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Cities in UKRAINE



Antiquity and Middle Ages

In ancient times, the Ukrainian territory was populated by different peoples. From the 7th to the 3rd century BCE, the Scythians lived in the interior and Greek settlers traded on the northern shores of the Black Sea.

In the 4th and 5th centuries AD, it was the Goths and Huns, who moved west through Ukraine. The Mongol invasion in the 13th century marked the end of the Kyiv Empire, which nationalists consider the first national Ukrainian state.

Polish influences

Kyiv was succeeded by the kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia, which however was incorporated by Lithuania and Poland in 1340 and 1349 respectively. Through the personal union between Poland and Lithuania, Ukraine came increasingly under the influence of Poland. Ukraine became increasingly colonized when the Union of Brest-Litovsk saw the affiliation of the Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church. The native nobility polonized completely while the bulk of the common people were made serfs. Many peasants fled to the Cossacks, who tried to remain independent by calling in the help of the Russian Tsar, who, in exchange for his supreme lordship to hetman (=chaplain to the Cossacks) Bogdan Khmelnitsky, promised to guarantee an autonomous Cossack state.

Russian influences

However, this soon proved to be an empty promise because at the Truce of Andrushovo in 1667, the left bank of the Dnieper and Kyiv and its surroundings came to Russia, and the right bank to Poland. During the Great Northern War, hetman Mazeppa still tried to regain independence, but it failed completely and in 1764 the last hetman was deposed. After the so-called Polish Partitions, most of Ukraine was under Russian influence, and among other things Galicia and some areas in Western Ukraine became Austrian.

In the nineteenth century, an opposition movement arose against the tsarist regime, which soon took on a nationalist character. That nationalism was nurtured from present-day Lvov (then: Lemberg) and further stimulated by the Russification policy of the Tsar of Russia. In the Austrian part of the Ukraine the situation at that time was much more favorable, although the influence of the Polish nobility became much stronger again. This in turn evoked a resistance movement, which was split into two directions: the People's Friends, who sought autonomy within the Habsburg monarchy, and the Muscovites, who targeted the Russians.

The Ukrainian SSR

The aspiring Russification policy, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of Russia as a German ally, had a strong impact on the situation in the Ukrainian territories after World War I. However, the Central Council or 'Rada', established in Kyiv in March 1917, failed to mobilize a successful independence movement. This only became fully apparent when on November 19, 1917, the SSR was nevertheless proclaimed, the Ukrainian Radjanska Sochalistichna Respoeblika (Russian: Ukrainian SSR), as a part of a federative Russian state.

However, the Bolshevik government refused to recognize the Rada, yet the proclamation of Ukraine as a sovereign state followed on January 22, 1918. A few days later, however, a Bolshevik-backed uprising broke out in Kyiv.

The Rada was able to maintain itself only with the support of German troops and by making peace with the Centrals in Moscow. Successive hetmen, however, failed to maintain themselves due to ongoing domestic problems and difficulties with the central authority in Moscow.

After the Russian Civil War and the Polish-Russian War of 1921, Ukraine, together with the Belarusian and Transcaucasian SSR, concluded a state treaty on December 30, 1922, to constitute the federal Soviet Union. Of the former Austrian parts of Ukraine, much of it had remained in Polish hands, Karpato-Ukraine joined Czechoslovakia, and Bukovina and Bessarabia were annexed to Romania.

Stalin period

The Ukraine was also hit by the hard hand of the new powerful man in Moscow, Joseph Stalin. The forced collectivization of agriculture and the great purges among the intelligentsia resulted in many victims. In the Polish part of Ukraine it did not take long before resistance organizations became active.

They thought they could make use of the German occupation in World War II for their nationalistic ideas, but that was not to be. The Germans had an even worse reign of terror than Stalin, and instead of being liberators, were now seen as enemies.

After the Second World War, several treaties were signed that included more and more Eastern European areas in the ´community of the Soviet brother peoples´.

In 1954, Crimea was annexed to the Ukrainian SSR and gradually developed into one of the most prosperous republics of the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union collapsed and nationalist movements rose again from hibernation. Elections to the Supreme Soviet in August 1990 brought Leonid Kravchuk to power, after which the call for independence was increasingly heard.

Ukraine Independent

After the failed August 1991 Communist coup in Moscow, Ukraine declared independence on August 24, 1991. On December 1, a large majority of the population voted to secede from the Soviet Union. This was followed on December 8 by the provisional conclusion, the signing with the Russian Federation and Belarus of the Minsk Accord. Here the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was established, effectively signaling the end of the Soviet Union.

Soon after, the Crimea issue and the Black Sea Fleet caused much disagreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The division of the Black Sea Fleet was not resolved until 1997.

The parliamentary elections of March and April 1994 produced a victory for Kuchma's communists, who defeated the incumbent President Kravchuk. The communist party had a large following in the Russian-speaking east of the country, where the population feared forced assimilation. Kuchma was a moderate reformer, but he also advocated closer relations with Russia. The parliament at the time, on the other hand, was quite conservative, and therefore opposed reform.

