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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Ukrainian People's Republic
AD 1917 - 1920
Incorporating Ukrainian People's Republic (1917-1918), Ukrainian State (1918), & West Ukrainian People's Republic (1918-1919)

Starting out as a Slavic settlement which was quickly conquered by the Rus of Novgorod, the grand principality of Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name), became a major Rus power until 1169, when the city was sacked and the seat officially moved northwards to Vladimir. After that Kyiv suffered from short-lived periods of governance until the Mongol advance changed the situation.

Lithuania incorporated Kyiv into its domains around 1321, downgrading this Eastern European principality in 1470 to the voivodeship of Kyiv as Lithuania itself became increasingly dominated by Poland. The Union of Lublin in 1569 was a formal joining together of Poland, Lithuania, and Ruthenia (including the now Polish-Lithuanian voivodeship of Kyiv), plus Livonia, Polotsk, and Samogitia.

The late eighteenth century termination of the Polish-Lithuanian state also brought to an end a thousand years of territorial organisation which had originally been formed around Kyiv as a Rus principality. From now on the concept of a single state known as Ukraine would come to dominate thinking.

The October Revolution of 1917, which replaced post-imperial Russia's unstable republican government, created a communist state. However, the Bolsheviks swept away the old administrative order in favour of regional 'soviets'. The new government, far from stable itself, also badly handled what remained of Soviet Russia's First World War effort, holding out for a beneficial peace agreement with Germany and being forced instead to accept the harsh terms of the Brest-Litovsk treaty.

As a result of that and far too many reforms in too short a period, Russia began losing control over many of its outlying states and provinces, including of course those which had been handed over to Germany under the terms of the treaty, such as Bessarabia, Byelorussia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russian Poland, and the ancient western Ukrainian territories, plus Crimea, the industrial Donetz basin and, on 8 May 1918, the Don. It took the collapse of imperial Germany and three long years of civil war before the Russian empire could be reborn under Soviet control.

Socialist control of Ukraine had been instigated in March 1917, immediately after Russia's February Revolution. In reaction to the October Revolution, the Ukrainian People's Republic was declared on 20 November 1917 as part of a federal Russian republic (effectively the anti-communist side of the approaching civil war).

A rival communist Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets was established in Kharkiv in the east, in December 1917, two days after the city had been occupied by the Bolsheviks. The situation escalated when Kyiv declared Ukrainian independence from Moscow on 22 January 1918, and it only became more messy and complicated as further events unfolded. Successive republics are shown below in bold text.

Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), from Encyclopedia Lituanica, Sužiedėlis Simas (Ed, Boston, 1970-1978), from Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Europa Publications (Eds, Taylor & Francis Group, 1999), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and And it was given the name of Kyiv, Oleg Yastrubov, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and How DO you pronounce Kyiv, anyway? (University of Kansas News Service on YouTube).)

1917 - 1918

The socialist Ukrainian People's Republic lasts between its formation in March 1917 and April 1918. Then the socialist authority which is wielded by this republican government is suspended. The government is overthrown by a pro-German 'Ukrainian State', commanded by Pavlo Skoropadskyi following his election as hetman by a peasant's congress.

Symon Petliura with Ukrainian troops in May 1920
A later dominant leader of the directorate of the Ukrainian People's Republic, Symon Petliura stands with Ukrainian troops in Kyiv in May 1920, prior to the Ukrainian-Polish 'Kyiv Offensive' which would ultimately fail

He is a descendant of Ivan Skoropadskyi, a hetman of the Cossack Hetmanate, with Pavlo's own 'election' being very much in the same style as those former elections to leadership. However, his position is not a universally-mandated one, but is imposed.

1918

Pavlo Skoropadskyi

'Hetman of Ukraine'. Descendant of Ivan Skoropadskyi.

1918

On 1 November 1918 the West Ukrainian People's Republic is declared in eastern areas of the former satellite kingdom of Galicia & Lodomeria. Its ruler is the dictator (his official title from July 1919), Yevhen Petrushevych, who sets about attempting to form a Galician Ukrainian state.

In touch with the provisional Czechoslovakian government, a Czech Legion of 40,000 Czech former prisoners of war in Ukraine organises itself to evacuate to France via Vladivostok, where it is hoped it will join the allied forces on the Western Front.

