It is time for the first article in my blog. And first thing I want to speak about is Ukraine itself, where it comes from, what is its history and current situation. I will keep it short and very simple, for those of you, who want to have an overview. This overview is my personal opinion, which can differ from other visions. If you want to make your own opinion and dig deeper, you can find more detailed list of resources about the history of Ukraine at the end of this article.
In some 10 years ago when speaking about Ukraine, I had to do some explanations, show the map, explain that it is located between Poland and Russia, but is neither Poland, nor Russia, give some famous names of our times, like football player Andriy Shevchenko, Boxers Vitaliy and Vladimir Klitchko, mention Chernobyl, that is located on the territory of Ukraine, i.e. make the country introduction.
Recently because of our second Maidan revolution and because of events that followed, we are all over the news, so once you name Ukraine, people are starting to ask you questions about the most recent events and already demonstrate some knowledge about the country. Which actually proves the saying, that there is no bad PR. So let us also speak about this hot topic a bit.
The territory of Ukraine was inhabited already around 800 thousand years ago. And we experienced it all – first the peaceful farmers culture, then various bright nomads, that came to our territory from the Asia, at approximately the same period, as they came to Western Europe also through our lands. Greek traders also came and established trading cities at the shores of our seas.
Later, in the feudal period we created our own state here, the Kiev Rus, which took big part of the area of modern Ukraine and some areas of modern Russia and Belarus. The kings of Kiev Rus, which were called Princes (Knjaz’), had diplomatic and other relations to kings of other states in Western Europe. For example, Jaroslav Mudriy had family connections with Norwegian, Polish, Austrian, Greek, Hungarian and French royal families. We also adopted Christianity as early as in 998 AD, falling under the supervision of Byzantium.
Somewhere at the beginning of the Kiev Rus the authorities of that time made a non-standard decision – they invited Vikings, which we called Varjagi, to come and rule over them. That was the first case of import of good managers from the west. )) Indeed, it was a good decision, bringing this land a lot of prosperity.
However eventually because of constant feudal wars our state weakened, there were other smaller states and after the invasion of tatar-mongols in the 13th century, it stopped its existence. The Polish-Lithuanian state eventually took our territory after freeing our lands from tatar-mongols and our long fight for independence started.
Important part of our fight was played by the so-called Cossacks, which were the slaves that run away from their masters to boundary lands, not controlled by authorities. There they created the rebel spots; they fought both with the authorities that came to get them back and with the nomads from the other side of the boundary, thus actually protecting the lands from invasion. These were wild warriors, they created a very strange organization, which we now would have called a republic, where everybody had the right to vote, all decisions were taken together. Later, already in the 17th century the Cossack leader Pylyp Orlyk created the first constitution in the world. Cossacks’ place of gathering, Sitch, was purely men’s place. Women were taking care of domestic affairs in the so-called slobodas, farms that were located at a distance from the place, where Cossacks gathered and lived.
It was Cossacks that back in 17th century won our fight for independence against Polish kings. Still, as Ukraine was very weak to have a policy of its own, we made a treaty with Russian Tzars. Eventually our lands started to be controlled by the rising Russian empire and the western Ukraine was left under Polish rule. We made the next attempt of independence back in 1917, the year of revolutions in Russia, but again never succeeded and became one of the republics in Soviet Union. Western Ukraine became part of Soviet Union in 1939, when Soviet Union took these lands from Poland at the beginning of the Second World War. It was only in 1991, when Soviet Union stopped its existence, that Ukraine gained independence.
So, we are an independent state for more than 23 years for now. One of our most prominent actions was that we refused nuclear weapons. We were the country with the 3rd nuclear potential after USA and Russia and we signed a treaty with USA, Russia and UK, that guaranteed our safety in return of us refusing these weapons.
As for the rest, these years were characterized by the total chaos, the communist system was changing to capitalist one, it was a mess with property, inflation, “wild-capitalism”, corruption, non-working laws – we experienced and are still experiencing it all. The biggest challenge of Ukraine as a country is that we are located between two worlds, the world of Asia and the world of Europe; we are the bridge and connectors.
Right now, as many years before, we still have a fight between these two different ways of thinking on our territory. And we are also in the top news of the world, as the changes are affecting the whole set of treaties and whole international balance, established after the second world war and after the Soviet Union stopped its existence.
What exactly happened – our ex-President Yanukovich the very last moment, after years of preparation, refused to sign the treaty with the EU. Ukrainians rebelled against him by organizing the so-called Maidan, standing on the main square of the country for three winter months till the president escaped to Russia. Russia annexed Crimea. Eastern territories, supported by Russia, refused to accept authorities from Kiev (parliament and a newly elected President), claimed their independence and were initially thinking about joining Russia, following the scenario of Crimean annexation, but right now looks like they want an independence and the fight is still going on.
However, the main fight is going in the sphere of economy – Russia tries to weaken Ukraine by trade wars and constant military war on its territory (which is very expensive for us and ruins our economy, as it is going on the territories, which is our industrial heart). At the same time, Europe and USA try to weaken Russia by sanctions. Russia’s interest is to keep Ukraine within its reach, the interest of the Western countries is to create a reliable business atmosphere, fair rules and enter Ukrainian markets and use Ukrainian resources, which it is very rich in: developed industry with great basis for further development, cheap and clever labour force, extraordinary rich soil, which Germans in WW2 even just took to Germany by trains, huge territories – Ukraine is second biggest country in Europe after France, etc. Who is going to win here, and what is going to happen – we do not know. The history, affecting our common future is being written right here and right now, this very moment, this very place.
So, this is Ukrainian history and overview of the current complex controversial situation, as I see it. Sign up not to miss our next article, which will be about the character of Ukrainians, Ukrainian culture and psychology.
Nataly Veremeeva and the team of Cossacks IT