History Of Russian-Ukrainian Relations

MOSCOW, Russia -- In the 9th-12th centuries, most of the Kievan Rus lands were part of the early feudal Russian State. The Kiev, Chernigov, Halych, Vladimir-Volhynia and other independent principalities emerged in Southwest Rus in the 12th century, and the Halych-Volhynian principality toward the end of the 12th century.


In the 14th century, Kievan Rus fell under the power of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Poland and other states.

In the 15th century, there were no interstate relations, in the modern understanding of the term, between Northeast Rus and Lithuania, which comprised Ukraine. There were contacts, however, which mainly consisted of the internecine tug-of-war between princes and Lithuanian parties for foreign political gains, as well as of ties of kinship between the princes.

The struggle against Polish-Lithuanian occupation culminated in 1648‑1654 in a liberation war of Ukrainians and Belarusians, led by Bohdan Khmelnitsky, which resulted in Ukraine joining Russia on decision of the Council of Pereyaslav. The Hetmanate (lands on the left bank of the Dnieper) was granted autonomy within Russia.

Opposed to the powerful Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Hetmanate had to seek third countries’ support. Negotiations with Muscovy proved the most successful of all. The Council of Pereyaslav, convened in 1654, asked the Tsar to take the Zaporozhian Host under his protectorate. Russian troops supported the Zaporozhian Hetman in compliance with a treaty known as the Deeds of Pereyaslav.

Its essential provisions set out that Ukrainian lands within the Poltava, Kiev and Chernigov provinces, as well as a greater part of Volhynia and Podolia, were joining Muscovy under the name of Smaller Russia, which was bound to ally with Russia in wartime, while the Tsar pledged to protect Ukraine from aggression.

Contemporaries and later historians differed in their opinion on the Deeds of Pereyaslav. It is generally acknowledged, however, that the treaty set a first legal division between Ukraine and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and that Russia recognized Ukraine as an autonomous entity.

The Hetmans of right-bank Ukraine were at war with Russia in 1658‑1659. Despite Ukrainian attempts to get out from under Muscovite influence, Russia and the Commonwealth divided Ukraine between themselves according to the Treaty of Andrusovo, 1667, and the Eternal Peace Treaty of 1686.

During the Great Northern War, Hetman Ivan Mazepa went over to the side of King Charles XII of Sweden, with which Russia was at war. He expected so-called “register Cossacks” (i.e. quasi-regular Cossack troops) to support him due to mounting dissatisfaction with Muscovy. However, Mazepa’s attempt to hand Ukraine over from Peter the Great to Charles XII was doomed to failure as it found no support with the Cossacks and the rest of the Ukrainian population.

South Ukraine was liberated from the Ottoman rule in the second half of the 18th century, and Russia incorporated Ukrainian lands along the right bank of the Dnieper at the end of the century. Ukraine enjoyed extensive autonomy within the Russian Empire for a greater part of the 18th century. Kirill Razumovsky was its last Hetman.

In November 1764, Empress Catherine the Great issued a decree abolishing the Hetmanate. The Zaporozhian Host shared its fate in 1775. Following the partitions of Poland in 1772-1795, the Hapsburgs overtook Galicia (or Halych), and the Russian Empire annexed the rest of Ukraine on the right bank of the Dnieper.

The Crimean Khanate was recognized as independent of all foreign rule following the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, but in 1783 it became incorporated into Russia. During the reign of Alexander I (1801‑1825), the Russian presence was ensured by the army and civil administration. Centralized Russian administration spread all over Ukraine in the 1830s, during the reign of Nicholas I (1825‑1855).

Even the word “Ukraine” disappeared from usage at the time. The left Dnieper bank was known as Smaller Russia, the right bank as Southwest Province, and South Ukraine as Nova Rossia. The Revolution of 1905 forced the Russian authorities to lift the ban on Ukrainian-language publications, and Prosvit public education societies were established. A Ukrainian group of about fifty members was established in the State Duma.

After the October 1917 Revolution, the Bolsheviks were defeated in Ukraine and in Cossack lands along the Kuban and Don rivers. The Ukrainian government began to set up local administrations, and was determined to incorporate all areas populated by ethnic Ukrainians. On November 7/20, 1917, the Ukrainian Central Rada (Council) announced the establishment of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, which comprised the Kiev, Chernigov, Poltava, Kharkov, Yekaterinoslav and Kherson provinces, Volhynia, Podolia and Tauria (Crimea).