Although the force initially maintains neutrality between the Bolsheviks (from Kharkiv in the case of Ukraine) and the White Russians (generally - but not universally - allies of Kyiv) in the civil war, attempts by the Bolsheviks to disarm them leads to the Czech Legion taking command of the entire Trans-Siberian railway and cutting off Siberia and the Urals from Soviet control.

Prague in October 1918
October 1918 was a month of turmoil and rapid change in the collapsing empire of Austria-Hungary, with this photo of Prague capturing a mass rally in support of Czech independence

This allows White Russian forces to assemble under Admiral Kolchak and to pose a severe threat to Moscow's authority (in the end, the Czech Legion is extracted by a joint American-Japanese bridgehead established at Vladivostok in 1920).

1918 - 1919

Yevhen Petrushevych

Dictator in eastern Galicia. Unified with socialist Ukraine.

1918

Skoropadskyi's rule lasts until later in November 1918 and the First World War armistice in Europe, although in that time he has largely rid Ukraine of communist forces. Then a month-long Ukrainian civil war sees a socialist rebellion replacing his now-unbacked government with the re-established Ukrainian People's Republic.

1919 - 1920

The West Ukrainian People's Republic under its dictator, Yevhen Petrushevych, joins the directorate of the people's republic as part of the terms of a resolution following the unification of the two Ukrainian states on 22 January 1919. The republic of Verkhovyna joins Sub-Carpathian Rus which itself soon gains union with Czechoslovakia.

Vienna in 1918
With the various peoples who made up its ethnically-diverse population pulling apart from it in 1918, Vienna was left with a rump state which greatly reduced its power and significance in post-Austro-Hungarian empire Europe

At the same time, the Russo-Polish War is ignited between Poland and Ukraine on one side and the Soviets on the other over the creation of the Second Polish Republic and the somewhat uncertain borders on its eastern flank. Polish leader Józef Piłsudski considers this the best opportunity to restore Poland to its former greatness, and he leads his troops into both Vilnius (part of the fairly brief Polish-Lithuanian War) and Kyiv, occupying western Ukraine.

The Ukrainian side of the conflict is also known as the Russo-Ukrainian War (or Soviet-Ukrainian War in attempts to remove 'Russia' from any Soviet-related activities), Kyiv falls to the Bolsheviks in February 1919 while Ukraine is also being pushed in from the west by the Poles. The troops of the former West Ukrainian People's Republic join the republic's own forces in June 1919, having already lost Galicia.

Red Guard forces are largely pushed out of Ukraine in the summer and autumn by White Guard forces. Then disease breaks out and frequent Red Guard counter-attacks mean that Kyiv cannot be recaptured and held by the directorate.

Instead it is pushed far back during a counter-offensive. Latvia is drawn into the conflict in September 1919 when it takes part with Poland in Operation Winter, which results in a joint victory at Daugavpils (Dyneburg) in Latvia on 15 January 1920.

Russo-Polish War
Polish Renault FT-17 tanks during Operation Winter, Poland's joint operation with the republic of Latvia and Ukrainian forces during autumn 1919

1920 - 1921

The short-lived Galitzian Socialist Soviet Republic is declared at Ternopol in eastern Galicia, and the Polish-Lithuanian War is briefly fought over control of Vilnius. With Poland the victor, the equally short-lived 'Republic of Central Lithuania' is formed (later to be transformed into a Polish voivodeship).

Ukraine's directorate forces are pushed entirely out of Ukraine during the spring of 1920 and into extended Polish territory. Now largely united with Poland, both forces again advance. A ceasefire is agreed with the Soviets in October 1920 and Vilnius is regained (to be held until 1939).

The Peace of Riga is signed on 18 March 1921, which formally divides disputed territory between the Soviets and Poles, with the area which forms modern Belarus effectively split in half.

