24th August

79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupts and covers Pompeii with ash

1932 Amelia Earhart first woman to fly across America

Liberia Flag Day

Ukrainian Independence Day

(Photo Credit: armstrongeconomics.com)

Neoliithic Ukrainians lived in houses made of mammoth bones (45,000 B.C.)!

Between 700 and 200 B.C. it was part of Scythia (Greece’s name for nomadic people in the Pontic Steppe, Central Asia and Eastern Europe). Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Byzantium built colonies on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea.

Then came the Goths, then the Huns in the 370s and then in the 7th century the Ukraine was part of Old Great Bulgaria. By the end of the century the Khazars (nomadic Turks) were in charge.

Vladimir being baptised; fresco in Vladimir Cathedral.

Western Ukraine, Belarus and a bit of Russia then became Kievan Rus’ under the Varangians (Vikings). In the 10th-11th centuries this was the most powerful state in Europe. Vladimir the Great converted Kievan Rus’ to Byzantine Christianity.

Unfortunately Mongols totally destroyed Kievan Rus’ in 1240.

In 1253 Danylo Romanovych/Daniel I of Galicia managed to reunite all the land again and became King of all Rus’.

Thennnn Lithuania took it and later Polish people colonised the not-very-popular-anyway northern and central Ukraine, and a Genghis Khan descendant, Haci I Giray, took southern Ukraine – the Crimea and steppes – and made it into the Crimean Khanate. This was one of the strongest powers in Eastern Europe, even invading and devastating Moscow in 1571 – imagine anyone trying that today!

In 1569 Poland and Lithuania formed a Union and Lithuania gave a load of its Ukraine to Poland. They called their land Polish Ruthenia and converted the gentry to Catholicism; the peasants didn’t like them and turned to the Cossacks for (armed) help. The Cossacks formed a state called the the Zaporozhian Host, which was against Polish rule but as they also kept out the Tatars and Turks, Poland let them stay.

In 1500-1700 the Tatars (northwestern Turks) kept raiding the south of the Khanate for slaves, taking 2 million in this period from Russia and the Ukraine.

In 1657-86 Russia, Poland, Turks and Cossacks fought for control of the Ukraine in ‘The Ruin’. This ended with Russia and Poland splitting the Ukraine between them, east and west.

In 1700-21 there was the Great Northern War, where Russia allied with Denmark-Norway and Saxony-Poland-Lithuania against the Swedish Empire. The Cossacks took the (losing) side of the Swedes.

In the 1770s-90s Russia, Prussia and Austria decided to split Poland between them in the Partitions of Poland, to make things ‘fairer’ (Poland’s army was too weak so it didn’t really get to say what it thought was fair), and the Polish-Lithuanian bits of the Ukraine went to Russia and Austria.

The Russian Empire took the Crimean Khanate in 1783, near the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1768-74).

It seems that in WWI Ukrainians picked their own sides, with a lot fighting for Russia and some fighting for Austria-Hungary. Before the war was over, in 1917 the Russian Revolution got rid of the emperor and created the Soviet Union led by Bolsheviks (Marxists).

Ukraine emerged from the ensuing Russian civil war (1917-20, the Bolshevik Red Army against the White Army) as loads of little states, and by the time it officially became an independent country within the Soviet Union in 1922, it had lost half its land to Belarus, Moldavia, Poland and Russia.

As the Ukraine had suffered a lot during the civil war, plus a 1921 famine, Russia supported a renaissance in Ukrainian culture and arts, and funded universal healthcare, education and women’s rights. Shame about Stalin.

In the 1930s Stalin brought in agricultural collectivisation, in which all the peasants had to donate their farms and animals to the Soviet cause and meet quotas. All the food they produced was taken by police to feed the rest of the country, and if they didn’t meet the quota, they did not receive any food themselves. 10.5 million Ukrainians starved to death in the Great Famine, which Ukraine terms a genocide. Under the Great Terror, Ukrainian artists and intellectuals were killed or put in concentration camps.

At the start of WWII, Hitler invaded Poland and Russia and Germany divided Poland between them. This meant Poland’s Ukrainian territories were reunited with the Ukraine. Romania also gave its Ukrainian bits back.

After Stalin, some Ukrainians hoped the Nazis would liberate them. But it soon turned out the Nazis were mean too. The Ukrainian Insurgents Army formed in 1942, which was basically just anti-everyone, killing any Polish people left in the Ukraine and then fighting Russia for independence until the 1950s.

Most of WWII was fought on the Eastern Front, so the Ukraine was left fairly devastated, but once Stalin died in 1953 Soviet Russia emphasised its friendship with the Ukraine, giving them back Crimea and investing 20% of the USSR’s budget, making its industry and technology very powerful.

In 1986 the area contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster affected 2.2 million Ukrainians.

On 24 August 1991 the Ukraine declared itself independent, and totally got rid of its nuclear weapons. It then had a recession, losing 60% of its GDP and huge inflation, but eventually stablised with a new currency, the hryvnya (named after the currency used by medieval Kievan Rus’)

In 2013 the president decided not to join the EU and to side with Russia instead. This led to protests in western Ukraine, which got more violent after the government tried to bring in an anti-protesting law. Then they had new elections, and brought in a pro-EU president. This upset  eastern Ukraine – the Crimea where a lot of people speak Russian already. The Russian military got involved, and NATO. The Crimea had a referendum and declared itself independent. Meanwhile ‘local militia’ (groups of armed men not affiliated with anyone) are running around the rest of Ukraine killing people and taking over government buildings.

The Ukraine is the largest country in Europe and is right in the centre. It has a low birth rate and the population is shrinking by 150,000 every year.

Uruguay Nostalgia Night (radio and and events for nostalgic music)


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