The Ukranians live in Tyumen oblast,
Moscow, Krasnodar kray, Primoye kray, Rostov, Leningrad, Voronezh
oblasts, St.Perersburg, Krasnoyarsk kray, Khabarovsk kray, Chelyabinsk,
Murmansk, Omsk, Orenburg, Saratov oblasts.
Titular nation in Ukraine. Diaspora in Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus,
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Georgia, Estonia, Lithuania, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Canada, USA, Poland, Argentina,
Brazil, Great Britain.
Religion: Orthodox Christians, Uniate catholics
The area of present-day Ukraine has
been populated since the Lower Paleolithic Era 300,000 years ago,
associated with the Neanderthals. During the Neolithic period (5000-1800
B.C.) the area was home to the sophisticated Trypilian culture,
that for some time was the most advanced in all of Europe and influenced
the early Greek and Aegean civilisations. During the Bronze, the
Iron and the Middle Ages, there were numerous nomadic incursions
into the steppe regions of Ukraine. The first slavic elements appeared
in the first c. A.D.
By the 6th c., the Slavs were already sub-divided into three linguistic
sub-groups. The Ukrainians emerged from the East-Slavic groups associated
with the proto-Slavic Antes.
The history of Ukraine and the Ukrainians is marked by a high degree
of discontinuity between its major epochs, and statelessness and
loss of elites has often made the Ukrainians strangers in their
Both the Ukrainians and the Russians
claim the medieval Kievan empire as part of their respective legacies.
The epoch of Kievan Rus (10th through 13th c.) can count as one
of three distinct historical epochs in Ukraine. The formation of
this state dates back to the 6th c., but it was not until the arrival
of the Varyag (Viking) Rurik dynasty, in the 9th c., that it grew
to prominence. Varyag barbarism ended with Prince Volodomyr the
Great, who converted his people to Christianity in 988. In the next
two centuries, Kiev became a great centre in its own right, breaking
free from Byzantium. Kiev fell to the Mongols in 1240. The western
parts of present-day Ukraine remained sovereign until the ruling
dynasty died out, and it was parceled out between the other powers
of the region. The division between Estern and Western Ukrainians
was further strengthened by Union of Brest in 1596, when the Western
Ukrainians declared loyalty to the Church of Rome, creating the
Ukrainian Greco-Catholic (Uniate) Church.
The second epoch is the Cossack period
(16th through early 18th c.), during which a short-lived state was
formed. The Zaporozhe Cossacks grew strong during the last half
of the 16th c., through military excellence in armed attacks on
the Tatars and Turks around the Black Sea. The Polish government
grrew concerned about their growing power, and tried to keep their
numbers down. In 1648, Ukrainian Cossack discontent exploded into
a war of national liberation. In the course of the war, the Ukrainian
hetmanate, a Cossack state divided into military regiments, was
formed. In 1654, hetman Kmelntskiy signed the fateful Treaty of
Pereyaslav, which placed Ukraine under the protectorate of the tsar
of Muscovy. This union helped against the Poles, but tied Ukraine's
fortunes to Russia. Under hetman Ivan Mazepa, the Ukrainians made
their most dramatic attempt to break free from Moscow, seeking an
alliance with King Charles XII of Sweden. With the defeat at Poltava
in 1709, Eastern Ukraine fell unquestionably under Russian control.
With the partitions of Poland later in the century, the remaining
Ukrainian lands were also brought under direct Russian control.
The third epoch of Ukrainian state history
is the period of tsarist-Soviet domination (from the 18th century
By the end of the 18th c., the last Zaporozhian Sich (Cossack stronghold)
was destroyed and the hetmanate itself officially abolished by an
order from Empress Catherine II. The policies of Catherine II and
the tsars to follow were repressive. Serfdom was introduced under
Catherine II, and the otherwise so progressive Alexander II (reigned
1855-81) in 1873 issued the "Ems Ukaz", among other things
banning the use of Ukrainian language in print. This was his response
to growing Cossack nostalgia and national revival among the Ukrainians
since around 1840. National romanticism was fused with the ideas
of Enlightenment in the works of people like Taras Shevchenko (1814-61)
and Myhailo Drahomanov (1841-95) among others.
The Ems Ukaz didn't stop the national movement. Parties were founded,
elites and masses were reconciled, but still, when World War 1 came
in 1914, the movement was in its early stages. Still, following
the Russian revolution and the tsar's abdication, there was a short
attempt at an independent Ukrainian statehood from 1917 to 1921.
The eastern and western parts of Ukraine united in 1919, after the
western parts had just declared independence from Austria-Hungary,
but the new state was simultaneously at war with Poland and Russia.
In 1921, once again, Ukraine was divided by foreign powers, the
lion's share going to the Soviets, and Galicia to Poland.
The Bolsheviks started out with purging
the intelligentsia and terrorizing the peasants. From 1923 there
was a short period of relative freedom, but then came Stalin. Forced
collectivisation alone killed between 7,000,000 and 10,000,000 people
by causing a terrible famine in 1932/33, and Ukrainian elites and
independent farmers were purged in what has been known as the "Yezhovshchina"
(after Yezhov, the commissar of internal security).
With the Nazi-Soviet Non-Agression Pact of 1939, the Soviet Union
annexed Galicia (Western Ukraine) directly into the Ukrainian SSR.
The year after, Bokovina and Bessarabia were annexed from Romania,
and the Ukrainian areas intergrated in the Ukrainian SSR, the rest
made into the Moldovan SSR. Then, in June 1941, the Germans broke
the Non-Aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union. They rapidly
advanced through Ukraine. In their retreat, the Soviets carried
out mass executions of political prisoners. The Germans followed
suit. In the fall of 1941, they started a mass extermination of
Jews, intellectuals and prisoners of war. Some 3,000,000 Ukrainians
were sent to Germany as 'East Workers'. In 1943, the Germans began
their retreat, destroying towns and villages on the way, and driving
the population westwards. Many Ukrainians ended up as displaced
persons after the war. Many of them could never return to Ukraine,
and spread to different corners of the world, creating the Ukrainian
The Soviets took over control, and until
the end of the war, they gave concessions to Ukrainian culture and
nationality. Repression and campaigns against "bourgeois nationalism"
were resumed in 1946, however, and the Secret Police battled Ukrainian
partisans. The Ukrainian Uniate Church was formally dissolved in
1946. Many Ukrainians were deported to Siberia and Central Asia,
and Russian immigration to Ukraine was increased.
After Stalin's death in 1953, repression was relaxed. By the early
1960s, one could witness a Ukrainian renaissance in the cultural
spheres. Some political demands were also raised after the authorities
again tried to repress the national sentiments. As soon as Khrushchov
was removed from power in 1963, the authorities again resoted to
tougher measures. Members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were arrested
and sentenced to work in labour camps.
With Gorbachov's reforms, there was again room for Ukrainian nationalism
to grow. In July 1990, the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, led by Leonid
Kravchuk, declared Ukrainian sovereignty, its right to a national
army, supremacy of republican authority over Ukraine's territories
and Ukraine as a nuclear-free zone. A rererendum in the spring of
1991 supported both the sovereignty declaration and Gorbachov's
"renewed Soviet federation".