Ukraine State Timeline + The Orange Revolution

Ukraine – Early Origins – Recent History and The Orange Revolution

Related pages  Ukraine Country Profile  / City of Kiev Visitors Guide 


Ukraine Origins & Recent History

The Ukrainian people originally were Eastern Slavs. In the 19th century the eastern Ukraine was controlled by the Russian Empire and western Ukraine by the Hapsburg Empire. After the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire a year later Ukrainian Nationalists made several unsuccessful attempts to establish an independent state ‘Ukrainia’ and by 1921 the western area had become part of Poland, whilst the east was part of the Soviet Union.

The spirit of ‘Ukrainia’ survived even when Stalin repeatedly tried to suppress it, through artificial famines. In 1932 -33  one of these famines is thought to have killed over 5 million people. During World War Two, the Ukrainians desire for independence was illustrated by their fighting the Third Reich and the Russians.

The end of the war saw  the unification of  the regions of east and west Ukraine as ‘The Ukraine’   under the control of the Soviet Union. The new status did not quell their  desire for freedom that was reinforced in 1986 when one of the nuclear reactors at Chernobyl exploded which many viewed  the Soviet government failed to prevent or respond to afterwards.

In 1991 the attempted coup in Moscow gave the Ukrainian Parliament the opportunity to declare Ukraine’s Independence, which was ratified by  90% of Ukrainians in a referendum later that year.

In 1994 Leonid Kuchma became President after campaigning for economic reform and improving the Ukraine’s relationship with Moscow. During his presidency he unsuccessfully sought to increase his powers as president and was reportedly involved in the disappearance  of an investigative journalist Georgly Gongadze who’s headless body was found in November 2000. These events weakened the Kuchma presidency and his appointed Prime minister Yushchenko was later forced to resign in April 2001.


The Orange Revolution

In the Parliamentary elections on November 24th  2004 Yushenko and his party  ‘Our Ukraine’ who now the opposition – were confident of victory of re-election and opinion polls and exit polls suggested they would win by a 8 – 14% margin. However, international observers monitoring these elections expressed serious concerns about the conduct of the election and when preliminary results suggested that the ruling party had won the elections by 3%.

The Ukrainian Supreme Court stopped the declaration of results whilst it investigated complaints of electoral fraud lodged by Our Ukraine. As the complaints included the ruling party winning more votes than there were voters in some areas the Ukrainian people were enraged.

In spite of being in the depths of winter over 500,000 of them camped outside the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev demanding the elections be declared void. Some protesters peacefully blockaded government buildings. Staff in one of these – the Ministry Of Education – gave the demonstrators tea and American biscuits. As many of the protestors wore  orange clothing – the colours of the Ukraine party this protest and subsequent events became known as  The Orange Revolution’.

On December 3rd The Supreme Court ordered that the election be re-run on December 26th. This time ‘Our Ukraine’ won the election by a margin of 5%. The former ruling party protested that this was a fraudulent result but The Supreme Court rejected these submissions on January 20th and Yushchenko became President three days later and a new government took office in February 4th 2005.



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