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Explaining Ukraine

There is a lot of misinformation about Ukraine out there. The Kyiv Independent wants to set the record straight, which is why we’re launching our “Explaining Ukraine” section. The articles featured here explain Ukrainian historical and cultural events and figures in order to help the world understand Ukraine better.
10 authors shaping contemporary Ukrainian literature

10 authors shaping contemporary Ukrainian literature

Ukraine has a thriving contemporary literature scene with writers from across the country working in multiple genres. There’s a wide variety of texts for readers to choose from, whether they prefer the immersive realm of a science fiction novel or a work of thought-provoking literary criticism. This persistence of

Pereiaslav, the treaty that started modern Russo-Ukrainian history

Pereiaslav, the treaty that started modern Russo-Ukrainian history

In late April 2024, in central Kyiv, heavy cranes began dismantling a sculpture erected to commemorate 17th-century Pereiaslav Treaty between the Cossacks and Muscovites, symbolically closing a chapter of a shared history. It was the very same agreement lauded by Russian President Vladimir Putin as supposed evidence of Ukraine's historical

Who were the Ukrainian Cossacks?

Who were the Ukrainian Cossacks?

The word Cossack comes from the Turkic word meaning “free man” or “outlaw.” True to this moniker, Ukraine’s Cossacks — a semi-nomadic militaristic group originating somewhere in the 15th century —  are renowned as sovereign warriors and pioneers of independence in Ukraine. Deeply ingrained in Ukrainian national mythology, particularly through the

Taras Shevchenko, Ukrainian poet and national hero

Taras Shevchenko, Ukrainian poet and national hero

In nearly every village, town, and city across Ukraine today, you can spot some kind of monument to the 19th-century poet and artist Taras Shevchenko. Following Ukraine’s independence in 1991 and the Euromaidan Revolution in 2014, many of them replaced statues of 20th-century Bolshevik revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin that

Celebrating the Ukrainian way: The 12 dishes of Christmas

Celebrating the Ukrainian way: The 12 dishes of Christmas

The Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine has impacted every aspect of life for Ukrainians, even the date they celebrate Christmas. What hasn’t changed is the tradition of serving 12 dishes on Christmas Eve, known as Svyata Vecherya or the Holy Supper. Earlier this year, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

Kyiv Cake: The legendary sweet of Ukraine's capital

Kyiv Cake: The legendary sweet of Ukraine's capital

There’s nothing sweeter than home, unless you’re a Kyivan — because then you have Kyiv Cake. While many foreigners associate the city with the butter-filled chicken cutlet known as Chicken Kyiv, which is likely of French origin, the layers of nutty meringue and buttercream coated with crushed hazelnuts that

Who are the Crimean Tatars?

Who are the Crimean Tatars?

One of the most overlooked parts of Ukraine is its diversity. The Crimean Tatars – a national minority native to Crimea and recognized as an indigenous people of Ukraine – are a perfect example. The Crimean Tatars – also referred to as Kirimli or Qırımlı – endured wars, mass deportations, and waves of repression

Borsch, a Ukrainian staple, explained

Borsch, a Ukrainian staple, explained

In 1584, a German merchant traveled to Kyiv, at the time under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In his diary, he mentions borsch—the earliest known reference to the dish. But according to historical records, Ukrainians have been eating and adapting a dish known as borsch for at least 1,200 years.

The origins of 'Slava Ukraini'

The origins of 'Slava Ukraini'

In early March 2023, a video surfaced online showing the execution of a Ukrainian prisoner of war. The unarmed soldier’s last words were “Slava Ukraini” – a Ukrainian national salute that means “Glory to Ukraine” – before he was shot multiple times and collapsed to his death. Ukrainian officials condemned the

Everything you didn’t know about Ukraine’s flag

Everything you didn’t know about Ukraine’s flag

At a small exhibit at the National History Museum in Kyiv on Ukraine’s flag, one notices something particular about the flags from the Soviet times and early days of independence: they’re homemade — sewn by hand with different fabrics of slightly different blues and yellows, the result of a

