Russian Revolution and Civil War (1917 - 23)The Holodomor (1932 - 33) Millions die in Stalin's persecution and famine.
'This slim volume of just over 200 pages is something of a marvel. Written by a world-leading historian of Ukraine, it introduces readers to the history, geography, economy, politics, and contemporary life of the country now suffering from Russia’s invasion.Serhy Yekelchyk precisely defines both the commonalities and differences in the histories of Ukraine and Russia, and he also delves into the entanglements between Ukrainian and United States politics. Yekelchyk asks all the right questions and answers them succinctly and precisely.There is no better book to start reading on the background of the current war. If you have time to read only one book on this topic, this is it.'
Whilst not specifically involving Ukraine, this classic novel covers a period of Russian history from 1902 to World War II. In a way similar to 'And Quiet Flows the Don', it involves a love story embedded in historical events. It was unsuccessfully suppressed by the Soviet authorities. The author, Boris Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958.
It was made into several movies, of which the best known is Doctor Zhivago, by David Lean (1965).
This 2002 TV mini-series featured Keira Knightly, Hans Matheson and Sam Neill. I think it is better than the classic version.
The films are set against a backdrop of World War I, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Russian Civil War.
Depopulation in 1929–1933, including Holodomor time
The novel 'The Hand that Signed the Paper' covers events in Ukraine in the early 1930s through to the Second World War. Written by a young 21 year-old woman from Brisbane who called herself Helen Demidenko, it won several top Australian Literary prizes, including the Miles Franklin Award, The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, and the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal.
The novel caused a scandal for two reasons: the central characters who had suffered during the Holodomor attributed their misfortunes to Jewish communists, and initially perceived the arrival of Nazi troops as being a liberation. They went on to join the SS, and participated in the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar, and in the running of the Nazi extermination camp at Treblinka. Thus some saw the novel as being anti-semitic.
The second reason was that the author wrote under a pseudonym, and presented herself as being from a Ukrainian family, when in fact her parents were English migrants.
On 18th August 1991 the 'August Coup' attempt occurred. Hardline communists tried to topple President Mikhail Gorbachev. The coup was foiled partly by Boris Yeltsin, who then took over from Gorbachev. This led to the dismantling of the USSR and the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine 24th August 1991. A referendum on Ukraine becoming independent of the USSR was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of 92.3% of voters.
A short trailer of 'The Event', a film about the August 1991 coup attempt.
I think many of us in the West have failed to understand the significance of the 1991 coup attempt. It was actually a very close thing, and might easily have been successful. In the minds of many Russians, it was a disaster because it was followed by the disintegration of the USSR, and the 'loss' of their Eastern European allies, many of whom went on to join NATO.
1994: The Budapest Memorandum.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and its disintegration into its component states, there was a very real fear that the nuclear weapons positioned in some of those states might fall into the hands of some terrorist groups. Ukraine at the time had the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, albeit under Russian control. Major international diplomatic efforts went into reducing the risks, as a result of which the weapons were returned to Russia and dismantled, and the Budapest Memorandum treaty was signed by Russia, the UK, and the US guaranteeing Ukraine's borders.
According to the memorandum, Russia, the US and the UK confirmed their recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and effectively abandoning their nuclear arsenal to Russia and that they agreed to the following:
- Respect Belarusian, Kazakh and Ukrainian independence and sovereignty in the existing borders.
- Refrain from the threat or the use of force against Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine.
- Refrain from using economic pressure on Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine to influence their politics.
- Seek immediate Security Council action to provide assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine if they "should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used".
- Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine.
- Consult with one another if questions arise regarding those commitments.
The annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 represented the repudiation of the treaty, an offence greatly compounded by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
It also carries wider implications for countries being pressured to abandon nuclear programs, such as Iran and North Korea. 'Look what happened to Ukraine when they agreed to denuclearize!'
Ukraine war: what is the Budapest Memorandum and why has Russia’s invasion torn it up?
The Conversation, March 3, 2022.
The Orange Revolution occurred in Kyiv between November 2004 to January 2005. It was mostly peaceful with large crowds demonstrating in Maidan Square and elsewhere.
It followed a presidential election widely considered to have been fraudulent.
In September 2004, Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin, possibly by Russian agents. He recovered. In the second round of the election, on 21st November, Yanukovych was declared the winner. Many international observers declared the result to have been rigged. This triggered the Orange Revolution.
The Ukrainian Supreme Court annulled the result and ordered a re-run election, which Yushchenko won.
His presidency was complicated by conflict with his one-time ally and the woman he appointed as Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been a star of the Orange Revolution.
The political shenanigans in Ukraine between the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the 2010 presidential election are hard to understand, and must have been very distressing to the Ukrainian public. I think there was a three-way struggle between Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych, which ended with the election of the pro-Russian Yanukovych. Tymoshenko was subsequently tried for abuse of power and jailed. Many western countries protested her political prosecution. She was released in February 2014.
In November 2013, the Yanukovych government had been preparing to sign an agreement with the EU. Under Russian pressure, Yanukovych abruptly reversed course and moved away from Europe towards Russia. This provoked outrage in the population, particularly in the western part of the country and Kyiv.
The Maidan Revolution was also known as the 'Revolution of Dignity'. Unlike the Orange Revolution of 2004, which was largely peaceful, the Maidan Revolution turned violent, with more than 120 deaths. The Yanukovych government was overthrown. Russia regarded it as an illegal coup.
The Fight for Ukraine (video)
There were protests both for and against the revolution, especially in the south and east of the country.
In February and March 2014, following the Maidan Revolution, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. A referendum endorsed the move, although it was declared illegal.
Russia has traditionally regarded Crimea as being an important part of Russia, partly because Russia has no cold-water ports like Sevastopol. Ports on the north coast and Baltic freeze over in winter.
Since the annexation, Russia constructed a bridge to cross the Kerch Strait. Called the 'Crimean Bridge', it significantly obstructs the access of Ukrainian ships to the port city of Mariupol on the coast of the Sea of Azov.
Situation on 28th May 2022
A civilian passenger jet, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, was shot down over Hrabove (a village in the Donetsk Oblask) on 17 July 2014, killing all 298 people on board. DPR-affiliated insurgents blamed the Ukrainian government for the disaster, whereas the government, Netherlands, and Australia blamed Russia and the insurgents.
In July 2021, the Kremlin published an almost 7,000-word essay by Putin, entitled “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, in which he argued that Russia and Ukraine were one nation, artificially divided. It laid the groundwork for his deployment of troops to Ukraine in February.
"Peter the Great waged the Great Northern War for 21 years," a relaxed and apparently self-satisfied Putin said. "On the face of it, he was at war with Sweden taking something away from it... He was not taking away anything, he was returning. This is how it was."
Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected president of Ukraine on 21 April 2019, with 73% of the vote.
He had been a comedian and actor, probably the first President of a country to perform by playing a piano with his penis.