Galicia remains within the new Poland (modern western Ukraine), and the easternmost parts of Lithuania also remain part of Poland. Western Ukraine is divided between Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, while eastern Ukraine is drawn into the Soviet-controlled Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1920
Kyiv was all-too-briefly liberated from the Soviet forces in late spring 1920, but a Red Army counter-offensive thrust out the socialist forces and retained a large area of Ukraine under Soviet control

1922 - 1924

The victorious Bolsheviks form the Soviet Union with the unification of the former empire's various new republics into the Russian socialist republic. The other founder members are the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (eastern Ukraine), and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Lenin is confirmed as the union's leader, but his death in 1924 leaves a troika (triumvirate) collective leadership in place. The central committee's general secretary, Joseph Stalin, quickly suppresses his opposition which is headed by Leon Trotsky, sometimes violently. He assumes leadership of the union, still as general secretary (although he assumes the dual role of Soviet premier from 1941).

Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR)
AD 1922 - 1991

The grand principality of Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name), became a major Rus power in the ninth century, lasting until 1169, when Vladimir gained ascendancy. A century later the arrival of the Mongols changed things, with western Rus lands (mainly within Ukraine), including Kyiv, largely falling to Lithuania (around 1321).

The principality was downgraded in 1470 to the voivodeship of Kyiv as Lithuania itself became increasingly dominated by Poland. The Union of Lublin in 1569 was a formal joining together of Poland, Lithuania, and Ruthenia (including the now Polish-Lithuanian voivodeship of Kyiv).

The fall of Poland-Lithuania at the end of the eighteenth century saw Romanov Russia gain control of the majority of today's Ukraine, but the October Revolution of 1917 created a communist state. However, Bolshevik changes were too heavy-handed and sudden. The new government, far from stable itself, also badly handled what remained of Russia's First World War effort. As a result it began losing control over many of its outlying states and provinces. It took the collapse of imperial Germany and three long years of civil war before the Russian empire could be reborn under Soviet control.

Socialist control of Ukraine had been instigated in March 1917, immediately after Russia's February Revolution. In reaction to the October Revolution, the Ukrainian People's Republic was declared on 20 November 1917. A rival communist Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets was established in Kharkiv in the east, but this was quickly expelled from the country.

The situation escalated when Kyiv declared Ukrainian independence from Moscow on 22 January 1918. The civil war lasted until 1920 from Ukraine's standpoint, by which time all but the westernmost portions of the country were under confirmed Russian control.

Soviet Ukraine was organised into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In this form it was one of the founder members of the Soviet Union, albeit as a puppet state. The capital initially was Kharkiv, but in 1934 this was changed to Kyiv. Ruling leaders of the Soviet Union are shown in light grey.

Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), from Encyclopedia Lituanica, Sužiedėlis Simas (Ed, Boston, 1970-1978), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and And it was given the name of Kyiv, Oleg Yastrubov, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and How DO you pronounce Kyiv, anyway? (University of Kansas News Service on YouTube).)

1918 - 1924

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov / Lenin

Bolshevik & Soviet leader. Confirmed 1922. Died.

1922

The victorious Bolsheviks form the Soviet Union with the unification of the former empire's various new republics with the Russian republic. The other three signatories are the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Lenin and the October Revolution
Vladimir Lenin was the figurehead of the October Revolution and also its key instigator and controller, but the revolution plunged Russia into three years of bitter civil war

1924 - 1953

Joseph Stalin

Soviet leader (in the role of general secretary). Died.

1927

With western Byelorussia and Ukraine still within the Second Polish Republic, an early phase of liberalisation is turning towards repression and Polish nationalism, while the very same process is also taking place in Germany, albeit with more dramatic results.

Belarussians and Ukrainians have generally been refused the right of undertaking any free national development. A Belarusian organisation by the name of the Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union is now banned, and opposition to the Polish government is met by state repression, more so in Ukraine which is much more politically active than Byelorussia.

In Soviet Ukraine, a process of Ukrainisation is underway, with ethnic Ukrainians being placed in leading positions and the Ukrainian language being pushed to the fore. This progression lasts until 1932 and the great famine of Joseph Stalin's dictatorship.

1932 - 1933

Less than a decade of Stalin's economic changes, plus the imprisonment of millions of people in correctional labour camps and a brutal reorganisation of agricultural practices, results in a catastrophic famine throughout the Soviet empire. The 'breadbasket of Europe', Ukraine, is especially badly hit, with the famine being known as the Holodomor, 'extermination by hunger'. Other Soviet states also suffer, such as Armenia, but perhaps not quite as badly.

Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin, who was born in Georgia, led the Soviet Union away from its initial idealistic concept of equal citizenship for all and instead instituted a brutal regime of fear

1939 - 1940

The Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1 September is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Britain pledged to support Poland, both countries have no option but to declare war on 3 September, although nothing can be done to alleviate Poland's suffering at the hands of the invaders. As part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviets invade Poland from the east on 17 September, and they annexe western Ukraine and west Byelorussia on 28 September.

On 6 October the last Polish troops surrender, but thousands of Poles, both military and civilian, escape the country to form Polish units with the allied powers, including Polish naval vessels which serve in the Atlantic and fighter pilots who help defend Britain during the Battle of Britain.

The German-occupied zone of Poland, which includes Danzig, Pozen, Silesia, and West Prussia, is partially annexed to Germany. Six days later, the remaining sections of Poland are formed into the 'General Government for the Occupied Polish Territories' which, on 31 July 1940, is re-titled the 'General Government'.

German troops enter Poland on 1 September 1939
Nazi-led German troops are shown here progressing in good order through a Polish town on the first day of the invasion, 1 September 1939

1940

Russia seizes Bessarabia, between the rivers Dniester and Prut, before Rumania can become an active ally of Nazi Germany. The seizure is made under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The industrialised territory to the east of the Dniester, generally known as Trans-Dniester or the Dniester region, is taken from Ukraine and combined with Bessarabia to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

1941

Germany takes over the Soviet-occupied areas on 21 June 1941. These are divided between the General Government and the Reichskommissariat Ostland and Ukraine. On 1 August, Eastern Galicia is added to the General Government.

1945

With the troops of Soviet Russia now thick on the ground in Eastern Europe, Stalin organises the formation of pro-communist governments in many of the region's states. Czechoslovakia's brief 'Third Republic' is quickly snuffed out and a communist republic replaces it. The former Czechoslovakian region of Sub-Carpathian Rus joins the Ukrainian SSR and never returns to Czechoslovakian rule.

Berlin 1945
Poet Yevgeny Dolmatovski recites his works on Berlin's Pariser Platz just a few days after the German surrender - a remarkable poetry recital with the bullet-riddled Brandenburg Gate flanked by ruins and two tank barrels hovering above the heads of soldiers

1953 - 1964

Nikita Kruschev

Soviet leader (as first secretary & premier). Died 1971.

1954

Crimea, until now an autonomous republic, is attached to Ukraine, a gift by the new post-Stalin controllers of the Soviet empire. The peninsula had largely been independent territory under the Crimean khanate while technically being subject to Ottoman control. Under Russian and Soviet control between 1783 and 1954 it had been shuttled between no less than fourteen administrative bodies, including the Ukrainian People's Republic.

1964 - 1982

Leonid Brezhnev

Soviet leader (as general secretary). Died in office.

1982 - 1984

Yuri Andropov

Soviet leader (as general secretary). Died in office.

1984 - 1985

Konstantin Chernenko

Soviet leader (as general secretary). Died in office.

1985 - 1991

Mikhail Gorbachev

Soviet leader (as general secretary and president).

1986

On 26 April 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine suffers a catastrophic meltdown. The disaster immediately rings alarm bells around the world but the Soviet government attempts to invoke a cover-up. About eight per cent of Ukraine's territory is contaminated by the resultant radiation cloud, while the majority of the fallout takes place over neighbouring Byelorussia. Millions suffer as a result, not least those closest to the explosion who are quickly and painfully killed by radiation-induced illnesses.

Chernobyl, a few weeks after the meltdown
The greatest nuclear-related disaster of the twentieth century aside from the twin detonations at Nagasaki and Hiroshima was the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine which sent out a great cloud of radiation across areas of central and Eastern Europe

1991

On Christmas Day the USSR's President Gorbachev announces the termination of the Soviet communist state. The Soviet republics become independent sovereign states (if they had not already become so since 1989), including Belarus, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, North Ossetia, Poland, Romania, Transnistria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Many of those lying further east (outside of Europe) elect to join the new Confederation of Independent States - still strongly controlled from Moscow. Cuba, a staunch Soviet ally, suffers badly from the fall of its only supplier of oil and many major foodstuffs. Ukraine is reborn as an independent democratic republic, albeit retaining its communist-era constitution until 1996.

