As Russia continues their belligerent posturing along the Ukraine eastern border (and now on Ukraine’s northern border with Belorussia, where Putin has begun positioning even more troops), it’s helpful to understand the history of Ukraine’s borders in the political and cultural fluidity that characterizes central Europe. (Let’s be serious – fluidity across all of Europe, which is why the place is so freaking interesting from a historical and cartographic perspective.)
Our buddy, Jim, who also follows WolfeStreetTravel, recently recommended this really compelling Washington Post article from 2015 on the evolution of Ukraine’s territory and borders. This article was published when Putin was previously taking aggressive actions to absorb Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula into mother Russia. Definitely recommended reading for anyone following the crisis unfolding around Ukraine.
The Washington Post’s resident cartographer, Gene Thorp, developed for the article several really helpful and really compelling maps depicting how Ukraine’s territory transformed over the centuries as empires, warring factions, and treaty agreements changed. To wit:
Catherine the Great’s encroachment into what previously was either sovereign Ukrainian territory or land ruled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th century. (WolfeStreetTravel previously included latter in another Mappy Hour post on the evolution of Europe during the Brexit buildup.)
Or, a severed Ukraine after the post-WW I Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where Poland wound up with most of western Ukraine, including the major city of Lviv, but lost the territory during the Russian civil war, after which Ukraine joined the USSR as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic within the union.
The body of the article includes more maps and some really great context for how and why Ukraine looked like it did at different times during the last 1000+ years, as well as how the native people of Ukraine changed due to Soviet actions. Good stuff!