Ukraine: The Historical Timeline

Since the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has rightly become headline news and a major talking point. Before February, it is fair to argue that many people around the world could not have even pointed out the location of that country on a global map, but because of the situation now, it seems clear that almost every country except India, China, and Belarus is on the side of Ukraine. I thought it was time to look at the history, and perhaps put current events in some context. I will use short points to illustrate it.

*Known as Kievan Rus until the 12th century AD, Ukraine later came under control of the Polish/Lithuanian empire from 1569 until 1686. It was then divided, with half ceded to Russia. After 1795, modern day Ukraine was ruled equally between the Austrian Empire and Russia.

*Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, and the long civil war that followed, Ukraine eventually became part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, in 1922. In the early 1930s, up to five million people starved to death in Ukraine following a great famine. Some people believe that this was a deliberate act by the central government in Moscow.

*When Germany invaded Ukraine in 1941, Ukrainian nationalists fought against both Germany and the Soviet Union, hoping to achieve independence. Many other Ukrainians collaborated openly with the Nazis, even forming regiments in the Waffen SS, part of the German army. They saw the Germans as liberators from Soviet control. Some joined the pro-German Auxiliary Police, others served willingly as guards in Concentration Camps, including Treblinka. In September 1941, 34,000 Jews were executed in just two days outside Kiev, at the Babi Yar ravine. They were shot by German SS and SD troops, assisted by Ukrainian Auxiliary Police and antsemitic volunteers. Other Ukrainians fought against the Germans by serving in the Soviet Red Army.

*From the end of WW2 until 1991, Ukraine remained as part of the Soviet Union, with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic having some self-government, as well as its own place on the United Nations Security Council. In 1954, Crimea was transferred from central control to become part of the Ukrainian SSR.

*After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Ukraine declared independence in 1991, with 90% of the voters in the country voting for independence. (Only around 50% in Crimea)

*In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, and pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine, precipitating a war in the Donbass Region that was ongoing (with some Russian support) until the recent Russian invasion. In 2021, pro-Russian Russian-language TV channels were banned in Ukraine. Also in 2021, NATO announced that Ukraine could become a member if it met certain criteria, but not as long as it was still at war with separatists in the Donbass region, and involved in disputes with Russia over the territory of Crimea.

*The Far Right, Neo-Nazi Azov battalions are militia groups that have fought against separatists in the Donbass Region since 2014. They were formed by Andriy Biletsky, an ultra-nationalist political figure who previously led groups including the openly neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly (SNA), which preached an ideology of racial purity for Ukraine. They were formally integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard, in 2014. It is their presence on the battlefield that gave Putin his flimsy ‘justification’ for “ridding Ukraine of Nazis”.

44 thoughts on “Ukraine: The Historical Timeline

  1. Thanks for this post, Pete.
    Whatever the history of any country (and Ukraine does, as you point out have a complex history), the bottom line is that any nation has a right to self determination and this right has been flagrantly disregarded by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
    You are of course correct to point out that some Ukrainians collaborated willingly with Nazi Germany. However most Ukrainians did not.
    There where also Russian collaborators with the Third Reich (but to a lesser extent due to Hitler’s belief that Slavs where “subhuman”.) Interestingly there was a split within the Nazi government with some wishing to make greater use of Russian elements sympathetic to Nazism (but these where not the leading party).
    Antisemitism also exists in Russia and Putin has gained support from antisemites within that country.
    There is an interesting article here detailing the connection between the far-right (mainly in France) and the Putin regime, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2022/4/4/forbidden-love-putin-and-the-french-european
    I was surprised that you did not mention the fact that the president of Ukraine is Jewish. One would hardly expect a society riven with antisemitism to elect a Jewish president.
    Best wishes. Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment and the links, Kevin.

      I was not expressing an opinion in this post, just stating some facts that people might not have been unaware of. Though I am completely against the Russian invasion and subsequent killings and atrocities of course.

      I have mentioned previously on this blog that Zelensky is Jewish, but he did still allow the Azov militia to remain in the national guard and continue to fight in the Donbass despite that. There are many accounts since 2014 of that particular military group carrying out random killings of civilians there, moving ethnic Russian-speakers from areas where they lived by force, and raping women too.
      But nobody reports on that any longer.