Modern Ukraine
AD 1991 - Present Day

Today's Ukraine is a unitary republic which is governed under a semi-presidential system. That system is moving increasingly towards strengthening ties with the rest of Europe outside Russia (especially after the events of 2022). The nation's capital is the former Rus mother city of Kyiv (the twentieth century translation - Moscow's translation - of the Slavic name as 'Kiev' is now outdated).

The nation state of Ukraine is neighboured to the west by Moldova (and Transnistria), and by Romania both via its Black Sea corridor and in western Ukraine, where it also borders Hungary and Slovakia. To the north-west it borders Poland, and to the north Belarus and Russia, with the latter also surrounding it to the east.

The city of Kyiv was already an important settlement in the ninth century AD. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, two boyars (nobles) by the name of Askold and Dir sailed down the Dnieper from Novgorod. With a force of Vikings behind them, they took control of a settlement on a hill and freed the locals from Khazar dominance.

In 882, Oleg, the new ruler of Novgorod, embarked on a campaign which saw him capture the early settlements of Smolensk and Lyubech. Upon reaching Kyiv he slew the upstart boyars who thought they could found their own state, and declared Kyiv to be the mother of the cities of the Rus. He subsequently ruled there as the chief amongst the Rus princes, beginning a line of grand princes who would dominate Rus affairs for over two and-a-half centuries.

When the north, firstly in the form of Vladimir and then by the principality of Moscow, grabbed power by force, Kyiv declined in influence before becoming part of Lithuania as the principality of Kyiv, and then part of the Polish Commonwealth as the voivodeship of Kyiv. A few centuries later, defeat of the Ukrainian People's Republic saw the territory incorporated into the Soviet Union.

As Europe's second largest country, Ukraine is a land of wide, fertile agricultural plains, with large pockets of heavy industry in the east. While Ukraine and Russia share common historical origins, the west of the country has closer ties with its European neighbours, particularly Poland thanks especially to the commonwealth period. An illustration of the shared heritage of this region is Galicia, which today is split between south-eastern Poland and western Ukraine, into the provinces of Westgalizien and Ostgalizien respectively, with the Pripet marshes immediately to the east (now in Belarus).

Eastern Ukraine became heavily industrialised in the twentieth century and contains a significant population of ethnic Russians, especially in the easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk where Russian is the dominant language. A wide swathe from Kharkiv to Odessa speaks both languages, while the north and west of Ukraine is largely ethnically Ukrainian. Ukraine's southernmost region is Crimea (Russian-occupied from 2014), which has a sixty percent Russian population.

However, the general Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 triggered a social movement in which Russian-speaking Ukrainians began to learn Ukrainian as their main language, and became more vocal in their support of a free and fair Ukraine over a repressive and stagnating Russia. In effect, Valdimir Putin's invasion and failed land-grab did more to create a united Ukraine - and one which enjoyed ever deepening ties with the majority of free European states - than anything before it.

Since 1991 the act of referring to the modern state as 'The Ukraine' is incorrect both grammatically and politically, as confirmed by Oksana Kyzyma of the embassy of Ukraine in London: 'Ukraine is both the conventional short and long name of the country. This name is stated in the Ukrainian "Declaration of Independence" and its constitution'.

The use of the article relates to the time prior to independence in 1991, when Ukraine was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, being known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Since the expiration of the Soviet system it should merely be 'Ukraine', especially as there is no definite article in the Ukrainian or Russian languages.

There is another theory about why 'The Ukraine' crept into the English language. Professor Anatoly Liberman of the University of Minnesota who specialises in etymology is of the opinion that those who called it that in English must have known that the word meant 'borderland', so quite naturally they referred to it as 'the borderland'. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians probably decided that the article denigrated their country (by identifying it as part of Russia) and abolished 'the' while speaking English, so now it is simply 'Ukraine'. As well as being a form of linguistic independence in Europe, it is also hugely symbolic for Ukrainians.


Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the John De Cleene Archive, from Report for Selected Countries and Subjects, World Economic Outlook Database, October 2014, from the UN Data Country Profile, and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Christianity faces biggest schism in a millennium (The Week), and Ukraine announces independent Orthodox church (The Guardian), and Eastern Ukraine on peacekeeping duties (The Guardian), and How DO you pronounce Kyiv, anyway? (University of Kansas News Service on YouTube), and Enemy tongue (The Guardian), and Ukraine: The Latest (The Telegraph, via YouTube and podcast).)

1991 - 1994

Leonid Kravchuk

First president of an independent Ukraine. No party.

1991 - 1994

Following independence from the former Soviet empire on 24 August 1991, the new country's first president is former Communist Party official, Leonid Kravchuk. He presides over the rapid economic decline and runaway inflation which is affecting most of the former Soviet states.

Boris Yeltsin in 1991
Boris Yeltsin won mass popular support during his leading role in thwarting the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991

1991 - 1994

Following independence from the former Soviet empire on 24 August 1991, the new country's first president is former Communist Party official, Leonid Kravchuk. He presides over the rapid economic decline and runaway inflation which is affecting most of the former Soviet states.

His successor, Leonid Kuchma, oversees a steady economic recovery, but is accused by the opposition of conceding too much to Russian economic interests.

1994 - 2005

Leonid Kuchma

President. No party.

1994 - 2004

Opposition grows against Kuchma, further fed by discontent at controls on media freedom, manipulation of the political system, and cronyism. The attempt by the authorities to rig the 2004 presidential elections leads to the 'Orange Revolution', with reference to the colour of the main opposition movement.

2004 - 2008

Mass protests, a revolt by state media against government controls, and the fracturing of the governing coalition brings in European Union mediation and a re-run of the election. The euphoria of the Orange Revolution protesters gives way to disappointment as its leaders squabble once in power.

Orange Revolution
The Orange Revolution was an almost nationwide upsurge of anti-corruption feeling which delivered Ukraine its first truly free and fair democratic elections

2005 - 2010

Viktor Yushchenko

President. 'Our Ukraine'.

A fragile alliance of anti-Kuchma forces unites behind the winner of the presidential elections, pro-western former prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko. He succeeds in carrying out some democratic reform, but moves towards Nato and EU membership are slowed by divided public opinion in Ukraine, and by western reluctance to antagonise a resurgent Russia.

Rivalry with his prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, sours into open antagonism, and neither prove able to cope with the worldwide economic downturn after 2008. Their opponent in the 'Orange Revolution', Viktor Yanukovych, wins the 2010 presidential election.

2010 - 2014

Viktor Yanukovych

President. Party of the Regions (PR). Later, no party.

2010 - 2013

Viktor Yanukovych swiftly reorientates foreign and trade policy towards Russia and clamps down on media freedom. He also has various opponents, most prominently former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, imprisoned following trials which are seen by many as being politically-motivated. Ukraine depends upon Russia for its gas supplies and forms an important part of the pipeline transit route for Russian gas exports to Europe.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin of Russia
Having been accused of abuse of office because she was forced into making a deal with Vladimir Putin when he stopped gas supplies to Ukraine in the winter of 2009, Tymoshenko was later victimised by Viktor Yanukovych. and falsely sent to prison until her 2014 release

Moves to reach an association agreement with the EU - seen as a key step towards eventual EU membership - again fuels tensions with Russia. The government's decision to drop the agreement brings tens of thousands of protesters out onto the streets in November 2013.

2013 - 2014

Mass protests in Kyiv have little effect until the police use violent force. The next day student protesters are joined in force by the rest of the citizenry, and it is their collective pressure which eventually forces the collapse and flight of the Yanukovych government after four months of violent chaos.

Yanukovych is declared unelected by parliament based on his flight and his murder of innocent Ukrainians, and he is removed from the roll call of official Ukrainian presidents. Moscow reacts to Ukraine's domestic turmoil by sending troops to annexe the former Soviet territory of Crimea in 2014 while stoking separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine which is focussed on Donetsk and Luhansk.

