The history of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people dates back to ancient times. The settlements of the first people who were found by archaeologists in the Donbass, in Southern and Southeastern Carpathians, in the Crimea appeared in the era of the early Paleolithic. Fertile land and favorable natural conditions attracted people. People constantly improved their instruments of labour and gradually switched from primitive forms of gathering, hunting and fishing to agriculture and animal husbandry.
Trypillian tribes living between the Dnipro river and the Carpathians in the IV-III millennium BC made a significant contribution to both the history and the culture of Ukraine. Trypillians were characterized by a high level of production culture, a perfect technique of ceramics manufacture, and a high degree of social organization. Some historians consider Trypilians proto-Ukrainians.
In the 2nd millennium BC, in the Bronze Age and in the early Iron age, Slavs begin to master the territory of modern Ukraine.
In the 4th-3rd century BC the Scythian tribes inhabited the territory from Don to Dunai rivers. According to the descriptions of History’s father Herodotus, the Scythians were brave and proud people, strong soldiers, under pressure of which the Cimmerians left the Crimea and migrated to the Caucasus. The vast majority of Scythians were nomads and their main occupation was animal husbandry. At the same time Greek colonization of the northern shores of the Black Sea and Crimea occurs. There were appearing such cities as Olbia, Chersonese and Panticope. After that the Bosphorus kingdom was formed. The Scythians maintained a very close relations with the Greeks. But The Migration Period in the 2nd -7th centuries and the invasion of the Huns, Goths and Avars led to the destruction of the Bosporus Kingdom and Scythia.
The first millennium was marked by the establishment of the Kyivan state and the establishment of Christianity by Prince Volodymyr. Kyivan Rus’ became one of the most powerful states in Europe, and the establishment of Christianity laid the foundations of Western civilization on the territory of Ukraine.
The first written record of Kyivan Rus’ dates to 839. It was the first state of the Eastern Slavs which united more than 200 small Slavic tribes. The period of prosperity of Kyivan Rus’ was during the reign of Volodymyr the Great and Yaroslav the Wise. Volodymyr the Great carried out a series of internal and external reforms, the most important of which was the establishment of Christianity. Yaroslav the Wise continued his father’s work and paid special attention to the development of education and law. He introduced the law code which was named “Rus’ka Pravda” (“The Truth of Rus'”). Churches were actively built: St. Sophia Cathedral, monasteries in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Pereiaslav and other cities.
But after the death of Yaroslav the Wise the appanage wars began. Intrigues and controversies significantly weakened the state. It was the time when the Tatar-Mongolian invasion had occurred. Under such conditions the Tatar-Mongols seized the land of Ukraine quite easily, Kyiv was destroyed and the Galicia-Volyn principality remained the main center of state (1199-1340). Galicia-Volyn principality became an outpost which stopped the invasion of the Tatar-Mongols in Western Europe. At these times, Danylo Halytsky was reigned. The status of the king was given him by Pope Innocent IV.
An equally important page of Ukrainian history is the period of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the 14th century the western and most parts of southern Rus’ came under the control of the Lithuanian dynasty of Gedyminovych. In 1385, after the Union of Krewo, the Polish and Catholic influence was intensifying on the territory of Ukraine and the Orthodox Russian nobility was removed from power. As a result of the Union of Lublin in 1569, Volyn, Pidliashia, Podillia, Bratslavshchyna and Kyiv region went under the protectorate of Poland.
At the end of the 15th century on the border of Lithuania, Muscovy and Crimea, in the “wild steppes” of Zaporizhia a group of soldiers, called themselves Cossacks, appeared. In the 16th century Sich became their military center. This was the beginning of a great and magnificent page in the history of Ukraine – the Cossack Era.
The National War of Liberation of the Ukrainian People under the leadership of Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1648-1657 led to the formation of a large part of the territory of Ukraine into the Cossack Hetmanate (Zaporizhian Host). In 1654, under difficult foreign policy conditions B. Khmelnytsky had to accept the protection of Moscow’s Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.
After the death of Khmelnytsky, in 1657, the period of civil wars and external interventions, known in history as the period of the Ruin, began. As a result, the territory of Ukraine was divided between The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Muscovite state.
Hetmanate has survived only on the left bank of Dnipro river under the patronage of Moscow. Hetman Ivan Mazepa made an attempt to regain complete independence in alliance with the Swedish king Charles XII but he failed. Cossack autonomy was eliminated by Empress Catherine II in 1775.
As a result of the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1791, Russia won the Northern Black Sea Coast and the Crimea. In 1772-1795 Galicia went under the control of Austria, and Right-Bank Ukraine went under the control of Russia.
The Ukrainian national movement began in the end of the 18th century. The works of Taras Shevchenko were important for the awakening of national consciousness. At that time anti-Ukrainian repressions of the Russian tsarist were actively beginning and, as a result, the center of the national movement had moved to Galicia. In the end of 19th century the first Ukrainian political parties appeared.
The February Revolution in Russia in 1917 which initiated national struggle in Ukraine. The Central Council of Ukraine proclaimed the Ukrainian People’s Republic on November 20, 1917, and on January 25, 1918, the Hetmanate declared the independence of Ukraine. As a result of the November uprising in Galicia in 1918, The West Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR) appeared, and then it was united with the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) as a result of the Act Zluky which had been signed on January 22, 1919.
The Soviet regime was characterized by the forced collectivization of the peasantry, the massive Stalin’s repressions, the artificial famine of 1932-1933, the extermination of the national intellectuals. In spite of everything, the national movement continued to develop on the territory of Western Ukraine.
In 1938-1939 Carpatho-Ukraine emerged as part of Czechoslovakia. But it was subsequently captured by Hungary.
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union dividing the spheres of influence between the two countries. In 1939, Western Ukraine joined the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and in 1940 — Northern Bukovina and the Ukrainian part of Bessarabia.
During the Second World War, fighting was actively taking place on the territory of Ukraine. Particular attention deserves the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which fought exclusively for the interests of Ukrainians.
In 1945 the Transcarpathia joined the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and then, in 1954, — the Crimea.
In the end of the fifties the Dissident movement appeared in Ukraine but it was actively opposed by the Soviet authorities.
On August 24, 1991, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine declared independence of Ukraine. A democratic political system, enshrined in the Constitution of 1996, was formed. From the very first days of its existence, Ukraine is known as a peace-loving, open-to-cooperation state which itself has abandoned the nuclear weapons left from the Soviet times.
Ukraine is a member of many international organizations and supports their efforts aimed at preserving the peace and prosperity of all nations. Ukraine has been a member of the United Nations since 1945, is a member of UNESCO and an active member of the Council of Europe and many other international organizations.