In January 1994, Ukraine, Russia, and the United States signed an agreement on the dismantling of Ukraine's nuclear weapons and their transfer to Russia. In February, Ukraine signed on to NATO's Partnership for Peace program.

In April 1995, Kuchma placed rebellious Crimea under his authority by decree, and in 1996 there was a tentative stabilization of the economy for the first time in a long time.

In mid-1996, Ukraine became a presidential republic with very far-reaching powers for the president, giving the government and parliament almost equal power. All this was enshrined in the new constitution, as was the autonomy of peninsula Crimea.

Relations with Russia continued to improve after 1997. The problem of the Black Sea fleet was solved, as was the use of the naval port of Sebastopol by the Russian Navy. The high point was a friendship treaty, in which the two countries recognized each other's territorial integrity.

In June 1997, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko was fired for his failed economic reform policies. Lazarenko's successor became Valeri Poestovoitenko.

The relationship between President Kuchma and the parliament remained precarious, even after the March 1998 elections won by the communists. The year 1998 was further marked by prolonged strikes in the coal mines and in education, due in part to wage and pension arrears. The economic crisis also continued unabated due to tax evasion, capital flight to foreign countries and an extensive black market. Because of all these factors, tax revenues continued to decline and much-needed economic reforms could not be implemented.

In 1999 Kuchma was re-elected president and his proposal to appoint the non-party director of the Ukrainian Central Bank, Viktor Yushchenko, as prime minister was accepted by parliament.

21st century

An important referendum was held on April 16, 2000. Almost 90% of the voters favored Kuchma's proposals to limit the powers of parliament.

In April 2001 Prime Minister Yushchenko was sent home by parliament because of his austerity policies. Moreover, his reforms of the economy posed too great a threat to the oligarchs, who had large industrial and commercial interests. Since Kuchma was very dependent on these oligarchs, he did not support Prime Minister Yushchenko. On top of that, the very popular Yushchenko was going to be a major contender for the presidency. Upon President Kuchma's nomination, Anatoli Kinach became the new prime minister in May. He continued the reform course of his predecessor at a slower pace.

A low point for Kuchma was the murder in 2001 of the critical journalist Gongadze. Kuchma was accused of inciting the murder. Abroad, the president was suspected of illegal arms trade and supplies, including to Iraq.

The elections of late March 2002 produced great ambiguity. The largest blocs were President Kuchma's United Ukraine and Former Prime Minister Yushchenko's Our Ukraine (Nasha Ukrainia). Ten smaller parties also gained seats in parliament.

The pro-Kuchma groups managed to win the majority in parliament, although Yushchenko's movement Our Ukraine was the clear winner. That majority in the Rada was due to the districts, where local authorities had favored the pro-presidential candidates.

All the affairs have turned Kuchma into a pariah internationally and into an isolationist in the country. Kuchma would like to become a member of the Euopean Union and NATO, but now really only finds support from the Kremlin.

In 2003, important but controversial votes were held the Ukrainian parliament. The amendments were pushed through while the opposition tried to block the proceedings. The proposals sought to strengthen the role of parliament by abolishing the directly elected president. It was also decided to reduce the independence of judges by tying their term of office to a term. Not only the opponents protested, the course of events led to very fierce reactions from the Council of Europe and the European Union. They criticized the manner and timing of the votes, just before the presidential elections of October 31, 2004. It seemed that those in power wanted to manipulate the constitution in their own interests.

In November/December 2004, a major political crisis erupted in Ukraine due to disagreements over the results of the November 21 presidential election. According to the opposition led by the pro-Western Yushchenko, the results had been rigged in favor of the Russian-backed Prime Minister Yanukovych. International observers also noted massive fraud.

Leaders of pro-Russian regions in eastern Ukraine even threatened to declare autonomy if new elections were held as desired by President Kuchma. He strongly opposed a new third round of elections.

On December 1, Ukraine's parliament withdrew its confidence in the government. On December 4, the Supreme Court declared the November 21 elections invalid and ruled that new presidential elections should be held. The re-elections were held on December 26, 2004 and won by the pro-Western Yushchenko by a difference of 8 percentage points.

Yanukovych in turn accused former Prime Minister Yushchenko of fraud during the elections and filed several complaints with the Supreme Court. But Supreme Court Chairman Anatoli Yarema said the latest verdict was "final and no more appeals possible." The complainant had not been able to substantiate its claims, the court said.

Victor Yushchenko was inaugurated as president of Ukraine on Sunday, January 23, 2005.

On March 26, 2006, parliamentary elections took place which international observers declared as "free and fair. With these, Ukraine took an important step toward economic and political reform. After months of coalition negotiations, Viktor Yanukovych was appointed Prime Minister on August 4 after negotiations between the orange coalition partners Our Ukraine and Blok Yulia Tymoshenka failed. Yanukovych's coalition government consists of the 'Party of Regions', President Yushchenko's 'Our Ukraine', the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. In the parliament, by the way, "Our Ukraine" belongs to the opposition.