      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for your reply, Pete.
        The Azov Militia are certainly concerning. However, according to this and other articles their influence is extremely limited, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ukraine-russia-war-azov-battalion-putin-premise-war-vs-nazis/.
        Whilst condemning the far-right in the strongest possible terms, in a situation where the soverignty of Ukraine is threatened I can understand why the government is using all resources at its disposal.
        Ukraine’s president has said that allegations of the shooting of Russian prisoners of war by Ukrainians will be investigated. There has (to my knowledge) been no similar statement by Putin as regards the (proven) crimes committed by Russian troops against civilians.
        You focus on far-right and antisemitic elements in Ukraine, but I don’t recollect you having mentioned their existence in Russia. They do exert great influence in Russia so I’m puzzled why you mention their existence in Ukraine but not in Putin’s Russia.
        Best wishes. Kevin

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am aware of Far Right elements in Russia, also in other East European and Scandinavian countries, as well as in Austria. Croatia, Serbia, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, and Britain. But this was a historical timeline of Ukraine, not those other countries.

          The Azov Militia are no longer very influential politically, but they are the main source of all video media from the eastern area of the conflict being used by Ukraine, much of it seen in the West or on You Tube. And they are often hailed as heroes by outsiders for their hard fighting capabilities. Outsiders who may not be aware of their motivation. This post was not written against Ukraine, or in favour of Russia. Everything I posted here is simple fact, not propaganda or conspiracy theories.

          I would also like to ask our government why they are less concerned about civil war in Myanmar, where a badly-armed civilian uprising is being beaten by a ruthless Army-controlled government. Or why they have not supplied arms in the same quantities to be used against the brutal Saudi regime’s actions in Yemen. But I think I already know the answer.

          If we are going to take sides against brutal oppressors around the world, we have to look at Ukraine of course, and then all the others involved on different continents.
          Best wishes as always, Pete.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Putin poses a direct threat to both democracy and stability. If he takes Ukraine (or the lions share of that country), he may well move on to Latvia, Estonia, Poland Etc. That is why NATO is supplying arms as are some non-NATO countries.
            Whilst what is happening in Burma is, of course concerning, the military government in that country does not threaten world peace (unlike Putin who clearly does). In the messy real world we do have to make choices about when and where to intervene.
            Having said that, we should, of course put pressure on the military junta in Burma on human rights and work for a return to democracy in that nation.
            We will, I think have to agree to disagree on this one Pete.
            Have a good weekend.
            Best wishes. Kevin

            Liked by 1 person

  2. The history around here is long and complicated, Poland didn’t exist for a good while and yet at one point it spanned from Moscow to Berlin
    I remember when first travelled to Poland about 15 years ago the advice from friends was to never stop if a Ukrainian car flashed you on the motorway, i.e. indicating that there was something wrong with your car, as it was quite likely that you would be robbed at gunpoint!
    The reputation of Ukraine was not good.
    Having met and become friends with several Ukrainians over the years I have become aware of the changes in the country, the last 5-6 years in particular. The desire to be part of Europe once Zelensky was elected only got stronger.
    Even the far right nationalist marches marking certain anniversaries have dwindled in numbers to a few hundred. Given that in Poland the far right can still muster a good few thousand at their marches I consider the move away from the right in Ukraine as a real milestone.
    I hope that the Ukrainians come out of this still able to follow their desire to be part of Europe.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good to hear that, David, and I know that you have good geographical awareness. I was talking to someone recently who asked why no refugees were escaping to Turkey. I had to explain to her that it was a long way across the Black Sea from Ukraine to Turkey, or all the way down by land through Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Russia would like a port that gives access to the Med (hence taking the crimea), Ukraine known as bread basket, good for wheat etc, partly a reason why back in 1915 the Dardanelles was attempted to be forced (leading to Gallipoli campaign) therefore reducing time taken for wheat to arrive from Australia etc. Ukraine has been pretty important for a long time

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I only recently learned of the massive starvation that occurred in Ukraine during Stalin. It helped me understand why there might be no love lost between many Ukrainians and leaders of Russia.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Pete, this fills in a lot of information I was wondering about but hadn’t taken the time to look up. The history is complicated, like humans, it’s never as simple as it appears. Appreciate the context here, xxoo, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. I have heard a lot of people here in Britain talking a great deal of nonsense about Ukraine. The media supplies very little background, so I thought I would.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have always read a lot of history, Liz. I have also been to Ukraine, though only to Kiev. (That was at the time of the Soviet Union, 1977.). I just thought that some people might like to read about the history of that troubled country.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Most people don’t have the time or the interest to look it up. I have read a lot about it in the past, and have actually been to Kiev. So I tried to explain the history as best as I could, in easy to read chunks.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You are very well-travelled, Sue, so I was sure you knew the location. I went to Kiev during the Soviet era, and was aware back then of Ukrainian newspapers, and the desire of many of the people for independence. We also visited Babi Yar, which is only 8 miles from the centre of the capital.

          Liked by 1 person

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