Ukraine from the earliest times till the middle of the 17th century. Time of the Cossacks-Hetman state. Ukraine under the reign of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires

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Ukraine from the earliest times till the middle of the 17th century. Time of the Cossacks-Hetman state. Ukraine under the reign of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires.



1.     Early history

2.     Kyivan Rus’

3.     Period of Lithuanian and Polish rule

4.     The Cossacks.

5.     National liberation movement under the leadership of Bohdan Khmelnytskiy. Narrowing of the autonomy and liquidation of Zaporizhian Sich.

6.     Ukraine under the direct imperial Russian rule.

7.     Western Ukraine under the Habsburg monarchy. 
The revolution of 1848.


1.     Early history.

Ukraine means borderland. It is an appropriate name for a land that lies on the south-eastern edge of Europe, on the threshold of Asia, along the fringes of the Mediterranean world, and astride the once important border between sheltering forests and the open steppe.

Flowing southward into the Black Sea are three major river systems that provide Ukraine with an adequate water supply: the mighty 2285-km-long Dnieper (Dnipro), wich bisects the land, the southern Buh, and the Dnister. The climate is generally moderate. Ukraine encompasses about 600,000 sq. Km and extends approximately 1300 km from west to east and 900 km from north to south.

Lying astride the main routes between Europe  and Asia, Ukraine was repeatedly exposed to various frequently competing cultures. By means of the Black Sea, Ukrainegained access to the invIhorating civilisation of Greece, both ancient and Byzantine. In contrast, its position on the western fringe of the great Eurasian steppe exposed it to repeated invasions by warring nomads and the bitter struggle against them sapped the country's human and material resources. It gave rise to the Cossacks, the frontier warriors who became archetypical figures in Ukrainian history and culture. In Ukraine the earliest agrarian civilisations in Europe developed. Until very recently, agriculture has been the hallmark of Ukrainian life. 

The Earliest inhabitants

The earliest traces of human habitation in Ukraine reach back about 150,00 years. The earliest human inhabitants still possessed the signs of the primitive origins. By approximately 40,000 BC in the midst of the ice age the cro-magnons (or Homo sapiens) appeared, the species from which modern man is descended. During the Neolithic period, which lasted in Ukraine from about 6000 to 2000 BC, mankind experienced more profound changes than in the previous two to three million years. Instead of merely  gathering and hunting food human beings had finally learned to produce it.

Human settlement in Ukraine has been documented into distant prehistory. The late Neolithic Trypillian culture (The Trypillian culture is a late Neolithic archaeological culture that flourished between ca. 5500 BC and 2750 BC in the Dniester-Dnieper region of modern-day Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. The Trypilians built the largest towns in Europe, each of them with 10,000 or 15,000 people. The settlements would be burned every 60-80 years with the culture moving elsewhere.)  flourished from about 4500 BC to 3000 BC. The Copper Age people of the Trypillian culture resided in the western part.

During the Iron Age, these were followed by the DaciansCimmerians (The Cimmerians were ancient equestrian nomads who, according to Herodotus, originally inhabited the region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea, in what is now Ukraine and Rus’sia, in the 8th and 7th centuries BC.)Scythians (The Scythians were anAncient Iranian people of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who throughout Classical Antiquity dominated the Pontic-Caspian steppe, known at the time as Scythia.),Sarmatians (The Sarmatians were a people of Ancient Iranian origin. They migrated from Central Asia to the Ural Mountains around fifth century B.C. and eventually settled in most of southern European Rus’sia, Ukraine, and the eastern Balkans.) among other nomadic peoples. The Scythian Kingdom existed here from 750 BC to 250 BC. Along with ancient Greek colonies founded in the 6th century BC on the north-eastern shore of the Black Sea, the colonies of TyrasOlbia , Hermonassa, continued as Roman andByzantine cities until the 6th century AD.


The best known of the early agrarian peoples on the territory of present-day Ukraine were associated with the so-called Trypillian culture, which originated along the Dnister, Buh and Prut rivers. And later expanded to the Dniper. At their high point between 3500 and 2700 BC, they lived in large villages with as many as 600-700 inhabitants. Organized in clans along patriarchal lines, they often lived in long, narrow dwellings in which each nuclear family had its own clay over and partitioned space. The decorations on their pottery, characterized by flowing designs of ocher, black and white, reflected a culture rich in magical rituals and supernatural beliefs.

