Brief History of Ukraine Since Independence


Ukraine is the largest European country located in the East of Europe. Excavations prove that the territory of present Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. In the Middle Ages, territory of Ukraine was a centre of Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus based on Ukrainian identity.

Modern Ukraine gained its independence only in 1991.  Young country with deep cultural roots and diverse history has experienced explosive and rapid changes and challenges since its sovereignty. The world biggest journals would many times put Ukraine on their front pages. Due to its geopolitical location, large economic market, human and natural resources, Ukraine always attracted attention of foreign countries and corporations alike.

Independence of Ukraine

16 July 1990 is one of the critically important days for Ukraine. Day when the “Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine” came into force. This document stated the dominance of Ukrainian law over the Soviet law on the territory of the country, promoted democratic principles, independence, and personal freedoms. On August 24, 1991 Ukrainian Government adopted “Act of Independence”.

When the Soviet Union (USSR) collapsed, Ukraine was one of the most prosperous post-soviet countries in terms of education, set of scientific and industrial enterprises. What is more, Ukraine had a well-developed agricultural sector, as well as a powerful military-industrial complex, including several of USSR leading ventures, like missile munitions, heavy aircrafts and tanks. Ukraine had a large pool of scientists, engineers and managerial human resources.

At the beginning of 1992, nearly 1,240 nuclear warheads and about 3000 units of tactical nuclear weapons were stored on the territory of Ukraine. Later in 1994, Ukraine agreed to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and signed so called Budapest Memorandum. Under the conditions of mentioned agreements, all the weapons were dismantled and taken from Ukraine to Russia; whereas Russia, Great Britain and the United States obliged to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine and reaffirmed their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.

However, there were a number of weaknesses in the Ukrainian economy:

  • When gained its independence, Ukraine did not have its own monetary system, or gold and foreign exchange reserves. USSR republics did not have the necessary experience in foreign markets, which is important for any country with a market economy.
  • Ukraine gained independence and almost immediately suffered the crisis that covered all sectors of the economy, culture, science and so on. This crisis has significantly complicated the solution of the major problems: the construction of Ukraine’s own state and transferring to a market economy.
  • Goods produced in the USSR (and in particular, in Ukraine) were not competitive in foreign markets.
  • Chernobyl accident still required large material outlays.

These factors made it more complicated to overcome the crisis during independence. During the depression in the 1990s, Ukraine suffered from hyperinflation and a significant fall in economic output.

In 1996, new Government adopted the Constitution of Ukraine, which stabilized the political system. In September of the same year, a monetary reform was implemented and new currency (Hryvna) was introduced.

Orange Revolution

In autumn of 2004 in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, as well as in many other Ukrainian cities thousands of protesters came to the main streets to demonstrate against massive corruption, voting falsification and electoral fraud during the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election.  So called Orange Ukrainian Revolution succeeded when the results of the original election were declared VOID by Ukraine’s Supreme Court decision as of 3rd of December, 2004. Such Supreme Court decision simultaneously ordered re-election of president.

On the 26th of December, 2004 under the close inspection of both Ukrainian and international observers the re-election of president was recognized as “fair and free”. The final results showed a clear victory for Victor Yushchenko (with 52% of votes against 48 % of votes of Victor Yanukovich). Victor Yushchenko became third Ukrainian president after his inauguration on 23rd of January 2005.

Despite number of reforms made by Government of Victor Yushchenko and economic growth in the time of his presidency, people were mostly disappointed by his rule. Main negative factors were constant disagreements within party of Victor Yushchenko as well as contradictions with Yulia Timoshenko (appointed as Prime Minister by Victor Yushchenko on 5th February 2005 and dismissed in September of the same year). What is more, during ruling of Yushchenko, the 2008 world crisis shook Ukrainian economy which brought a lot of dissatisfaction for Ukrainian people. Under the results of the president elections of 2010, Victor Yanukovich won and acted as president of Ukraine until February 2014.

Euromaidan and latest developments in Ukraine

“Euromaidan” revolution in 2013 opened a new chapter in Ukrainian history. Euromaidan started as protest against sudden decision of Victor Yanukovich, who was acting Ukrainian president at that time, not to work on agreement with European Union which was widely expected by Ukrainians. In future Euromaidan became national protest against corruption, violation of human rights and robbery of country by its political officials. As a result president Victor Yanukovich was dismissed.

