Ukraine is such a vibrant and bustling nation, and whilst its present may look slightly hazy as it remains embroiled in civil war, Annie Komorova, makes it clear that its history was and remains to be a vibrant one.
Fact 1- The Truth about Crimea
- Contrary to popular belief (presented by the Western media), Crimea was technically never part of Ukraine. Known as Autonomous Republic of Crimea, (or ARC for short), with its own constitution, it should have retained the power to remain independent from the government in Kiev should they have wished so. After its technical, but not practical, transfer to the Ukrainian Socialist Republic in 1954 by Khrushchev to boost unity and friendship between the two peoples, Crimea still remained under the absolute control of the Kremlin and thus the transfer of power was not effective. That is until 1991, when, following the collapse of USSR, Crimea was appropriated by Ukraine, which the newly formed Russian government allowed. However, it remained semi-autonomous, meaning any decision made by the Kievan government did not have to be implemented should the Crimean government veto it. Therefore, following the referendum in March 2014, (although it has not been recognised as legal), one may argue that in light of the vote to join the Russian Federation, Ukraine cannot intervene.
Fact 2- We know how to expand too
- Ukraine’s contemporary geographical area is a lot larger today than it was before 1922. Before this time, the Bolsheviks appropriated large areas of neighbouring countries such as Poland and Russia in order to synthetically create the Ukraine we know today. Interestingly, Lviv and its surrounding county actually belonged to Poland, whilst Crimea was originally owned by the Greeks, whose capital city was Hersonessus, and later by the Tatars. Nevertheless, even without Crimea’s inclusion, Ukraine is still the biggest European country by area only.
Fact 3- Brits stop offending us!
- It’s actually not the Ukraine. Although a lot of English speakers refer it to so. It’s grammatically incorrect and actually offensive to Ukrainians, as it undermines its sovereignty by the inclusion of the article ‘the’. In both Russian and Ukrainian, this suggests that Ukraine is not independent, as the noun ‘ukraina’ is similar to ‘okraina’, a Russian noun which means the borderlands. Considering the current political situation regarding Russia, use of ‘the’ became even more offensive. So, if you happen to be in Ukraine, drop it!
Fact 4- The tale of warring brothers
- Although it is now the bigger power, Russia derives from the Kievan Rus, founded in 484 A.D. by three brothers, Kiy, Shchek and Horyv, and their sister Lybid, who were the first settlers in what is now known as Kiev.
Fact 5- The ‘Bread basket of Europe’?
- Ukraine is the second largest grain producer in the world. Known as ‘Europe’s bread basket’, it exports around 19.7 million tonnes of grain every year, including to Russia. In fact, they have now become their main provider despite 3 years of continuous conflict.
Fact 6- Ukraine’s at the centre of everything!
- Although it contains the noun ‘Rus’, the term ‘Kievan Rus’ originated around 600 A.D. once Kiev was established as the main social and cultural capital in Eastern Europe. The term ‘Rus’ refers to the old Slavonic term used to describe the region, of which Kiev is the capital. In fact, although it is still disputed today, Ukraine lays claim to the centre of Europe, in a Western town called Dilove.
Fact 7- A tale of royalty
- A Ukrainian princess is grandmother to 30 European royal families. Anna Yaroslavna, daughter of Yaroslav the Wise and Ingegerd Olofsdotter, left Kievan Rus in 1048 to marry French king Henri I. Called Agnes in France, she was a member of the royal council and took an active part in governing the country. All subsequent French kings are of her lineage.
Fact 8-Tips for the perfect shot
- ‘Horilka’ and ‘vodka’ are two separate drinks. Whilst ‘vodka’ literally means ‘little water’, ‘horilka’ stands for ‘burning water’, and is thus claimed to be stronger, due to its shorter distillation process. Therefore, only the bravest of the brave take more than a shot in sequence… if you’re ever in Ukraine, give it a swig!
Fact 9- A fact that would make Sonic Underground Proud
- Kiev boasts the world’s deepest subway station, Arsenalna, second closest to the city centre, with a depth of 105.5 metres. London, however, boast only 58.5 metres in Hampstead.
Fact 10- Stalin killed my great great Grandparents
- The Holodomor (1932-33) was a manmade famine induced by Stalin to crush the Ukrainian independence movement – history repeating itself??
7.5 million Ukrainians died, although areas of southern Russia were also affected (Kuban etc) . Both my great great grandmother and father died from this, as my great great grandmother was incapable of providing any food to eat. In the summer 1932, a law was passed ordering the arrest of any person, (including children) who took as much as a few stalks of wheat from the field where they worked. Around 1.5 million people were transported to Siberia, where they were left neither food nor shelter. Scores of villages were blockaded, leaving those contained within no chance of escape: millions starved. Around 40 countries around the world are now recognised to be undergoing Holodomor, a man-made famine, and thus an act of genocide.
Where we are today…
The protests in Kiev have clearly portrayed our collective need for freedom from oppression that has plagued our history ever since the first brick was laid on Maidan Square in 481 the foundations of Kiev was laid. Destroyed, mauled, reshaped and rebuilt for over a thousand years: from Swedes to Turks, Ukraine and its people have managed to rise every single time. Regardless of how bruised or torn we were, our history has shown that we will continue rising, and overcome any challenge that stands in our way, including the current war turmoil and political, social and economic instability. It may take years, even decades, but Ukraine will recover and prosper once again: I am sure of that.