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  • To help us understand the current situation in Ukraine, lets look back at its modern history.

  • As the dust settled after World War I, Ukraine was defeated and divided and the Soviets controlled much of the country.

  • In 1922 Ukraine, along with Russia, became the founding members of the Soviet Union.

  • Fast-forward to 1932 when the great famine began, up to 10 million Ukrainians starved to death.

  • Part of the reason why it got so bad was because of the policies of the new head of the communist party, Joseph Stalin.

  • Then came the Great Terror: Two waves of Stalinist political repression and persecution

  • resulted in the killing of some 681,000 people; including 80 percent of the Ukrainian cultural elite

  • and three-quarters of all the Ukrainian Red Army's higher-ranking officers.

  • Then came the outbreak of WWII.

  • German armies invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941,

  • beginning four straight years of non-stop total war. In the battle of Kiev,

  • Axis troops encircled and laid siege to the capital city. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers

  • were killed or taken captive there. The total losses inflicted upon the Ukrainian

  • population during the war are estimated between five and eight million, including over half

  • a million Jews killed by Nazi death squads, sometimes with the help of local collaborators.

  • The republic was heavily damaged by the war. More than 700 cities and towns and 28,000

  • villages were destroyed. Material losses comprised an estimated 40 percent of Ukraine's national

  • wealth. But Ukraine bounces back with its economy boomed.

  • Industrial output doubled from 1940 to 1955. Before long Ukraine was a

  • European leader in industrial production, and an important center of the Soviet arms

  • and high-tech research industries. Ukraine produced many prominent Soviet sports

  • players, scientists, and artists over this period as well as much of the Soviet leadership,

  • including Leonid Brezhnev, who ousted Khrushchev and became the Soviet leader from 1964 to

  • 1982. Then, on 26 April 1986, a reactor in the Chernobyl

  • Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the worst nuclear reactor accident in history.

  • The Soviet Union began to break apart under the weight of theWar of Laws,” which

  • was the constant conflict between the Soviet Federal Government and its various republics,

  • who were each seeking greater autonomy. On 24 August 1991, the Ukrainian parliament officially

  • declared independence. But then the economy immediately sank into

  • depression and lost 60 percent of its GDP from 1991 to 1999.

  • A new currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in 1996. The economy was stabilized by the

  • end of the 1990’s. Corruption under Ukraine’s second president

  • set the stage for the 2004 ascendence of then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to the Presidency

  • in elections that the Ukrainian Supreme Court ruled were rigged.

  • Yanukovych was then thrown out of power in the peaceful Orange Revolution in favor of

  • opposition leaders Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, who became President and Prime

  • Minister. Yanukovych then regained the Prime Ministership in 2006, but lost a snap election

  • just a year later that saw Tymoshenko become Prime Minister again. This map of those 2007

  • election results shows just how divided Ukraine is politically.

  • Then came the January 2009 natural gas crisis in which Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine

  • in the middle of winter. Since Ukraine is itself the main supply route to much of Europe,

  • this was a pretty big problem. Tymoshenko eventually signed an agreement to reopen the

  • pipes, but not before Ukraine incurred major economic losses.

  • As a result of the political fallout, Yanukovych - who just does not go away - was elected

  • President again in 2010. And in October, 2011, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in

  • prison for abuse of office because she signed the natural gas deal with Russian President

  • Vladimir Putin. In 2012 the European Union and Ukraine began

  • negotiations for it to join the 28-nation group. President Viktor Yanukovych urged the

  • parliament to adopt laws so that Ukraine would meet the EU's criteria.

  • But Russia does not want this to happen, and responded by starting a trade war that resulted

  • in a 10% decline in Ukrainian export revenue from the previous year, or $1.5 billion in

  • losses. Bringing us to the 3-month old Euromaidan

  • protests which began at the end of 2013 when Yanukovych - who was feeling the economic

  • pressure - abruptly suspended efforts to join the EU. He then turned around and signed an

  • agreement with Putin, who offered $15 billion in financial aid and a 33% discount on Russian

  • natural gas. As a result, the protests have escalated and

  • become more violent, with many now calling for the ouster of Yanukovych and a rejection

  • of the Russian deal in favor of a complete embrace of Europe.

To help us understand the current situation in Ukraine, lets look back at its modern history.

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Ukrainian History: WWI to 2014 Revolution

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    姚易辰 posted on 2014/04/11
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