Independence Day in Ukraine is celebrated every 24 August to remember the day in 1991 when the Ukrainian parliament declared the country 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 rural Ukrainian 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 16 July 1990, their parliament declared independence. This is why the first Independence Day celebrations were held on 16 July. After a coup tried to reinstate hardline Communist control in Moscow, the parliament again declared independence on 24 August 1991. The decision was then ratified by the people in a December referendum that year, in which 90 percent voted in favour of independence.