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Understanding the War in Ukraine

Understanding the history of a country can help us understand its present and even predict its future. A Year 9 student explains the historical context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and our very own History teachers make their predictions about what might happen next

Early History:

From the 6th century BC, Greek, Roman and Byzantine colonies were present on the north-eastern shore of the Black Sea. These continued into the 6th century AD. During the 10th and 11th centuries, Kievan Rus’ became the largest and most powerful state in Europe. It was later destroyed by the 13th-century Mongol invasion and Kyiv was completely devastated in 1240. From the mid-13th century to the late 1400s, the Republic of Genoa founded numerous colonies in the Black Sea region of Ukraine. In 1430, Ukraine became increasingly populated by Polish colonisers. In 1441, Genghisid prince Haci I Giray founded the Crimean Khanate on the Crimean Peninsula. In 1569, the Union of Lublin founded the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and most Ukrainian territories were transferred from Lithuania to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. From the beginning of the 16th century until the end of the 17th, Crimean Tatar slave raiding bands took about two million slaves from Russia and Ukraine. The Tatar raids discouraged settlement in more southerly regions. In 1783, the last remnant of the Crimean Khanate was finally conquered by the Russian Empire.

19th and 20th centuries:

Ukrainians entered World War I on the side of both the Central Powers, under Austria and the Triple Entente, under Russia. Three-and-a-half million Ukrainians fought with the Imperial Russian Army, while 250,000 fought for the Austro-Hungarian Army. World War I led to the end of both empires. During the Russian Revolution, a Ukrainian national movement for self-determination, with Socialist influence, emerged, as well as several Ukrainian states. The Ukrainian People’s Republic was declared on 23 June 1917, at first proclaimed as a part of the Russian Republic. The independence of the Ukrainian People’s Republic was declared on 22 January 1918. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was formed in 1919 and in 1922 it joined the Soviet Union. During WWII, more than 4.5 million Ukrainians joined the Red Army to fight Nazi Germany and more than 250,000 served in Soviet partisan paramilitary units. The total number of ethnic Ukrainians who fought in the Soviet Army is estimated from 4.5 million and 7 million. The total losses of the Ukrainian population are estimated at 6 million, including about 1 and a half million Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen. The losses of the Ukrainian people made up for 40-44% of the total deaths of the USSR. The republic was heavily damaged by the war. Ukraine officially declared itself a country on 24 August, 1991, when it proclaimed that it would no longer follow the laws of the USSR. The Soviet Union later collapsed on 26 December, 1991.

In 2014, Russia annexed a Ukrainian territory called Crimea, although many countries of the world continued to consider it a part of Ukraine. This caused the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has been going on since 2014, but has recently started to become much worse, as we all sadly know.

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