A number of 'Our Ukraine' ministers were voted out of the cabinet by the parliament for various reasons, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Tarashuk). President Yushchenko did not accept the parliament's decision on Tarashuk at first, by the way, because the appointment of foreign and defense ministers is done by the president himself. (On the dismissal procedure and the division of power between president and parliament, the Constitution does not provide sufficient clarity.) Nevertheless, Tarashuk resigned at the end of January 2007. It is still too early to conclude whether foreign policy will undergo a substantial change as a result of this resignation.

Political parties are quite loosely organized in Ukraine. Until Tymoshenko's resignation, Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine," the "Yulia Tymoshenko" bloc, and Volodymyr Lytvyn's "People's Party" formed a coalition ahead of the March 2006 parliamentary elections. The Social Democratic Party and Ukrainian Regions were their main opponents. Also of interest are the Communist Party of Ukraine and Socialist Party of Ukraine.

Another issue in domestic politics is that of the "oligarchs" (wealthy businessmen, who are in effect the successors to the former communist "nomenklatura"). There are extensive regional political clan structures, in which the business community intervenes in politics. For example, the oligarchs control the media. They supported Kuchma's government and still dominate a (large) part of the parliament and regional governors. As a result, Yushchenko does not have a stable majority in parliament. A final problem is widespread corruption. Yushchenko has promised to put an end to this. To date, little progress seems to have been made here.

In December 2007, Ukraine's parliament elected Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister. Tymoshenko received 226 votes, the smallest possible majority in parliament. Although Yushchenko and Tymoshenko clashed continuously after the Orange Revolution they led, they formed a coalition after the last elections. In October 2008, Yushchenko dissolved parliament to pave the way for elections, but in December of that year, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko decided to put aside their differences to revive the coalition. In January 2009, Russia decides to cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine. In late January, Russia and Ukraine resolve their disagreement and conclude a ten-year contract. In April 2009, the parliament decides that there will be new presidential elections.

In February 2010, Yanukovytsy is declared the winner of the election, Tymoshenko does not recognize the result. In March 2010, Tymoshenko resigns after a vote of no confidence. Mykola Azarov, Yanukovych's ally becomes the new prime minister. In October 2011, Tymoshenko is sentenced to prison for alleged abuse of power. In October 2012 are the first parliamentary elections since Yanukovych took office, his party wins the elections. Meanwhile, Ukraine's relationship with Russia and the European Union plays a major role. There are mass protests against the government in early 2014. The protesters want to seek rapprochement with the European Union, while the government seeks support from Russia.

In February 2014, Yanukovych is deposed and Tymoshenko is released. Turchynov is appointed interim prime minister. There is talk of new presidential elections in the spring, which are won by Poroshenko. In March 2014 the situation is very unsettled, Russia sends military forces to Crimea and Ukraine becomes the plaything of a political power game. In July 2014 there is a new low, a Malaysia Airways commercial aircraft is shot out of the sky over the territory of Ukraine. This happened in a region controlled by Russian separatists. There were 298 people in that plane, including 194 Dutch, no one survived the crash. International relations are tense.

In October 2014, pro-Western parties win parliamentary elections. Arseny Yatseniuk becomes the new prime minister. In 2015 and 2016, tensions continue in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and the government army. In July 2017, the Association Agreement with the EU is signed. In May 2019, television comedian Volodymyr Zelensky wins the second round of the presidential election with a landslide victory over incumbent President Petro Poroshenko; he appoints Oleksiy Honcharuk as prime minister. In October 2019, Ukraine becomes embroiled in a U.S. impeachment row over allegations that President Trump is trying to pressure the country over investigating his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden. President Zelensky appoints former businessman Denys Shmyhal as prime minister in March 2020 with a mandate to boost industrial recovery and improve tax revenues. In late 2021 and early 2022, Russia assembles a large force on the border with Ukraine. There is a danger of invasion. The West threatens heavy sanctions.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky rallies resistance to the invasion. Russia initially takes large areas of eastern Ukraine as part of its attempt to overthrow the government. Russia forces attempt to take Kyiv as part of their initial offensive. Ukrainian forces launch a counter-attack in March, driving the Russians back from the area. In August Ukraine launches a major counter-offensive in the south-east, recapturing the city of Kherson in November and pushing Russian forces back across the Dnipro river. Zelensky is named Person of the Year 2022 by Time magazine. On December 21, 2022, Zelensky will visit Washington DC where he will speak with President Biden and deliver an English speech to both chambers of the US Congress.


Bassis, V. / Ukraine
Marshall Cavendish

Corona, L. / Ukraine
Lucent Books

Hove, P. ten / Schets van Oekraïne
Stichting Platform Samenwerking Nederland-Oekraïne

Minbuza Stichting Platform Samenwerking Nederland-Oekraïne

Otfinoski, S. / Ukraine
Facts on File

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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