Even more important was the introduction of the wooden plow, which definitely made agriculture a more dependable.

In the 3rd century AD, the Goths (the Goths were a heterogeneous East Germanic tribe. Originating in semi-legendary Scandza, believed to be somewhere in modernGötaland, Sweden, a Gothic population had crossed the Baltic Sea before the 2nd century) arrived in the lands of Ukraine around 250 AD to 375 AD.

The Goths stayed in the area but came under the sway of the Huns (The Huns were a group of nomadic pastoral people who, appearing from beyond the VOlha, migrated into Europe c.AD 370 and built up an enormous empire in Europe. They were possibly the descendants of the Xiongnu who had been northern neighbours of Chinathree hundred years before and may be the first expansion of Turkic people across Eurasia) from the 370s.

With the power vacuum created with the end of Hunnic and Gothic rule, Slavic tribes (The Slavic Peoples are an ethnic and linguistic branch of Indo-European peoples, living mainly in eastern and central Europe. From the early 6th century they spread from their original homeland (most commonly thought to be in Eastern Europe) to inhabit most of eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Many settled later in Siberia and Central Asia or emigrated to other parts of the world. Over half of Europe is, territorially speaking, inhabited by Slavic-speaking communities. Slavic peoples are classified geographically and linguistically into West Slavic (including Czechs,Kashubians, Moravians, Poles, Silesians, Slovaks and Sorbs), East Slavic (including BelaRus’ians, Rus’sians, Rus’yns and Ukrainians), and South Slavic (includingBosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenes) began to expand over much of what is now Ukraine during the 5th century, and beyond to the Balkans from the 6th century.


2.     Kyivan Rus’.

 According to legends, Kyiv was founded in the 5th century by three brothers Kiy, Shchek and Khoriv and their sister Lebid.

In the 8th century, the territory of Kyivan Rus’was inhabited by a number of tribes who spoken a common proto-Slavic language, pagan beliefs. The ancestors of theUkrainians included the Polianians, SiverianiansDerevlianiansDulibians, White Croatians, Ulychians, and Tivertsians. The proto-Rus’sian Krivichians, Viatichians, andRadimichians and the proto-BeloRussian Drehovichians also lived on the lands that eventually constituted Kyivan Rus’. The Polianians were the largest and most developed of the tribes. None of the tribes, however, was able to create a viable state, and in the 9th century the Varangians from Scandinavia conquered the tribes and laid the groundwork for the Kyivan Rus’ state.

According to some sources, the first Varangian rulers of Rus’ were Askold and Dyr.

In 882, Kyiv was conquered from the Khazars by the Varangian noble Oleh who started the long period of rule of the Rurikid princes. During this time, several Slavic tribes were native to Ukraine, including the Polans, the Drevlyans, the Severians, the Ulichs, the Tiverians, and the Dulebes. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kyiv quickly prospered as the center of the powerful Slavic state of Kyivan Rus’.

Oleh is credited with moving the capital of Rus’ from Novgorod the Great to Kyiv and, in doing so, laid the foundation for the powerful state of Kyivan Rus’. According to East Slavic chronicles, Oleh was supreme ruler of the Rus’ from 882 to 912. Prince Ihor followed him, in 912, who not only continued external raids but also had to fight insubordinate tribes of Ulitchs and Derevlans. He died during a battle with Derevlans in 945. After Ihor's death, his wife Olha ruled Kyivan Rus’ as regent (945-c. 963) for their son,Svyatoslav.

At the start of her reign, Olha spent great effort to avenge her husband's death at the hands of the Drevlians, and succeeded in slaughtering many of them and interring some in a ship burial, while still alive. She is reputed to have scalded captives to death and another, probably apocryphal, story tells of how she destroyed a town hostile to her. She asked that each household present her with a dove as a gift, then tied burning papers to the legs of each dove which she then released to fly back to their homes. Each avian incendiary set fire to the thatched roof of their respective home and the town was destroyed. More importantly in the long term, Olha changed the system of tribute gathering (poliudie) in what may be regarded as the first legal reform recorded in Eastern Europe. She was the first Rus’ ruler to convert to Christianity, either in 945 or in 957.

Known as ‘the Conqueror,’ Sviatoslav Ihorovych attempted to expand his territory to the Danube River, defeating the Bulgarians and establishing Pereiaslavets on theDanube.

