/ juːkreɪn /
A republic in southeastern Europe; formerly a European Soviet; Also called: Ukrayina.
Country in E central Europe, bounded E by Russia, N by Belarus, S by Moldova, Romania, and the Black Sea, and W by Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Hungary.
There is a 450-member legislature, the supreme soviet, to which deputies are elected by a majority system, and a second ballot “run-off” race in contests in which there is no clear first round majority. The executive state president is directly elected for a five-year term. The prime minister (chair of the cabinet of ministers) is drawn from the majority grouping within the Supreme Soviet.
The Ukraine formed the heartland of the medieval state of Kievan Rus which emerged in the 9th century.
Uniting Ukrainians, Russians (Muscovites), and Byelorussians, it became the leading power in eastern Europe, before being destroyed by Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Christianity was adopted from Byzantium 988. It came under Catholic Polish rule from the 14th century, with the peasantry reduced to serfdom. In 1648 there was a revolt against Polish oppression led by Cossacks, composed originally of runaway serfs, and a militarist state was established by hetman (elected leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky (died 1657). East and West Ukraine were partitioned between Muscovy and Poland 1667.
Under Tsar Peter I the publication of Ukrainian books was banned 1720 and serfdom was introduced into E Ukraine (“Little Russia”) 1783. In the late 18th century, Russia also secured control over all of W Ukraine, except Galicia, which was annexed by Austria 1772. The 19th century witnessed a Ukrainian cultural revival and the establishment of secret nationalist organizations, especially in Galicia. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was rapid economic development and urbanization, but under the late Tsars suppression of Ukraininan culture and “Russification” intensified.
World War I and II
After the overthrow of the Tsar, an independent Ukrainian People’s Republic was proclaimed 1918, which allied itself with the Central Powers. The Germans installed a conservative hetman regime, which was popularly overthrown at the close of World War I. After two years of civil war, W Ukraine (Galicia-Volhymia) was transferred to Polish rule, while the remainder came under Soviet control, becoming a constituent republic of the USSR 1922. In the mid-1920s a conciliatory policy of Ukrainization was pursued; however, during the 1930s there was a mass purge of intellectuals, kulaks (“rich farmers”) and the destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. During the “collectivization famine” of 1932–33 at least 7 million peasants died. Polish-controlled W Ukraine was occupied by the Red Army from Sept 1939 until the Nazi German invasion of the USSR June 1941, which was followed by mass deportations and exterminations of more than 5 million Ukrainians and Ukrainian Jews. In 1944 Moscow ordered the deportation en masse
to Central Asia of Crimean Tatars, who were accused of collaboration.
After World War II, Soviet-ruled Ukraine was enlarged to include territories formerly under Polish (W Ukraine), Czechoslovak (Transcarpathian Ukraine), and Romanian (N Bukovina and part of Bessarabia) control and became a founding member of the United Nations. W Ukraine remained the site of partisan resistance by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) until the early 1950s and, as part of a “sovietization” campaign, there were mass arrests and deportations to Siberia of 500,000 people and inward migration of Russians.
After Soviet leader Stalin’s death 1953, Ukraine was treated in a more conciliatory fashion by his successor Nikita Khrushchev, who had been Ukrainian Communist Party (UCP) leader 1938–47. In Feb 1954, to “celebrate” the 300th anniversary of Slavic “fraternal union”, Crimea was transferred back to Ukraine’s jurisdiction and in the 1960s there was a Ukrainian literary revival and growth of the dissident movement. In 1972–73 a crackdown on dissent was launched and the Brezhnevite Vladimir Shcherbitsky replaced the more liberal Petro Shelest as UCP leader. However, from the mid-1970s Helsinki Monitoring Groups became active and the officially abolished Uniate Church continued to operate underground in W Ukraine. In the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear power-plant accident in 1986, a popular environmentalist movement, Green World, emerged in Ukraine.
Emboldened by glasnost, nationalist and proreform demonstrations increased, led by the People’s Movement of Ukraine for Restructuring (Rukh), established Feb 1989. Shcherbitsky was ousted as CP leader Sept 1989, the Uniate Church was allowed to re-register Dec 1989, and in the March 1990 republic supreme-soviet election, “reform communist” and Rukh candidates in the Democratic Bloc polled strongly in a number of areas. In July 1990 the new parliament declared the republic’s economic and political sovereignty.
declaration of independence
Ukraine's president, Leonid Kravchuk, was slow to condemn the Aug 1991 attempted anti-Gorbachev coup in Moscow, which had provoked a series of Rukh-led prodemocracy rallies in Lviv (Lvov). However, after the coup's failure, Kravchuk swiftly donned nationalist colors, banning the UCP and declaring the republic's provisional independence on 24 Sept 1991, pending a referendum in Dec, which came out 90% in favor of independence. Simultaneously, Kravchuk was popularly elected president, capturing 61% of the vote.
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) membership Ukraine joined the CIS, formed Dec 1991, and its independence was immediately recognized by Canada, home to around 1 million Ukrainians, as well as by Ukraine’s central European neighbors. In the same month its independence was recognized by the US, who also accorded it full diplomatic recognition, and by the European Community.
economic reforms and problems
A program of market-centered economic reform and privatization was launched, with prices freed Jan 1992 but “temporarily” re-regulated in Feb. A pipeline deal completed with Iran helped to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for oil. Coupons (karbuvanets) were introduced as a secondary currency to the ruble, pending the creation of an independent currency, the hryvna. However, the continued strength of ex-communist apparatchiks threatened to frustrate the program. Production declined by 20% during 1992 and by early 1993 inflation stood at 35% a month and the budget deficit at 44% of GDP.
direct presidential rule
In Sept 1993 President Kravchuk took direct control of government, eliminating the post of prime minister. His action followed a long-running power struggle with his prime minister, Leonid Kuchma. In Oct 1993, with inflation at 70% a month and GDP contracting by 20% per annum, a more conservative, centrally controlled economic strategy was adopted. In the same month the UCP was allowed to re-register.
nationalists versus Russian unionists
In the April 1994 parliamentary elections, radical nationalists made gains in the W and Russian unionists in the E and Crimea, but the Communist and Socialist parties, in alliance, remained the largest bloc. In June Vitaly Masol became prime minister and in July former premier Leonid Kuchma, an advocate of closer ties with Russia, defeated Kravchuk in the presidential election. In Oct 1994 Kuchma unveiled an economic reform program that included large-scale privatization, cuts in subsidies, and decentralization. Prime Minister Masol resigned March 1995 and Yevhen Marchuk became acting premier.
Ukraine inherited a substantial nuclear arsenal, but pledged to become a nuclear-free state by 1994, while establishing an independent 200,000–400,000-strong army. In March 1992 it suspended agreed tactical-arms shipments to Russia, claiming that there was no assurance that Russia was dismantling them. Post-independence quarrels with Russia over the division of military forces continued, although agreement was reached Aug 1992 on joint control of the Black Sea fleet until 1995. In Nov 1993 Ukraine became the last of the former Soviet republics to ratify the START-I nuclear-arms reduction treaty.
This followed the signing of an agreement with the US under which Ukraine would dismantle the majority of its nuclear weapons in return for $330 million of aid.
Crimean demands for recognition
The Crimea which, despite the return of 150,000 Tatars since 1989, is 70% Russian, declared its independence, within Ukraine, Sept 1991.
In May 1992 a declaration of sovereignty was made but subsequently rescinded after Ukraine's hostile response. A referendum, held March 1994, overwhelmingly supported greater autonomy as well as favoring closer links with Russia.