History of Ukraine - the beginning

The origins of Ukraine

Ukraine was not widely called by its present name until the 19th century. Different parts of present Ukraine were invaded and occupied in the first millennium BC by the Cimmerians, Scythians, and Sarmatians and, later, by the Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Avars, Khazars, Magyars, and Pechenegs.

The most significant development of this entire period, however, was the movement of some Slavic tribes in the 5th and 6th centuries from their primordial homeland north of Carpathian Mountains eastward into forest and forest-steppe region of western and north-central Ukraine. From there the Slavs eventually expanded farther north into territories of the future Russian state around Moscow.

Kiev, situated along the Dnepr River, was one of Slavs’ earliest settlements. The state known as Kievan Rus arose from the intermixture of Polianians with those Varangians (Norsemen) who controlled the Dnepr River trade route connecting the Baltic Sea with Byzantium.

The name Rus, which first designated the lands around Kiev, later came to include the entire Kievan domain.

Kievan Rus state reached its zenith in the 10th and 11th centuries under the rulers Vladimir I (St. Vladimir) and his son Yaroslav I (Yaroslav the Wise). Vladimir I adopted Christianity as the official religion of his realm about AD 990, and the church hierarchy was formed under the auspices of Byzantines and the patriarch at Constantinople.

Christianity gave eastern Slavic people their first written language, called Church Slavonic. Kiev Rus reached the height of its power in the 11th century, and Kiev became an important political and cultural center of Eastern Europe.

Kievan Rus map

Kievan Rus map

Kievan Rus scenery

Kievan Rus period scenery

Kievan Rus ships

Kievan Rus period ships

Kievan Rus field

Kievan Rus period field

The 12th and 13th centuries saw the decline of Kiev owing to internal dissension, struggles with the invading Kipchak, and shifts in trade routes. Mongol conquest in the mid-13th century decisively ended Kiev power, but Slavic principality of Galicia-Volhynia in western Ukraine that emerged about 1200 lasted until the 14th century.

In the 14th century, Lithuania annexed most Ukrainian lands except for Galician principality, which passed to the kingdom of Poland; and, in the meantime, southern Ukraine remained under the control of Mongol Khanate of Golden Horde.

After the Union of Lublin in 1569, the rule over Ukraine was transferred from Lithuania to Poland. The negotiation of Union of Brest-Litovsk in 1596 divided Ukrainians into Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic faithful.

Religious dissent and social strife between Ukrainians and their Polish overlords were augmented by Zaporozhian Cossacks, nominally subjects of Polish king but in fact a class of free warriors.

From their stronghold along the lower Dnepr River, Cossacks, in 1648, led by their hetman (military leader) Bohdan Khmelnitsky, rose against Poles and formed a quasi-independent, short-lived, state.

Kievan Rus warriors

Kievan Rus period warriors

Kievan Rus boats

Kievan Rus period boats

Kievan Rus people

Kievan Rus period people

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