The painful history of Ukraine — A photo timeline (Part 1)

Ukraine’s fate may be rooted in its heartbreaking past. In this photo timeline, which consists of more than 35 photos and 12 painful events, we’ll guide you through the county's tragic history.

See part two of the timeline →

Ukrainian War of Independence (1917 to 1921)

From 1917 to 1921, with the invasion of Bolsheviks, a series of conflicts and battles led to the establishment of the Ukrainian Republic.

Ukrainian War of Independence 1917 to 1921
A patriotic demonstration in Kyiv, Ukraine

Holodomor (1932 to 1933)

Holodomor, meaning to kill by starvation, is another dark chapter in Ukraine’s history. It is widely believed that the famine was orchestrated by Joseph Stalin to impose collectivism and tamp down Ukrainian nationalism. Hunger was so common that the Soviet regime convicted more than 2,500 people for cannibalism.

The incident left an estimated 4 million Ukrainians dead. Today, many countries have signed various declarations affirming that the Holodomor was a “national tragedy of the Ukrainian people” orchestrated by the “cruel actions and policies of the totalitarian regime”.

Holodomor 1932 to 1933 2
Photo: Bread for a gold – A queue in Kharkiv 1932 Photo: State Archive of Ukraine
man lying on the floor Holodomor 1932 to 1933
Passers-by and the corpse of a starved man on a street in Kharkiv, 1932.
Holodomor 1932 to 1933 1
At the food market in Charkow: Each bottle of milk, desperately clasped, represents a valuable possession in free trade. Photo: Alexander Wienerberger
Holodomor 1932 to 19332
Peasants hand over bread Photo: State Archive of Ukraine

The Nazi occupation of Ukraine or Reichskommissariat Ukraine (1941 to 1944)

The 1941 occupation of Nazi Germany of Ukraine marked a tragic era in the country’s history. It is estimated that the operation headed by Alfred Rosenberg led to the deaths of 1.6 million Jews and 3-4 million non-Jewish Ukrainians.

Alfred Rosenberg was captured by Allied troops in 1945 and was tried at Nuremberg. He was found guilty of four counts: conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. He was hanged on the morning of 16 October 1946.

Alfred Rosenberg in Ukraine
Erich Koch (right) and Alfred Rosenberg (center) in Kyiv. CC BY-SA 3.0
The Nazi occupation of Ukraine or Reichskommissariat Ukraine 1941 to 1944
Executions of Kyiv Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivangorod, 1942
Ukrainians begging for food
Vinnytsia, July 1941. Some 2.8 million Soviet POWs were killed in just eight months of 1941–42. CC BY-SA 3.0
Alfred Rosenberg dead
The body of Alfred Rosenberg after his execution, Oct. 16, 1946

The explosion Chernobyl nuclear power plant (1986)

On 26 April 1986, as a result of a flawed design, a reactor in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, resulting in the worst nuclear reactor accident in living history. To this day, the area around the Power Plant remains so contaminated that it’s officially closed off to human habitation.

The explosion Chernobyl nuclear power plant 1986
Aerial view Chernobyl nuclear power plant with sarcophagus. (Chernobyl, Ukraine) Photo Credit: Vadim Mouchkin/IAEA
The painful history of Ukraine — A photo timeline
A Soviet Mi-26 Halo helicopter participating in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor clean-up operation.

The dissolving of the Soviet Union and the independence of modern Ukraine (1991)

On March 17, 1991, the Soviet Union (USSR) conducted a referendum, asking territories if they would like to remain a part of the USSR, or go their separate ways. After the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt to get rid of Gorbachev, on 24 August 1991 the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence.

Leonid Kravchuk became the first president of Ukraine and signed the Agreement to eliminate the USSR and establish the Commonwealth of Independent States. 

The dissolving of the Soviet Union and the independence of modern Ukraine 1991 3
Russian President Boris Yeltsin (second right), Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk (left), Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (second left) and Speaker of Belarusian Supreme Soviet (Parliament) Stanislav Shushkevich (right) after signing Protocol on Establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Photo: Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)
The dissolving of the Soviet Union and the independence of modern Ukraine 1991 2
Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk (second from left seated), Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Belarus Stanislav Shushkevich (third from left seated) and Russian President Boris Yeltsin (second from right seated) during the signing ceremony to eliminate the USSR and establish the Commonwealth of Independent States. Photo: Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)
The dissolving of the Soviet Union and the independence of modern Ukraine 1991
The heads of 11 independent states, i.e. former Soviet republics, met in Alma-Ata. Photo: Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

See part 2 of the timeline →

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