Ukrainian history is long and proud, with the inception of Kyivan (or Kievan) Rus as the most powerful state in Medieval Europe. While this state fell prey to Mongol conquest, the western part of Ukraine became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the 14th until the 18th century, even modern Ukraine owes it a debt of sorts. A subsequent Ukrainian state was able to - in the face of pressure from the ascendant Muscovy - remain autonomous for more than a century, however the Russian Empire absorbed much of Ukraine in the 18th century, to the detriment of their culture and identity.
Despite a brief, but uncertain, flash of independence at the end of the czarist regime, Ukraine was incorporated into the new USSR after the Russian Civil War in 1922 and subject to two disastrous famines (1932-33 and 1946) as well as brutal fighting during World War II. As a Soviet republic, the Ukrainian language was often 'sidelined' when compared to Russian to varying degrees; Stalinist repressions during the 1930s, attempts at decentralisation during the Khrushchev administraion and the retightening of controls during the Brezhnev-Kosygin era of the 1970s and early 1980s. In any case, the traditionally bilingual province had signs in both Russian and Ukrainian in virtually all cities, including Lviv, where Ukrainian is most prevalent. The 1986 Chernobyl accident was a further catastrophe to the republic but also widely considered as an event which, in the long run, galvanized the population in regional sentiment and led to increasing pressure on the central government to promote autonomy.
Ukraine declared its sovereignty within the Soviet Union in July 1990 as a prelude to unfolding events in the year to come. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's Parliament) again declared its independence in early December 1991 following the results of referendum in November 1991 which indicated overwhelming popular support (90% in favour of independence). This declaration became a concrete reality as the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist on December 25, 1991. Initially, there were severe economic difficulties, hyperinflation, and oligarchal rule prevailed in the early years following independence. The issues of cronyism, corruption and alleged voting irregularities came to a head during the heavily-disputed 2004 Presidential election, where allegations of vote-rigging sparked what became known as the "Orange Revolution". This revolution resulted in the subsequent election of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko as President.