In 980, Prince Volodymyr defeated all his brothers and unified the country into one powerful state with Kyiv as the capital. He adopted Christianity in 988 and started to convert the population, which had up to then, worshiped Pagan gods. Force was often used against those who resisted. He produced silver and gold coins with his portrait on one side and the trident on the reverse side (The trident is Coat of Arms of present day Ukraine). In History he is known as Volodymyr the Great or Saint Volodymyr. One of the largest Kyivan cathedrals is dedicated to him. The University of Kyiv was named after the man who both civilized and Christianized Kyivan Rus’.

After his death in 1015, fighting and assassinations between his sons ensued, resulting in victory for prince Yaroslav in 1019.

Yaroslav the Great consolidated nearly whole of his father's territory, defeated the Pechenegs and became one of the most powerful rulers in Europe. Yaroslav promoted family ties with other kingdoms, built many churches, improved Kyiv's fortifications, introduced laws and established courts. He sponsored the construction of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in 1037. Yaroslav was a notable patron of book culture and learning. The process of internal consolidation begun earlier was greatly furthered by Yaroslav the Wise's codification of the law in Rus’kaia Pravda.he divided the country between his sons, who after his death in 1054, started to fight among themselves and divide their land between their sons. This resulted in a number of small principalities which not only fought each other, but also had to defend themselves from marauding Turkish and Polovetsian hordes, who plundered the countryside.

In 1097 all princes agreed to stop fighting between themselves. In 1103 they united their forces under leadership of prince Monomakh. After death of Monomakh in 1125 Ukraine remained fragmented into the numerous principalities, each having their own customs and rules. Gradually Kyiv lost it's power and influence; many principalities separated.

The quarreling between the princes left Rus’ vulnerable to foreign attacks, and the invasion of the Mongols in 1236–40 finally destroyed the state. The principalities never organized a common defense, and in turn each was conquered and pillaged. Kyiv was thoroughly sacked in 1240 and reduced to a shadow of its former self.

The political and social institutions of Kyivan Rus’.

From the 10th to the 12th century the Kyivan state underwent significant sociopolitical changes. Its original component tribes had no political tradition, and its first rulers viewed their domain simply as an object of exploitation, at best as a clan possession. Volodymyr the Great was the first ruler to give Rus’ political unity, by way of organized religion. The church provided him with the concepts of territorial and hierarchical organization; Byzantine notions of autocracy were adopted by him and his successors to give them the equivalent of imperial authority. The political traditions introduced by Volodymyr were based on the principles of territorial indivisibility and dynastic sovereignty. The seniority system of rule—ascension from elder brother to younger and from the youngest uncle to the eldest nephew—provided the Riurykide dynasty with a rotating system of advancement of its members, gave them political experience in lands they could someday expect to rule from Kyiv, and assured control, by way of traditional sanctions, of key points of the realm. This system served well until the reign of Volodymyr Monomakh, but did not survive Kyiv's decline.

The power of the grand prince was maintained by his military strength, particularly that of his druzhyna, or retinue. Ideologically, his power was upheld by the church, whose teachings gave him the attributes and responsibilities of a national leader, judge, and first Christian of the realm. The grand prince ruled and dispensed justice with the help of viceroys appointed by him, who were often the sons of the grand prince, of other princes, of governors, or of military commanders. These representatives of the grand prince's central power were aided by local administrators—the desiatski (see Desiatskyi). The grand prince consulted on important state matters with the Boyar Council, which consisted of his senior retainers and the local aristocracy of power and wealth.

The viche (assembly), an important organ already within the tribal network, resolved all matters on behalf of the population. The city viche, composed of freemen, decided mainly on questions of war and peace and on the invitation, recognition, or expulsion of a prince. It became particularly important in the 12th century during the internecine wars of the princes for the throne of Kyiv.