2014

Oleksandr Turchynov

Acting president (Feb-Jun). Y Tymoshenko Election Bloc.

2014 - 2019

Petro Poroshenko

President (from Jun 2014). No party.

2014

With the election of the pro-western Petro Poroshenko as president of Ukraine in May 2014 and parliamentary elections in October which consolidate the grip on power by the president's political allies, Kyiv is now firmly western-leaning.

Ukrainian separatists
The separatists in eastern Ukraine were carrying weapons, using equipment, and even had troops which were supplied directly from Russia, although Russia continued to deny any involvement

The pro-Russian separatist eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk form their own republican governments and, with military aid from Russia, manage to hold onto a core territory in the face of Ukrainian attempts to end the rebellion.

A ceasefire deal is signed in September 2014, leaving the situation unresolved and likely to harden into a de facto separation given time. Some fighting continues, although not on the scale seen previously.

On 23 December 2014, Ukraine's parliament takes a big step towards joining Nato by voting to revoke the non-aligned status which, effectively, had been forced upon it by Russian pressure in 2010. The vote is passed easily, by 303 votes to eight.

2018 - 2019

Ukraine secures approval from the global head of Orthodox Christianity in Istanbul (Constantinople) to create its own Orthodox Church structure which is independent of Russia's patriarchate for the first time since 1686.

The change is politically driven, and is largely due to Russia's occupation of Crimea, its invasion by proxy of eastern Ukraine, and many years of bullying and interfering in Ukrainian affairs, and it sparks the expected negative reaction in Moscow.

Ukraine's Orthodox church splits with Moscow in 2018
Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv in 2018 in a show of support for the decision to detach the country's Orthodox church establishment from Moscow's increasingly belligerent control

The division of Russian and Ukrainian churches is made official by Istanbul in January 2019, just in time for the Orthodox Christmas celebrations (which are soon moved to dates which align with those of much of the rest of Europe outside of Russia).

2019 - On

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

President. Sluha Narodu. Ex-actor turned Churchillian leader.

2022

On Monday 22 February, after months of increasing pressure from his side, President Putin takes the politically manipulative step of formally recognising as independent states the Russian-created breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. They are now - according to Moscow - to be known as the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics.

Almost immediately afterwards, Putin orders Russian troops which had been massing along Ukraine's borders (and even its Belarussian border) to enter Ukraine on a 'peacekeeping' mission. Initial thoughts are that Luhansk and Donetsk are to be secured so that they can later be 'allowed' to apply to join the Russian federation.

The invasion, though, comes from all along the Russian border, including occupied Crimea, and targets several cities, including Kyiv. The subsequent scale of Ukrainian resistance surprises and delays the Russian forces.

A Russian tank burns in Ukraine in 2022
Despite outnumbering the more lightly-armed Ukrainian forces by at least three-to-one, Russian forces continued to suffer far heavier rates of attrition, with tank losses surprisingly high as Ukrainian units undertook highly effective ambushes against them

Both Russia and Belarus are included in the unprecedented international backlash against an increasingly isolated Russian state. Realising that a swift victory has become impossible but refusing to back down, Putin directs his forces to undertake a slow and brutal siege-warfare approach which devastates several Ukrainian cities.

By then Ukraine's popular President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, former actor and comedian, has long since won the hearts and support of much of the rest of the world, and goes on to become an almost-Churchillian figurehead for resistance against attempted invasion.

2023

Russia's 2023 campaign starts out badly when its forces are rapidly ejected from a large area to the east of Kharkiv and then the entire right bank area of Kherson and surroundings. After that it digs in behind highly fortified and heavily-mined defensive lines in the east and south to fight a slow, losing battle of attrition.

Ukraine's forces fire artillery
Russia's 2023 campaign was very much one of defence and 'meat-grinder' forms of badly-coordinated attacks which were often beaten off with proportionally huge losses, while Ukraine's versatile artillery (shown here) proved to be excellent

 

Ukraine's smaller forces continue to make slow but steady territorial gains throughout the summer, but are hampered by slow deliveries of vital arms which have been promised by the USA and EU. Russia secures shell production from North Korea and drone production from Iran, both eager to fight what they see as a proxy war against the US.

 
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