Independence Day 2017 and 2018
Independence Day in Ukraine comes on August 24th and looks back to the day in 1991 when the Ukrainian parliament declared Ukraine to be fully independent of the Soviet Union.
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Today, Independence Day is celebrated in Ukraine in a big way throughout the whole land. It is a day to remember the heroes of Ukraine’s past and honour those who fought and died to secured their long-desired independence.
Although Ukrainians have always had their own language and culture, they have seldom had their own independent nation-state. For centuries, they were dominated by Russia, Poland, Turkey, and other foreign nations.
By the early 1800’s, present day Ukraine was mostly under the control of the Russian Empire, though a few of its most western parts were controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War I and during the Russian Civil War that immediately followed, Ukrainians tried to escape from Russian control. By 1922, however, Poland controlled a good deal of western Ukraine, while the Soviet Union controlled the rest.
During the reign of Joseph Stalin, millions of Ukrainian farmers were starved to death for resisting the state takeover of their farms. This further encouraged Ukrainians to long for independence. Then, during World War II, some Ukrainians rose up and fought against both the Russian and German forces occupying their land. Even after the war, some resistance continued as late as 1950.
As the Soviet Union began to weaken in the 1980’s, Ukrainians again sensed an opportunity to try for independence. On July 16th, 1990, their parliament declared independence. This is why the first Independence Day celebrations were held on July 16th. After a coup tried to reinstate hardline Communist control in Moscow, the parliament again declared independence on August 24th, 1991. The decision was then ratified by the people in a December 1st referendum that year, in which 90 percent voted in favour of independence.
Since 2004, “Independence Day Eve” has been celebrated as “National Flag Day” in Ukraine. The flag was originally adopted in 1918 by the failed revolt after World War I, but it was officially adopted in 1992 by the present Ukrainian state. It consists of two equally sized horizontal bands, an upper band of blue and a lower band of golden yellow. The blue represents the sky, waterways and sea coast, and mountains of Ukraine, and the golden yellow stands for the golden fields of wheat that cover much of the country.
Should you visit Ukraine for their independence celebrations, some ideas on what to do include:
- Attend the main military parade in Kiev, the capital, along with the flag hoisting ceremony. People will dress up in traditional clothes, dance, sing, march, and wave their country’s colours. There are other parades throughout the country as well.
- Both in Kiev and elsewhere, look for fireworks displays, carnivals, fairs, circuses, concerts, outdoor cultural exhibits, large marketplaces, sports events, races, and more. In some places, the festivities continue past the 24th for days on end.
- Visit Odessa on the Black Sea. Swim at its beaches, see old Vorontsov Lighthouse, and walk along the sea on Primorsky Boulevard. You could also go to Yaremche in southwestern Ukraine to see its mountains, rivers, and waterfalls as well as to visit nearby Carpathian National Nature Park.
There are an abundance of official Independence Day celebrations to attend in Ukraine on August 24th, and you can always add on your owned planned events as well.