In the Princely era, Ukrainian society had its own peculiarities. Its privileged elite (the boyars and the ‘better people’), which enjoyed full protection of the law, was not a closed estate; based, as it was, on merit, which the prince rewarded with grants of land, its membership was dependent on the will of the prince. Thus even priests' sons and commoners could become boyars. The towns folk consisted of burghers—mostly merchants and crafts people—and paupers. There was little difference in status between the wealthy merchants and the landed boyars. Most freemen were yeomen called smerds (see Smerd), who lived on their own land or on the land of the prince, paid taxes, and performed certain duties, such as building fortifications, bridges, and roads and serving in the levy en masse in times of war; gradually the smerds became dependent on their lords, and some became tenants or hired laborers on the land. A smaller catIhory of peasants consisted of zakups (see Zakup)—impoverished smerds who had become indentured and half-free. The lowest social stratum in Rus’ consisted of slaves. Male slaves were called kholopy (see Kholop); usually prisoners of war or the offspring of slaves, they had no rights as persons and were considered the legal, movable property of their masters. Certain churchmen and princes, eg, Volodymyr Monomakh in Volodymyr Monomakh's Statute, tried to improve the lot and legal status of the slaves.

The economy of Kyivan Rus’.

Relatively little is known about the economy of Kyiv, although there is no doubt that agriculture was the main activity of the inhabitants. Farming techniques and implements were naturally primitive and the peasants lived mostly at a subsistence level. Some animal husbandry was practiced, as was extensive grain cultivation. Land, particularly after the 11th century, was privately owned. Most peasants supplemented their agricultural activities with fishing, trapping, and hunting, especially in the northern forest and forest-stepperegions. The forests also supplied wood, the major source of fuel. The peasants generally lived in small, scattered villages.

The second major component of Kyiv's economy was foreign trade. Not only were local goods, particularly furs, traded for important items, but much profit was made from the simple transshipment of goods along the great trade routes linking first east and west and later north and south. In the end, it was the breakdown of the trade route from ‘the Varangians to Byzantium that partially initiated Kyiv's decline, and it was the emergence of specialized routes linking the northern principalities to the Hanseatic League of states that furthered the disintegration of the state.

Western parts of Ukraine - Halychyna (Galicia) and Volynj (Volhynia) gradually emerged as leading principalities. Prince Roman ruled there in 1199. His sons succeeded in uniting both principalities into one rich and powerful state.

Meanwhile, Prince Danylo (son of Prince Roman) established himself in Halych and his brother Vasylko in Volynj.

Under Danylo’s reign, Galicia–Volhynia was one of the most powerful states in east central Europe. Demographic growth was enhanced by immigration from the west and the south, including Germans and Armenians. Commerce developed due to trade routes linking the Black Sea with Poland, Germany and the Baltic basin. Major cities, which served as important economic and cultural centers, were among others: Lviv (where the royal seat would later be moved by Danylo’s son), Volodymyr-in-Volhynia, Galych,KholmPeremyshlDrohyczyn and Terebovlya. Galicia–Volhynia was important enough that in 1252 Danylo was able to marry his son Roman to the heiress of the Austrian Duchyin the vain hope of securing it for his family. Another son, Shvarn, married a daughter of MindaugasLithuania's first king, and briefly ruled that land from 1267–1269.

Danylo founded city Lviv in 1250 as a defense site against Tatars. In 1253 he accepted the royal crown from the pope and effected a short-lived church union with Rome.

After King Danylo’s death in 1264, he was succeeded by his son Lev. Lev moved the capital to Lviv in 1272 and for a time maintained the strength of Galicia–Volhynia. Unlike his father, who pursued a Western political course, Lev worked closely with the Mongols, in particular cultivating a close alliance with the Tatar Khan. After Lev's death in 1301, a period of decline ensued. Lev was succeeded by his son Yuriy I who ruled for only seven years. Although his reign was largely peaceful and Galicia–Volhynia flourished economically, Yuriy I lost Lublin to the Poles (1302) and Transcarpathia to the Hungarians. From 1308 until 1323 Galicia–Volhynia was jointly ruled by Yuriy I's sons Andriy and Lev II, who proclaimed themselves to be the kings of Galicia and Volhynia. They died together in 1323, in battle, fighting against the Mongols, and left no heirs.

After the extinction of the Rurikid dynasty in Galicia–Volhynia in 1323, Volhynia passed into the control of the Lithuanian King Liubartas, while the boyars took control over Galicia. They invited the Polish Prince Boleslaw, a grandson of Yuriy I, to assume the Galician throne.

The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania divided up the region between them: King Kazimierz III Wielki took Galicia and Western Volhynia, while the sister state of Eastern Volhynia together with Kyiv came under Lithuanian control, 1352–1366.


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