Feldstein Genealogy Services

Resources - Ukraine ♦

The Khazar Kingdom was founded in the 7th century. It included the territories of western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbeijan, southern Russia, and Crimea. The Kingdom was considered the most influential of the medieval period because of its economic and diplomatic standing. The Khazars, an ancient nomadic Turkic people who reached the lower Volga region in the 6th century, were held in high esteem by the pope and other national leaders and played a major role in solving the region's conflicts.

Jewish settlements in Ukraine can be traced back to the 8th century. Jewish refugees from the Byzantium, Persia, and Mesopotamia regions, fleeing from persecution by Christians throughout Europe, settled in the Kingdom because the Khazars allowed them to practice their own religion. Over time, Jews integrated into the society and married Khazar inhabitants. At first, Khazars from royal families converted to Judaism. But other citizen from throughout the Kingdom soon followed suit, adopting Jewish religious practices including reading the Torah, observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, and switching to Hebrew as the official written system. At a time of religious intolerance, the Jews of Khazaria contributed to building a powerful nation while living in peace.

In the 9th century, Kiev was conquered from the Khazars by the Varangian (Swedish Viking) Oleg. During this time, several Slavic tribes were native to Ukraine, including the Polanians, the Derevlianians, the Severians, the Ulychians, and Tivertsians, and Dulebians. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kiev among the Polanians quickly prospered as the center of the powerful Slavic/Scandinavian state of Kievan Rus. In the 11th century, Kievan Rus was, geographically, the largest state in Europe. During this time, Ukraine became known in the rest of Europe as Ruthenia. In addition, the name "Ukraine" first appears in recorded history on maps of the period.

The successor state to Kievan Rus was the principality of Halych-Volynia. During this period (around 1200-1400), each principality was independent of the other for a period of time. The state of Halych-Volynia eventually became a vassal to the Mongolian Empire.

During the 14th century, Poland and Lithuania fought wars against the Mongol invaders, and eventually most of Ukraine passed to the rule of Poland and Lithuania.

After the Union of Lublin in 1569 and the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the gentry of Ukraine voted for membership in the Polish part of the Commonwealth.

The 1648 Ukrainian Cossack rebellion and war of independence, which started an era known as the Ruin (in Polish history, The Deluge), undermined the foundations and stability of the Commonwealth or Polish and Lithuania. The Polish-Russian Treaty of Andrusovo in 1667 divided Ukrainian territory between the Commonwealth and Russia.

Through the Partitions of Poland, Ukraine fell under the control of the Austrians in the extreme west (Galicia) and of the Russians elsewhere.

When World War I and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia shattered the Habsburg and Russian empires, Ukrainians where caught in the middle. After the October 1917 Revolution, and the civil war, more than 300,000 Jews left the Ukraine for other parts of the Soviet Union. Between 1917 and 1918, several separate Ukrainian republics manifested independence. However, with the failure of the Kiev Operation and the end of Polish-Soviet War, after the Peace of Riga in March 1921, the western part of the traditional territory had been incorporated into Poland, and the larger, central, and eastern parts became part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian SSR.

By the late 1920s, however, the Soviet reaction was severe, particularly under Stalin. To satisfy the state's need for increased food supplies and finance industrialization, Stalin instituted a program of collectivization of agriculture, which profoundly affected Ukraine, often referred to as the "breadbasket of the USSR". In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the state compounded the peasants' lands and animals into collective farms. Many resisted, and a desperate struggle of the peasantry against the authorities ensued. Some slaughtered their livestock rather than turn it over to the collectives. Wealthier peasants were labeled "kulaks", enemies of the state. Tens of thousands were executed or deported to labour camps. In 1932, the Soviet government increased Ukraine's production quotas by 44%, ensuring that they could not be met. Soviet law required that the members of a collective farm would receive no grain until government quotas were satisfied. The authorities in many instances exacted such high levels of procurement from collective farms that starvation became widespread. At least four million starved to death in a famine, called the Holodomor.

After German and Soviet troops divided Poland in 1939, some western Poland regions were incorporated into Ukrainian SSR. In 1940, after the Soviet demands, Romania ceded Bessarabia and the northern Bukovina. Ukrainian SSR incorporated Bessarabia's northern and southern districts and the northern Bukovina and ceded the western part of Moldavian ASSR to the newly created Moldavian SSR.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 , many Ukrainians, particularly in the west, initially regarded the Nazis as "liberators", and some hoped to establish an autonomous Ukrainian state. Their hopes did not come to realization under the Nazi rule and their movement was brutally crushed. However, most Ukrainians utterly resisted the Nazi onslaught from its start and a partisan movement immediately spread over the occupied territory. Also, some elements of the Ukrainian nationalist underground formed a Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought both Soviet and Nazi forces along with being involved in driving out or murdering much of the Polish and Jewish population in the Western regions.

Total civilian losses during the War and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at 7 million, including over a million Jews shot and killed by the Einsatzgruppen and the Ukrainian collaborators. The great majority fell victim to atrocities, forced labor, and even massacres of whole villages in reprisal for attacks against Nazi forces. Of the estimated 11 million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, about a fourth (2.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians.

After World War II, under Nikita Khrushchev’s rule over the Ukraine, Ukrainian Jews who fled to Soviet Asia during the occupation slowly returned to reclaim their homes, possessions, and jobs. The Ukrainians who remained in the communities were hostile to the returning Jews. This anti-Jewish atmosphere prevailed in the Ukraine during the postwar period.

Over the next decades, the Ukrainian republic not only overcame the pre-war levels of industry and productions but was the spearhead of the Soviet power. Many communist leaders such as Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev came from the Ukraine. Once again elements where made to bridge the Russo-Ukrainian cultures and many Soviet sportsmen, scientists, writers and poets were Ukrainian. In 1954, to mark the 300 years of unity, the Russian-populated area of Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian republic. In the 1960s, however, Ukrainian intellectuals made an effort to help and understand the Jewish plight.

The town of Pripyat, Ukraine was the site of the Chernobyl accident, which occurred in April 26, 1986 when a nuclear plant exploded. The fallout contaminated large areas of northern Ukraine and even parts of Belarus. This spurred on a local independence movement called the Rukh that helped expedite the break-up the Soviet Union during the late 1980s.

Ukraine declared itself an independent state on August 24, 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). On December 1, 1991, Ukrainian voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum formalizing independence from the Soviet Union. Most of the Jews voted for independence. Several times, the leaders of the Ukrainian national movement expressed a positive attitude toward the Jews of the Ukraine and the desire to work with them. The Union formally ceased to exist in December 25, 1991, and with this Ukraine's independence was officially recognized by the international community.

Ukrainian Genealogy Research

Ukraine has only existed as an independent state since 1991. Records for towns now located within its boundaries will be found in a variety of locales and languages.

Ukrainian Towns

  • Mukachevo
  • Priluki

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