Viktor Yanukovych: Ukraine’s scandal-ridden ex-president

Viktor Yanukovych: Ukraine’s scandal-ridden ex-president

When reports emerged that the Kremlin had been allegedly planning to install former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in a leadership role in the event they captured Kyiv following the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukrainians were in disbelief. Yanukovych, 73, had been flatly rejected by the

The origins of the 2014 war in Donbas

The origins of the 2014 war in Donbas

There is a reason why Ukrainians insist the world refers to Russia’s assault against Ukraine in 2022 as a “full-scale” invasion. Russia’s war against Ukraine did not begin on Feb. 24, 2022, but in 2014, with both the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine’s eastern

Kyivan Rus, then and now

Kyivan Rus, then and now

Kyivan Rus was one of the most developed states of medieval Europe, lasting from around the late ninth to the mid-thirteenth century. It played a significant role in the history of the continent and the future East Slavic nations. The territories of Kyivan Rus included much of modern-day Ukraine, Belarus,

Holodomor: Soviet Union’s man-made famine in Ukraine

Holodomor: Soviet Union’s man-made famine in Ukraine

Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic photos and descriptions. The Holodomor, which means “murder by starvation” in Ukrainian, is widely considered to be one of Ukraine’s most devastating national tragedies. A man-made famine brought on by the agricultural collectivization policies and actions of the Soviet authorities under the

Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament

Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament

When the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted the Declaration of Sovereignty in July 1990 to gain greater rights and freedoms within the Soviet Union, ridding the country of nuclear weapons was one of its top priorities. Ukraine had just suffered enormously from the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear power plant accident. Ukraine’

Chornobyl nuclear disaster

Chornobyl nuclear disaster

The Chornobyl nuclear accident occurred on April 26, 1986, at around 1 a.m. when one of the plant’s nuclear reactors exploded during a planned test. The explosion forever marred the surrounding environment and contaminated a 150,000-square-kilometer swath of land in the nexus between Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Russia invaded Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in February 2014 amid the deadliest days of the EuroMaidan Revolution that eventually ousted pro-Russian ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. While Yanukovych's pro-Russian regime was murdering protesters in downtown Kyiv, around 30,000 Russian troops crossed into Crimea, taking hold of the peninsula by early March 2014.

Ukraine’s struggle for independence

Ukraine’s struggle for independence

On a cold day in 1918, a young student battalion began digging trenches to fortify their positions near Kyiv. They were filled with dreams of independent Ukraine and stood up to another of Russia’s attempts to subjugate their land. As about 5,000 Bolshevik troops came to seize Kyiv,

Vyshyvanka, Ukraine's traditional embroidered shirt

Vyshyvanka, Ukraine's traditional embroidered shirt

Vyshyvanka, the Ukrainian word for a traditionally styled embroidered shirt or dress, is the central feature of Ukraine’s national clothing. The shirts are traditionally made of linen and the designs are often ornate and colorful and represent features of Ukraine’s landscape or cultural values. In the past, vyshyvankas

Ukraine's Orange Revolution

Ukraine's Orange Revolution

Ukraine’s Orange Revolution was a series of protests, held mostly in Kyiv, that lasted from November 2004 to January 2005 as a response to election fraud. After reports that the results of the Nov. 21, 2004, presidential election run-off between ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and then Prime Minister Viktor

EuroMaidan Revolution

EuroMaidan Revolution

The EuroMaidan Revolution is often credited with being the single most consequential event in Ukraine's modern history. After pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych took power in 2010, the political and business landscape in Ukraine was gradually deteriorating. In November 2013, Yanukovych refused to sign the long-awaited Association Agreement with the European

Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky entered the international spotlight as the war-time president of Ukraine after Russia’s full-scale invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022. Before becoming president, he was already famous as a comedic actor and businessman. Zelensky, 44, grew up in a Jewish family — he is the only son of a

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