Ukraine - a long road to independence
Ukraine, is the largest country entirely within Europe, strategically positioned at the crossroads between Europe and Asia.
Historically, It has been famous for its fertile soil and high agricultural output,
but over the last century it became also an important industrial center - and a network of pipelines - channel huge quantities of natural gas from Russia to Europe.
Ukraine's history, dates back to the 9th century, when Viking settlers and local Slavs, established the powerful kingdom of Kievan-Rus.
Both Russia, and Ukraine, consider this kingdom, to be their cultural inheritance
Internal conflicts followed by a Mongol invasion in the 13th century ended this episode, and while Russia maintained different forms of independence, THIS region was passed between neighboring powers and was usually divided between a few.
In 1654, a short-lived Ukrainian Cossack state broke-off from Poland, in a violent revolt which included the brutal massacre of entire Jewish communities.
This new state pledged its allegiance to Russia... but became totally absorbed into it over the next 100 years
Russia, for its part, continued to do its best to repress Ukrainian nationalism.
In 1917, following the the Russian revolution and the overthrow of the Czar, it achieved a short-lived independence, however by 1922 it became part of the newly established USSR.
During WWII Ukraine was conquered by Nazi Germany. Many Ukrainians cooperated with the Nazis in hope of achieving independence and many resisted, but eventually they returned to be part of the USSR.
In 1991 an overwhelming 90% of Ukrainian citizens voted to break off from the USSR... which dissolved shortly after.
Years of political and economic instability ensued:
While the majority of citizens, turned towards Europe - Russia and a dominant Russian-ethnic minority in Ukraine pushed to maintain Russian dominance.
In 2014 Russian military forces moved into the Crimean Peninsula and annexed it with the support the local ethnic-Russian population.
This move was declared illegal by Ukraine and most of the West.
Despite repeated attempts:
Ukraine and Russia's deeply intertwined history and economy make a long-lasting solution to this conflict, just that much more difficult.