Category Archives: History



Kiev’s Maidan, or Independence Square, aflame, with the silhouetted Statue of Lybid, sister of the city’s legendary founder, Kyi, and Ukrainian flags in the foreground.


Thomas M. Prymak
University of Toronto

Philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s Ark.
William Cowper (1731-1800)

 For a short period in 2014, the name of the central square in Kyiv called “the Maidan” became known throughout the civilized world. That was because it was the place where the Ukrainian people gathered to overthrow the unpopular regime of Victor Yanukovych, who appeared to be attempting to set up a new dictatorship in Ukraine with renewed ties to Russia. This pro-Western, pro-EU, democratic movement, came to be called by Ukrainians the Revolution of Dignity, or “the Euromaidan.” The “Euro” part of this word was clear to all. But for Westerners the “maidan” part required some explanation by visiting journalists, who, however, generally ignored it, or at most, stated simply that it was a Ukrainian word for “town square.” Continue reading

Lists of NKVD victims killed in mass executions in 1941 published online  



Lviv prisoners who were killed by the NKVD before it retreated from the town, July 1941. Photo: prisoners who were killed by the NKVD before it retreated from the town, July 1941. Photo: 75 years ago, during June – July 1941, the Soviet NKVD shot around 24 thousand prisoners in western Ukraine. Now the names of many of these victims are made known thanks to documents published the Electronic Archive of the Ukrainian liberation movement.

Immediately after Nazi Germany attacked the USSR, the Soviet NKVD began shooting prisoners who were sentenced to death. Plans were made to evacuate the rest to rear, and to free those who were arrested for minor crimes. Continue reading

With Closing of East Village Shop, Little Ukraine Grows Smaller


Markian Surmach, the owner of Surma in Manhattan’s East Village. The store, a relic of the once thriving Eastern European businesses in the neighborhood, will close this month. CreditRichard Perry/The New York Times

In July 1910, a teenager named Myron Surmach left his village in Ukraine, boarded the ship Atlanta with a third-class ticket and headed across the ocean to an improbably big city called New York. For 21 days, Mr. Surmach sucked on a lemon to stave off seasickness until he reached Ellis Island. There, he told an interviewer decades later, he was shocked to find an American guard welcoming him to the United States in perfect Ukrainian.

Mr. Surmach began his new life in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., but within a few years, he made it back to New York. Eager to preserve his native culture, he opened a small shop on Avenue A in Manhattan where he sold records, books, clothes and other Continue reading

Anna of Kyiv, the French Queen from Kyivan Rus


Anna of Kyiv, the queen of France, a daughter of Yaroslav the Wise of Kyivan Rus. Monument in Senlis, France (Image: panoramio)Anna of Kyiv, the queen of France, a daughter of Yaroslav the Wise of Kyivan Rus. Monument in Senlis, France (Image: panoramio) 

Article by: Anastasiia Chornohorska, Alya Shandra

Portrait of Anna of Kyiv

On 19 May 1051, Anna, the youngest daughter of Kyivan Rus Prince Yaroslav the Wise, ascended to the French throne as the wife of King Henry I Capet in the Cathedral of Reims. As traditional Days of Anna of Kyiv take place in Sanslis, an abbey 40 km from Paris, we revisit the story of the earliest dynastic connection between France and Ukraine.

Her father Yaroslav, was nicknamed “the father-in-law of Europe.” Yaroslav himself marriedIngigerd Olofsdotter, the daughter of the Swedish King; his sister Maria married the Continue reading


 By Thomas M. Prymak University of Toronto 

The question of ethnicity, which is closely related to the idea of nationality, and somewhat more loosely related to the idea of “race,” is presently of great concern to many people in North America. This generally includes not only those of European, African, or Asian ancestry, but also more particularly, even to those of east European and Ukrainian ancestry. However, questions of ethnicity and indeed “racial” mixing are not only of import in contemporary poly-ethnic and multi-racial North America, but in the case of the Ukrainians, also go back quite far into Ukrainian history, and in particular, are closely bound up with this traditionally Christian country’s relations with its neighbour to the south, Muslim Turkey.

suliemaney.  Roxelana
The great Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent and his Ukrainian wife Roxelana,

As is well known to archeologists and linguists, Ukraine most likely formed at least part of the original homeland of the famous and somewhat controversial Continue reading