A Brief History of Ukraine


The world has learned a great deal about Ukraine over the past few years—most notably, its heroic resistance to Russian aggression. But this conflict has also illuminated a tumultuous history of the region, which was for centuries ruled by several powerful neighbors and then, ultimately, by the Soviet Union.

The Ukraine of today is a multiparty state with a president and prime minister. Despite an economic crisis brought on by the conflict, Ukrainians continue to work hard and remain optimistic about the country’s future.

Ukraine is a major industrialized and agricultural powerhouse, producing natural gas, petroleum, steel, and coal, and growing winter wheat and sugar beets. It is also a key transportation hub with a large network of rail, road, and air routes.

Its landscape varies from rolling hills to vast plains, with the Carpathian Mountains running through its western region. A number of major rivers, including the Dnieper (Dnipro), Southern Buh, and Donets Rivers, flow through Ukraine. The country has abundant deposits of mineral resources, particularly iron ore and coal.

In late 2004, mass protests dubbed the Orange Revolution forced the government to annul rigged presidential elections and allow new internationally monitored votes, which swept a reformist slate led by Viktor YANUKOVYCH into office. The YANUKOVYCH administration faced frequent criticism from Western observers over its use of state resources to promote ruling party candidates, interference with media access, and corruption.

As a result of the political turmoil, Russia’s influence in Ukraine has increased significantly. Russia’s takeover of Crimea, in particular, has fueled nationalist sentiment among some Ukrainians and deepened popular mistrust of the West. In the past, nationalist sentiments were vigorously suppressed by Soviet leaders, but after World War II they became increasingly fervent.

Beets are a mainstay in the cuisine of Ukraine, and this hearty dish is one of the most well-known. Featuring tender chunks of beef, beets, carrots, cabbage, and fresh dill, borscht is a comforting meal that can be enjoyed all year round. For an even healthier version of the classic, try substituting the meat with lean ground turkey or chicken instead.