Invaded 2014 and 2022

The Disappointed Tourist: Ukraine, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Requested by so many people verbally.

Ukraine is the second-largest European country after Russia which it borders to the east and northeast, covering approximately 600,000 square kilometres (230,000 sq mi). Prior to the ongoing Russian invasion it was the eighth most populous country in Europe, with a population of around 41 million people.

Ukraine was a key centre of East Slavic culture under the state of Kievan Rus, which emerged in the 9th century. The state eventually disintegrated into rival regional powers and was ultimately destroyed by the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. The area was then contested, divided, and ruled by a variety of external powers for the next 600 years, including the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Austrian and Ottoman Empires and the Tsardom of Russia. In the 17th century, the emergent Cossack Hemanate state was partitioned between Russia and Poland, and ultimately absorbed by the Russian Empire. Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, emerging Ukrainian nationalism led to the formation of the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. In the early 1930s, millions of Ukrainians died in the Holodoor, a man-made famine resulting from Soviet policies. Ukraine was further devastated by German occupation in World War II.

Ukraine gained independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and declared itself neutral, adopting a new constitution in 1996. A series of mass demonstrations, known as the Euromaidan, led to the establishment of a new government in 2014. Russia then unilaterally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula which resulted in ongoing conflit between Russian-backed separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine. Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 but Ukraine under the leadership of Volodymyr Zelenskyy has so far managed to repulse Russian advances, albeit at a massive cost to life and property. The resulting devastation and death, the commission of numerous well-documented Russian war crimes and the mass evacuation of civilians mean that Ukraine will never be same again.