There is evidence in the Crimean region of Ukraine of Neanderthal man remains, but more certainly the area was known to have been inhabited in 5,000 B.C. by nomadic tribes.
The Scythian Kingdom was an early sign of settlement followed by the Greeks, Romans and Byzantine Empire. By the 3rd Century A.D. the Goths had taken over followed by the Huns and then Slavic tribes in the 5th Century A.D.
The 7th Century saw the arrival of the Bulgars and in 800 A.D. the Khazar state where modern day Ukraine was largely absorbed by the Kievan Rus’. The Mongols invaded in the 13th Century and were only driven out in the 14th Century when Poland and Lithuania occupied much of the land.
Ukraine fell under Polish administration during the period of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 1500s but this was lost when the Commonwealth broke up. In the 1700s the region came under the control of the Russians except for the western part which fell under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
During World War One the people of Ukraine found themselves in the middle and were fought over by the Germans, Austrians, poles, Bolsheviks and the White Army of Russia. The warring didn’t stop at the end of the Great War but continued until 1921 when the Peace of Riga placed the country under Soviet Russia and it became known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Under Stalin the 1930s saw forced collectivism, unrealistic production quotas and punishment which led to starvation and the ultimate death of an estimated seven million people. World War Two was little better with further savagery from Nazi Germany claiming as many as a further seven million lives.
After World War Two the Ukraine went back under Soviet Russian control and became a Cold War buffer against the west, being highly militarised but also highly industrialised.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union the Ukraine declared itself independent on 24th August 1991, a move which was supported in a referendum by more than 90% of the population. The first president of the new Ukraine was Leonid Kravchuk who proved ineffectual and allowed corruption leading to his removal in 1994. He was defeated in the presidential election by his prime minister, Leonid Kuchma.
Although the new president oversaw a worsening economic situation he was re-elected in 1999 with 57.7% of the vote in a second round runoff. By 2004 things were so bad and along with the so called Cassette Scandal, where he appeared to be implicated in the murder of a journalist, the president stood down and fresh elections were held.
Viktor Yanukovych, the incumbent prime minister who was pro-Russian claimed victory after a second round on 21st November 2004 but the supporters of his pro-West opponent Viktor Yushchenko claimed widespread fraud and intimidation. The people went on to the streets in what became known as the Orange revolution and the High Court subsequently declared the result null and void. In a re-organised second round on 26th December 2004 Viktor Yushchenko won a narrow victory, taking 51.99% of the vote.
In 2005 Viktor Yushchenko appointed Yulia Tymoshenko as the new acting Prime Minister, but within months the two had fallen out and Yushchenko dismissed Tymoshenko and openly criticised her in public.
Although Viktor Yushchenko was to remain as president until 2010, in the 2006 general election his party, Our Ukraine, did badly, coming third with just 81 of the 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions came tops with 186 seats. The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc came second with 129 seats.
Although the Party of Regions managed to cobble together a coalition government with the Communist Party of Ukraine and the Socialist Party of Ukraine, it was not to last and a new election was called in 2007.
In the fresh elections of 2007 the Tymoshenko Bloc did better and in an alliance with Our Ukraine they went on to form a government with Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister once more. The coalition was always a scratchy affair and soon they were falling out once more with Tymoshenko and Yushchenko becoming bitter opponents.
In 2010 the matter was resolved when the people of Ukraine, tired of the warring Orange revolution partners, voted for Viktor Yanukovych as their new president. Although incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko stood, he was knocked out in the first round, managing just 5.45% of the vote. The second round was between Yulia Tymoshenko who took 45.47% of the vote and the winner, Viktor Yanukovych on 48.95%.
Defections weakened Tymoshenko’s position and in March 2010 she resigned as prime minister and was replaced by Mykola Azarov. Soon after Yulia Tymoshenko was accused of abuse of state funds and was subsequently convicted and imprisoned. She remains in prison and has become the source of friction between Western nations and President Viktor Yanukovych. If anything this has pushed the pro-Russian president further into the hands of the Russians.
Fresh elections for the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine will be held on 28th October 2012.
The President is directly elected for a five-year term of office.
Ukraine has a unicameral Supreme Council or Verkhovna Rada consisting of 450 seats of which 225 seats are allocated on a proportional basis to those parties that gain 5% or more of the national electoral vote and 225 seats to members elected in single constituencies.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Ukraine at joint 131st out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 29 (where 100 is least corrupt).