The Hidden History of Russia and Ukraine

Two countries, one long and tangled history.

The Hidden History of Russia and Ukraine

If you’re glued to the news and wondering where today’s conflict stems from, look no further. For our latest Hidden History newsletter, we’ve started way back in the year 988 with Vladimir I, to bring you this curated collection of stories—from Narratively and some of our favorite sources—about the hidden history of Russia, Ukraine, and how these two nations have collaborated and collided over the centuries.

988: Centuries of bloodshed, foreign domination, and internal divisions have left Ukraine in a precarious position between East and West.

Read at National Geographic: Russia and Ukraine: The Tangled History that Connects—and Divides—Them

1917: In a speech in late February, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin bent Ukraine’s complex history into his own version by erroneously stating that immediately following the 1917 revolution, “modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia, more specifically the Bolshevik, communist Russia.”

Read at the New York Times: Putin Calls Ukrainian Statehood a Fiction. History Suggests Otherwise.

1957: Sixty-five years ago, 160 young Americans defied State Department orders and partied on the streets of Moscow. The Cold War would never be the same.

Read at Narratively: How Folk Rock Helped Crack the Iron Curtain

1978: Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family  of six, lost in the taiga.

Read at Smithsonian Magazine: For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II

1986: Seventy officers and men — ill-informed, unprotected and exposed to deadly radiation — were housed at the site along with the missiles. They were under orders to arduously protect and save the weapons and structures rather than themselves.

Read at the Los Angeles Times: Secrets of Chernobyl Spill Out More Than Three Decades After the Nuclear Disaster

2012: After being threatened with her life, this democracy activist packed up and fled. Now she’s fighting from afar—with one eye over her shoulder.

Read at Narratively: The Secret Life of Russia’s Remote Freedom Fighter

2014: Eight years ago, the headquarters of Ukraine’s uprising went up in flames while protestors were shot in the streets.

Read at Narratively: The Drab Ukrainian Office Block That Birthed a Revolution


If you enjoyed this exploration of how Russia and Ukraine have collaborated and collided over the centuries, sign up for our Hidden History Newsletter. Every month we send out a curated list of stories covering one newsworthy topic.

You can check out all of our hidden history collections here!