At the re-elections of president as of May 25, 2014 Petro Poroshenko won the elections with more than 50% of given votes for him. His policy is oriented on creation of a strong relationship with Europe.

Re-election of president in Ukraine caused big dissatisfaction to the Russian Federation. Pro-Russian propaganda in the Crimea and East Ukrainian regions (which were traditionally close to Russia) lead to escalation of conflict in the Eastern Ukraine which started an armed conflict between the self-declared Donetsk and Lughansk People’s Republics and the new Ukrainian Government. In addition, Russian troops entered the Crimea and captured strategic state institutions.

Soon, referendums of unrecognized status were held on the occupied territories.  Russia declared that Crimea joined the Russian Federation in accordance with such referendum decision. The results of such referendums as well as re-union of Crimea with the Russian Federation is not recognized neither by Ukrainian Government nor by international society. Ukraine recognized Crimea and part of Eastern Ukraine as occupied territory.

Since 2014, the EU, Ukraine’s, Russia’s and USA officials have held a number of meetings to establish a dialogue that could push on the process of de-escalating the conflict. In the Eastern Ukraine, at present there is constant confrontation between Ukrainian army and pro-Russian anti-government groups supported with Russian army.

Political instability and loss of control over large parts of Ukrainian territory caused significant economic losses for Ukraine as well as for Ukrainian businesses. Lasting armed conflict  in Eastern Ukraine, increase of unemployment and depreciation of national currency Hryvna (from 8 to 25 Hryvna per 1 USD) significantly worsened standard of life of Ukrainian people.

At the end of 2014, Ukraine ratified the “Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement”, which is considered to be a step forward on the way to Europe. On the 1 January 2016, Ukraine joined The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA) with European Union.

Integration with Europe is a priority for Ukrainian Government. There are constant changes in the governmental structures and legislation with the purpose of simplifying doing business in Ukraine and reaching European standards. Many European Non-Governmental organizations such as OSCE are present on the territory of Ukraine and helping Ukraine to achieve their mission of closer integration with Europe . With the international support, Ukraine is working towards resolving the conflict on the east territories.

In order to raise public knowledge and awareness about importance of English as the language of business and globalization, Ukrainian government is promoting the language through establishing English as mandatory subject from the 1st grade of primary school. Additionally, starting from 2015 free of charge courses of English for country officials, police officers and ordinary Ukrainians were organized.

Key Ukrainian universities tend to invite foreign professors to give courses for their students in English as well as many international student-exchange programs are organized. What is more, in Ukraine nowadays there are many private language schools which increase number of pupils every year. Year of 2016 was declaimed by Ukrainian Government as year of English language in Ukraine.

Ukraine-EU association, Free trade agreement with Ukraine

“Ukraine-EU association”, ratified  by the European Parliament and Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the 16th of September 2014, allows Ukraine to move from the partnership with EU to economic and political integration. It covers such aspects as converging economic policy, legislation, equal rights for workers, visa-free regime, exchange of information, and reformation of energy complex. Parties to the agreement undertake to regular meetings of officials. The association also includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement. All of this is still work-in-progress and being implemented step-by-step.

Free trade agreement gives access to Ukraine to European market and it is expected that this treaty will help to boost the Ukrainian economy. Ukraine agreed to follow the main rules and statements of the treaty. It means increasing transparency, decreasing corruption, and raising the quality of produced products. Whereas until 2013 Russia used to be the Ukraine’s biggest export market, now such market is being substituted by the European Union market for Ukrainian exporters. However goods and services of Ukraine need to comply with European standards to have possibility to export them to EU. At present most of Ukrainian exporters’ strategic target is to bring quality of their goods in compliance with EU standards to reorient their export from Russia to EU.

Additionally, Ukraine is in preparation for the free-visa regime with Europe. According to President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian people will have the freedom of movement in Europe by the end of 2016.


Ukraine is a well-promising developing country that hopes to become a member of the European Union in the future. Ukraine has made a long way from being a part of USSR to its independence and Euro integration.

Recent years could be defined as the years of radical changes in Ukraine. After the Euromaidan revolution, Ukraine has joined Association Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.  Ukraine is in active negotiation with Schengen countries for implementation of a visa-free regime for Ukrainian people. This cooperation between the UA-EU is nowadays priority for Ukraine and definitely a promising path for the young economy.

Related Resources

Here are some additional resources about Ukraine that you might find useful :

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