are deeply affected by the country's long history that predates the
independent state by some 1,500 years. The march of successive civilizations
from prehistoric times, the Scythians, Greeks, Varaungian, Slavic,
and Turkic peoples have all left their mark. The birthplace of the
Slavic state was Kyivan-Rus which flourished a thousand years ago.
There is an old legend which tells of three brothers
who found Kyiv (also known as Kiev) at the end of the fifth century.
The brothers Kiy, Khoriv, and Shchek, along with their sister,
Lybid, decided to name this newly founded land "Kyiv," after their
Kyiv bloomed during the end of the ninth century
as a political center inhabited by Eastern Slavs. Kyiv had an advantageous
trade route in the center of Europe which allowed it to maintain political
and economic ties with the West.
In 988, Kyiv's Prince Volodymyr the Great introduced Christianity
to Kyiv making it the official religion of Kyivan-Rus. This move played
an important role in Kyiv's political development and cultural relations
with the European and Near Eastern countries.
In 1240, Kyiv was invaded by the Tatar-Mongols led by the grandson
of Genghis Khan. The city was captured and its glory fell into decline
during the period of almost century-long rule by the Tatar-Mongols.
For many centuries thereafter Ukraine was attacked and ruled by Poland
and Lithuanian in the Rzecz Pospolita Commonwealth, Russia, Germany
and others. During this time Ukrainian Kozack armies were formed which
were led by a Hetman (military leader). One of the most famous Hetman
is Bohdan Khmelnytsky who inspired one of the greatest Cossack uprisings
that led to the liberation of Kyiv in 1648.
He was considered by some a traitor after he signed the Treaty of
Pereyaslav which authorized protection from the Russian Czar. This
treaty joined Ukraine and Russia into one and led to a long period
of domination by the Russian Empire and ultimately the Soviet Union.
After the revolution of 1917 Vladimir Illyich Lenin and his Bolshevik
Party seized power and expanded their sphere of control into Ukraine.
Ukraine experienced a brief period of independence when on January
22, 1918, the Ukrainian Central Rada (Council) formally issued a proclamation
for Ukraine's independence. But shortly thereafter in 1919, the Ukrainian
National Republic was defeated in a war against Polish expansionists
and overrun once again.
Eventually, Bolshevik and Communist forces retook Ukrainian lands,
and as a means to control the population, leader Josef Stalin caused
the Great Famine of 1932-33 by forcibly collecting grain and deliberately
starving to death nearly ten million people. Nazi Germany then began
World War II and entered Kyiv in September 1941 razing the city. In
November 1943, Soviet forces retook the
city in fierce fighting and began their final domination of Ukraine
for almost the next fifty years.
Attention from the West turned to Ukraine after the nuclear meltdown
at the Chornobyl power plant in April 1986. Since then Ukrainians
felt the decreased political power wielded by the Soviet Union's Communist
leaders. After the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic proclaimed
Ukraine's sovereignty in July 1990, Ukrainians fulfilled their dream
of independence during the failed Soviet coup of August 1991. In a
referendum held on December 1, 1991 the people of Ukraine endorsed
independence and voted Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk as Ukraine's first
ever democratically elected President. The United States recognized
Ukraine's independence on December 25, 1991; and the first American
Ambassador, Roman Popadiuk, arrived in Kyiv on June 8, 1992.