[Editor’s Note: Facts on Ukraine’s history and current conflict reported by April Harper, special to GNI]
Before recent violent struggles on the streets of Kiev, Ukraine has been known for fertile ground and being the bread basket of Europe. The Ukrainian flag is blue and yellow to represent the skies above and the land below.
In 1917 Ukraine was declared a free and independent state. That freedom was short-lived as by 1918 the Bolshevik Revolution that began in Russia moved quickly into Ukrainian territory.
1918 Bolshevik revolution
The revolution was bloody and countless people were lost. To date there is no means to assess the true loss that occurred. Under Joseph Stalin’s leadership, mass killings and kidnappings were conducted and are referred today as the “purges”.
Those who were fortunate to survive the “purges” were then subjugated to a government induced famine, which made it illegal for an ordinary Ukrainian to have wheat or grain. This was during the collectivization of farmlands and villages to grow grain and produce for “community”. It is estimated that more than seven million Ukrainians perished during this time period.
January 1990 Human Chain for an Independent Ukraine
1990s rolled in and freedom was in the air, with the collapsing soviet system Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland had chance for freedom. The Ukrainian people showed unity of purpose and hope by forming a human chain from Kiev to the Polish border.
In the years to come, they created a parliament, elected a president and ratified a constitution providing freedoms of speech and expression of religion.
2004 Orange Revolution
The people once again rose up in protest in 2004 due to a corrupt election and a government system that did not abide by the constitution. Though some died during this protest and others were imprisoned, the protests were viewed as peaceful and successful as Viktor Yushchenko came to power, showing potential to get the nation on track. This was known as the “Orange Revolution”.
Oct 2012, Yanukovych was elected as the president of Ukraine. He ran with the platform of signing the treaty with the EU and entered into talks with EU leaders.
In November 2013, Yanukovych refused to sign the treaty and the people responded with rallying in Kiev. Many suspected that he did not sign the agreement due to pressure from Russia who had threatened to cut off gas supply to Ukraine. Yanukovych’s administration sent a team to Moscow and made arrangements with Russia instead of re-entering talks with EU Leaders. This action infuriated the people of Ukraine as they felt betrayed and lied to. They desire a corruption-free democratic government and to enjoy freedoms.
Dec 2013 Yanukovych’s administration approved the use of force to “clear” the protesters and areas around Kiev. At this point innocent unarmed civilians were beaten, arrested, shot and left for dead in fields. These actions hit the nerve in the people’s hearts; reminding them of the purges and years of famine. When Yanukovych then promoted and urged the parliament to pass communist era laws the nation rose up, determined to not be silenced.
On January 16, 2014 the laws Yanukovych pushed through had become law, giving him authority to forcefully evict the protesters and cause harm. Since then, more than 100 people have been killed and 1000+ have been severely injured.
On February 21, 2014 Viktor Yanukovych fled the protests in Kiev and was removed from office by Ukraine’s parliament the next day.
Recently freed opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, called the protestors who risked death on the streets of Kiev “heroes.”
“Because nobody could… do what you have done,” she said. “We’ve eliminated this cancer.”