The Rada’s Decree No. 3 proclaimed the Ukrainian state although it talked about maintaining ties with Russia. Decree No. 4, of January 25, 1918, proclaimed Ukrainian independence and withdrawal from Russia. Independent Ukrainian statehood of 1917-1920 finished by Soviet Russia and Poland dividing Ukraine between themselves, while some Ukrainian territories were incorporated into Czechoslovakia and Romania.

The 1st Congress of Ukrainian Soviets in Kharkov, held in December 1917, established the Soviet government of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, which retained the name through November 1918. The government proclaimed Soviet Ukraine and asked the Moscow-based Bolshevik government for military assistance.

The All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets, convened in Kiev in March 1919, adopted the Constitution of the “independent Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.” Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Russia signed the Union Treaty of Workers and Peasants for Military and Economic Cooperation on December 28, 1920.

It formalized Ukraine’s dependence on Russia. The treaty on the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was concluded at the Congress of Soviets of the Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian and Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republics on December 30, 1922.

As the Red Army defeated the Whites in the Crimea in October 1920, the peninsula was incorporated into the Russian Federation.

West Ukraine went over to Poland according to the Treaty of Riga of 1921. The USSR and Germany concluded their Treaty of Non-Aggression, better known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, on August 23, 1939. Its Secret Additional Protocol demarcated the Soviet and German spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.

The USSR invaded Poland to annex its eastern territories on September 17, 1939. Six regions were established in the new territories incorporated into Ukraine. Bessarabia was incorporated into Ukraine in November 1940.

The Trans-Carpathian Region was incorporated into Ukraine 1945. An executive order of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation passed the Crimean Region to Ukraine in 1954 on the initiative of Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee.

Ukraine adopted its Declaration of State Sovereignty on July 16, 1990, and the Act of Declaration of Independence on August 24, 1991.

On December 1, 1991, President Elect Leonid Kravchuk announced that Kiev was resolutely refusing to accept whatever Union Treaty, whether political or economic.

Ukraine and the Russian Federation established diplomatic ties on February 14, 1992. In May 1992, Kiev refused to sign the Collective Security Treaty of the CIS countries and participate in any CIS military alliance whatsoever.

In 1993, the Ukrainian leadership refused to go any further than associated membership and did not sign the agreement on the establishment of the Interstate Economic Council, the first CIS supranational agency. It also did not sign the CIS Charter, which boiled down to technical rejection of its membership in the CIS.

More contradictions arose in Russian-Ukrainian relations when Kiev came as one of the initiators and active members of the GUAM in 1997.

The middle of the first decade of the 21st century found Russian-Ukrainian relations in a profound crisis. Ukraine embarked on integration into Europe as the Orange coalition came to office. As Ukraine joined the World Trade Organization in 2008, it was principally a political step: to join it before Russia mattered more than membership proper.

So-called “gas clashes” of 1993, 2005-2006, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 also impeded Russian-Ukrainian relations.

The signing of the Declaration on the Modernization of Ukraine’s Gas Transit System in Brussels by representatives of Ukraine, the European Commission and three transnational banks bypassing Russia was another reason for the deterioration of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

In 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev forwarded a message to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, in which he expressed profound concern of the Russian leadership and public over the state and level of Russian-Ukrainian relations, primarily political, due to purposeful actions by the Ukrainian political leadership.

Active political dialogue between Russia and Ukraine began in 2010. The Kharkov agreements of April 2010 extend the lease of the Russian naval base in Sevastopol at least until 2042 and stipulate discount exports of Russian natural gas to Ukraine. In July 2010, the Ukrainian prime minister said that the government was conducting negotiations between Ukraine, the European Union and Russia to establish a gas transit consortium.

Basic documents of present-day Russian-Ukrainian relations are as follows: the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of May 31, 1997 (automatically extended for another decade on October 1, 2008), the Program of Economic Cooperation between the Russian Federation and Ukraine for 2008-2010, and others.

Source: RIA Novosti

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