Ukraine has long been shaped by the rise and fall of empires - by David Abulafia for the Telegraph

Cambridge Historian David Abulafia provides a suitably sweeping narrative on the history of Ukraine and the competing claims of warring empires to its rich panoramic resources. Located between the Black Sea and the Baltic it has always been a strategically desirable territory and


“its rich resources, sprung from the mud of its extremely fertile soil, have also made Ukraine economically desirable.”


In addition


"It has always been a meeting place of very different cultures. In the fifth century BC the Greek historian Herodotus was fascinated by the customs of the partly nomadic peoples of what became Ukraine: the Scythian horsemen, skilled archers who built an empire stretching across the flat lands between the Black Sea and the Caspian."


The home to Greek Orthodox Christianity, the territory was fiercely contested between Genoese merchants and the Ottoman Turks before Catherine the Great lay claim and created a port at Odessa


“from which the grain of Ukraine flowed into the Black Sea and, when it was possible to sneak past Istanbul, into the Mediterranean and then far beyond, all the way to the fledgling United States.


Odessa drew in an extraordinary mix of peoples and religions: Greek shippers, Armenian merchants, Jewish middlemen, handling the produce grown by the downtrodden serfs of the hinterland, many of them Slavs sent south to work the soil.


This dependence on grain was also the unmaking of Ukraine when Stalin’s henchmen requisitioned the food grown by those farmers who were deemed to be prosperous "kulaks", creating a famine during which maybe 12 million, maybe more, peasants starved to death. The Holodomor is one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century. Soon after, Hitler dreamed of the wide expanses of Ukraine as the perfect Lebensraum, living space, for his master race, not leaving much room for the Ukrainians except as the conqueror’s slaves.”


All of which brings us to the present day:


“Putin has many motives for his attack on Ukraine, but he too desperately wants its resources. Far from being a "frontier" Ukraine is an exceptionally valuable piece of real estate.”


The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:



Article for the Telegraph by David Abulafia - Ukraine has long been shaped by the rise and
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