In ancient times the area of Ukraine was occupied by Scythians and other nomadic peoples. Various Slavic tribes also inhabited the region. In the second century A.D., the Goths, a Germanic tribe, overran the area. The Goths were followed by the Huns, Avars, Khazars, and Magyars. In the ninth century various eastern Slavic tribes formed a loose confederation known as Kievan Russia. Originally, all the eastern Slavic tribes in this confederation were known as Russians. Thus, Kievan Russia was the first "Russian" state.

Important dates in Ukraine
A.D. 800's East Slavs established the state of Kievan Rus.
c. 988 Vladimir I made Christianity the state religion of Ukraine.
1240 The Mongols destroyed Kiev and conquered Ukraine.
1569 Ukraine came under Polish control.
mid-1600's A Ukrainian Cossack began a revolt that eventually freed Ukraine from Polish rule.
1790's Russia gained control of most of Ukraine.
1918 Ukraine became an independent country after a revolution in Russia in 1917. But Communist Russia regained control of most of Ukraine by 1920.
1922 Ukraine became one of the four original republics of the Soviet Union.
1932-1933 Millions of Ukrainians died from a famine after Soviet authorities took food from their homes.
1941-1945 The Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought for Ukrainian independence against German and Soviet forces in World War II. It continued fighting the Soviets until the early 1950's.
1960's Ukrainians began a protest movement against Soviet rule. Soviet authorities imprisoned thousands of protesters.
1991 The Ukrainian parliament declared Ukraine an independent country. The Soviet Union was dissolved.
1996 Ukrain adopted new constitution.

Kievan Russia fell to the Tatars, a Mongol-Turkic people, in the 13th century. After this time, the various Russian groups developed separately as Great Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians. In the 14th century the Ukrainians were conquered by Lithuania. In 1569 Lithuania was incorporated into Poland and Ukraine came under Polish control.

Poland ruled most of Ukraine until 1648–49, when Ukrainian peasants revolted and formed an independent state in the eastern part of Ukraine near Zaporozhye. This state remained independent until 1654, when Imperial Russia gained control of eastern Ukraine. The Poles retained their control over the central and western parts until the 18th century, when Poland was invaded by Russia, Prussia, and Austria and divided among these nations. Most of Ukraine came under Russian control.

About 1900 an independence movement began. After World War I the Ukrainians proclaimed their independence. Conflict soon arose between Communist and non-Communist forces in Ukraine. The Communists, aided by Russian Communist forces, soon gained control over eastern and central Ukraine, which became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919. Polish forces invaded and gained control over western Ukraine. The Ukrainian S.S.R. became a union republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet Union invaded Poland and annexed the western section of Ukraine.

In the early 1930's the forced collectivization of agriculture and the seizure of farm products by the government caused a severe famine in Ukraine. Several million people died. During World War II Ukraine was devastated by the German invasion and the Red Army's counteroffensive. More than seven million people died during the war and many cities, towns, and villages were destroyed.

In 1945 the Ukrainian S.S.R., although part of the Soviet Union, was given separate membership in the United Nations. (This occurred as a concession by the Western Allies to secure Soviet cooperation in establishing the United Nations.) The Crimean region, formerly in the Russian S.F.S.R., was transferred to the Ukrainian S.S.R. in 1954.

In 1986 a malfunction at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant north of Kiev resulted in a dangerous radiation leak. Radioactive contamination spread over much of northern Europe.

A strong tide of nationalism swept across the Soviet Union during 1990–91, eroding the authority of the Soviet central government. In December, 1991, Leonid Kravchuk became the first popularly elected president of Ukraine. Later that month, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine became independent. Also in December, Ukraine became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

During 1992–94 Ukraine encountered many economic and political problems. The country suffered from a declining standard of living mainly owing to a high rate of inflation and widespread shortages of consumer goods. Relations with Russia during this period were strained because of a dispute concerning ownership of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet, which was based in Crimea. Ukraine also faced increasing political unrest, mainly among ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

In 1994 relations with countries in the West were strengthened when Ukraine signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, promising to relinquish all of its nuclear weapons. Also that year Ukraine held its first post-Soviet parliamentary elections; a plurality of seats were won by the Communist Party and parties allied with the Communists. Tensions between Ukraine and Russia were eased in 1995 when both countries agreed to divide the Black Sea fleet and Ukraine agreed to sell most of its portion to Russia.

A peaceful mass protest was staged in late 2004 following a presidential election widely considered to have been fraudulent. The protest, known as the Orange Revolution, led authorities to permit a new election in which a reformist government was voted into power.

Viktor Yushchenko became president of the Ukraine in January, 2005. However, he continued to clash with his former presidential opponent, Viktor Yanukovych. Following a 2006 election, Yanukovych became prime minister.