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Ukraine

World War II was about to rear its ugly head, as on September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded western Poland. On September 17, the Soviet Union (in cooperation with Germany) invaded eastern Poland and those Ukraine lands then controlled by Poland.

In 1941 the Germans attacked the Soviet Union which proved in the end to be a bad decision, however, over the next three years Nazi Germany would control much of Ukraine and the worst for its long-suffering people was yet to come.

The Ukrainians and Soviet troops fought back where they could, but to little or no avail. The German Nazis systematically carried out genocidal policies against Jews, and deported others (mainly Ukrainians) to forced labor camps in Germany.

Total civilian losses during the German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at 7 million, including over a million Jews shot and killed by the Einsatzgruppen, a special SS mobile unit charged with carrying out mass murder.

Of the estimated 11 million Soviet troops who died in battle against the Nazis, about a fourth (2.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians. Thus, the Ukrainian nation is distinguished as suffering the greatest bloodshed during the brutal War.

After World War II the Ukraine remained a part of the Soviet Union, and the Ukrainian SSR (in a deal orchestrated by the U.S.) became one of founding members of the United Nations (UN) together with the Soviet Union and the Byelorussian SSR.

Over the next two decades, Ukrainian's industries grew rapidly and became a symbol of Soviet economic and military power. In fact, Ukraine became a Soviet military outpost during the cold war, crowded by military bases.

Then, on April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded in the town of Pripyat. The fallout contaminated large areas of northern Ukraine and even parts of Belarus. This sparked a (People's Movement) called the "Rukh," a movement that helped expedite the break-up of the Soviet Union during the late 1980s.

In the late 1980's, Soviet President Gorbachev introduced policies in Russia to help reduce the corruption at the top of the Communist Party. That move called 'Glasnost' sparked a passionate desire for freedom across The Soviet Union, and in the end freedom from Communism caused the total collapse of the country in 1991.

On August 24, 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine declared itself an independent state. On December 1, 1991, 90% of Ukrainian voters approved a referendum formalizing independence from the Soviet Union.

Following its independence, Ukraine made many positive moves, including becoming a non-nuclear nation in 1996, when it had all of its nearly 2,000 Soviet era nuclear warheads dismantled.

A peaceful mass protest called the "Orange Revolution" in the closing months of 2004 forced the authorities to overturn a rigged presidential election and to allow a new internationally monitored vote that swept into power a reformist slate under Viktor Yushcenko.

Subsequent internal squabbles in the Yushchenko camp allowed his rival Viktor Yanukovych to stage a comeback in parliamentary elections and become prime minister in August of 2006; he was elected President in a runoff election in 2010.

Today in Ukraine, the overall move is a forward push toward the west. The country is heavily involved in European events, including one as the co-host of the European Football Championships in 2012.

And then there's the exciting capital city of Kiev. We've been there twice and (in our opinion) it's one of the more beautiful and cleanest cities in all of Europe.

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.