The area now called Ukraine has been inhabited for many thousands of years. Early tribes that settled the area were nomadic people such as the Cimmerians and the Scythians who had migrated to the region from the area of current Iran (Persia.)
About 600 BC, the Greeks and Romans made their way into the area around the Black Sea and set up trading posts. Other groups, such as the Bulgars and the Khazars, also settled the area.
Slavs and a Viking people called Varangians also settled the country and founding the great kingdom of Kievan Rus. But these powerful people were overcome by Mongols and Tartars from central Asia in the 13th century. Soon after, Lithuania took control of the Ukrainian land.
Still later, in the late 1500s, people from Poland invaded and took the Ukrainian countryside, forcing the farmers to work land they no longer owned. A group of these serfs rebelled, creating a force called the Cossacks.
A hundred years later, these Cossacks asked Russia for help in defeating the Poles, and it worked. The Cossacks gained their independence.
Not long after, though, Russia had gained control over nearly all of Ukraine. And although the Ukrainians tried to keep their culture and traditions, the Russians and the new Soviet Union forbid the Ukrainian language and customs. The people suffered from famine.
From the mid-1800s, Ukrainian farmers grew sunflowers. Lots of sunflowers. In fact, Ukraine is the largest producer of the world's sunflower oil, and sunflower seeds are the most popular snack. You'll find a recipe below to roast your own.
The World Wars of history weren't kind to Ukraine, and a terrible time followed 1922 for the people. During World War II, many people were enslaved by the invading Germans. The Ukrainian religious leaders offered protection to thousands of Jews.
One of the leaders of this humanitarian effort was Andrew Sheptytsky who was later honored for his work. Fortunately, Germany was driven from Ukraine and the people began to rebuild.
In 1986, while still a part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine suffered the world's worst nuclear accident, the explosion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The radiation from the blast killed animals and people and polluted water and soil. However, scientists have found fungus and other lifeforms growing there. Some of the fungi even eat radioactive material, thus returning the area to a habitable place.
After the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991, Ukraine got its independence again and the people could rule themselves.
There have been some amazing scientific advancements made by Ukrainians. Here are just a few:
- George Gamow, a mathematician, offered research that led to the creation of codes that predicted the combination of amino acids in DNA.
- Elie Metchnikoff won the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his contribution to the field of immunology to help people live longer, healthier lives.
- Lubomyr Romankew was born in Ukraine and was one of the inventors of the hard disk computer drive.
- Nikolai Amosov was a famous surgeon who invented several modern surgical techniques for innovative heart surgery.
- Borys Paton led the team that invented a welding machine used to repair soft tissue during surgery.
- Igor Sikorsky invented the first production helicopter which was later used in the UK Royal Air Force and the US Army.
- Petro Prokopovych invented moveable beehives and was the founder of modern beekeeping.
- Viacheslav Petrov prototyped what would later become the compact disc (CD).
- Alexander Zarchin was born in Ukraine and invented the process of desalination to turn sea water into drinking water.
- Yurii Voronyi was the first surgeon to perform a kidney transplant.
Ukraine is a country of many changes and upheavals over the millennia. There have been many wars and negative issues in the political system of Ukraine. But there have also been major discoveries and wonderful advancements. Despite all the trials and tribulations, its people remain steadfast in their culture and continue to look toward a brighter future.
Try roasting your own sunflower seeds at home!
You'll need 2 cups of raw sunflower seeds in the shell.
8 cups of water
and 1/4 cup of salt.
Rinse your seeds and place them in a pot with the water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. This step lets the seeds absorb the brine (salty water) so they taste great!
Drain the seeds in a colander for another 15-20 minutes. You don't want to try to roast soggy seeds. While the seeds are draining, set your oven to 400 degrees.
Now spread the seeds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the seeds in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Watch them closely so they don't burn.
Let the seeds cool and then let the snacking begin!
You can explore the tastes and culture of this amazing country with our Ukraine box from eat2explore!