine was occupied by various countries through the centuries and the boundaries changed numerous times. Places that are now in Ukraine may have belonged to a different country, such as Austria, Poland, or Russia. The modern territory of Ukraine has been home to a variety of ethnic and religious groups. Your ancestors may have been Ukrainian, German, Polish, Russian, Rusyn, Tatar or of another ethnic group. They may have been Catholic, Greek Catholic, Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, or some other religious confession. Historic changes have had a great impact on the records, affecting what kinds of records were kept, their and language format, and where the records are found today.

The origins of Ukraine was the center of the first eastern Slavic state, Kievan Rus', which was established in the 9th century and became the largest and most powerful state in Europe in the 10th and 11th centuries. Weakened by internal quarrels among princes and by Mongol invasions, Kievan Rus' was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

A new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. Despite continuous Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate managed to remain autonomous for well over 100 years. During the latter part of the 18th century, most Ukrainian ethnographic territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire. The Western areas of Bukowina, Galicia, and Transcarpathia were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during this time. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to bring about a short-lived period of independence from 1917 to 1920.

From 1921 to 1991, Ukraine was a republic of the Soviet Union. The following map shows how the boundaries of Ukraine changed from the Russian Empire Period to the Ukraine as a Republic of the USSR and as an independent nation.


Although final independence for Ukraine was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, democracy remained elusive. A peaceful mass protest "Orange Revolution" in the closing months of 2004 forced the authorities to overturn a rigged presidential election and to allow a new internationally monitored vote that swept into power a reformist slate under Viktor Yushchenko.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1569 - The Union of Lublin established the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and much Ukrainian territory was transferred from Lithuania to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, becoming Polish territory de jure
1657–1686 The Ruin was a devastating 30-year war among Russia, Poland, Turks and Cossacks for control of Ukraine, which occurred at about the same time as the Deluge of Poland. The wars escalated in intensity with hundreds of thousands of deaths
1688 - Tatars captured a record number of 60,000 Ukrainians
1737 - 1834 Expansion into the northern Black Sea littoral and the eastern Danube valley was a cornerstone of Russian foreign policy
1897 - According to the census, there were 223,000 ethnic Ukrainians in Siberia and 102,000 in Central Asia 1906 - An additional 1.6 million emigrated to the east in the ten years after the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway
1917 - 1925 The Russian Civil War devastated the whole Russian Empire including Ukraine. It left over 1.5 million people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the former Russian Empire territory
1921 - Most of Ukraine had been taken over by the Soviet Union
1932 - 1933 Holodomor was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions of Ukrainians
1941 - German armies invaded the Soviet Union initiating nearly four years of total war
1941 - More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers were killed or taken captive in Kiev with many suffering severe mistreatment when the German Army invaded
1986 - A reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history. At the time of the accident, 7 million people lived in the contaminated territories, including 2.2 million in Ukraine

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