Part one of a five-part series that looks at Ukraine, co-host of the 2012 European Football Championships, from a historical, political and cultural perspective.Part I - Ukraine, the early years and the beginnings of its sex trade
Kyiv is the English translation for the Ukrainian word. The Russian translation is Kiev.
The news when it comes out of Ukraine these days is rarely good, and this spring it has been absolutely atrocious. As more eyes have begun to focus on Ukraine ahead of the European Football Championships which it co-hosts with Poland beginning June 6th, some of the dark underbelly of Ukrainian politics, business and mentality has been exposed to light. From the recent fisticuffs in parliament, to the jailing of Yulia Tymoschenko, which most governments in the west see as politically motivated, price gouging ahead of the European Championships, a gang rape and burning of a victim who survived an excruciatingly painful weeks then died, to the feminist demonstrations of Femen (who use their naked breasts to get across their message), it has been a very busy spring in Ukraine, indeed. But to understand this country of extremes one must go back not twenty, a hundred or even three hundred years. Ukraine's history has been shaped by the events which have taken place on her soil for the last millennium.
The geography of present day Ukraine is mostly steppe, with few natural hills and only a few large rivers to slow the advance of an army. Many armies have advanced and retreated, and advanced again across those seemingly endless golden plains. The first to do so came on horseback from beyond the Urals. To those nomadic warlike peoples of the east, it must have looked as if a door was in place to the very center of Europe. Rather than knocking on that door they simply busted it in. On December 6th, 1240, the Mongol Hordes sacked Kyiv. At the time there were approximately 50,000 inhabitants (only about 2,000 survived the massacre), which made it the largest city in Europe. London needed another 100 years before it had as many people. Though it probably would have made little difference, the Kyivan Rus's ability to defend their lands against these invaders had been made weaker by incessant internecine fighting, which was to plague Ukraine throughout its history, and can still be seen today.
These people of Kyiv, the Rus', were named for either the people who had occupied the bluffs and shores along the Rivers Rus and Rusna in central Ukraine (the Ukrainian version), or a more popular version, they were named for the Finnish word Ruotsi, which means rowers, and was their name for the tribe of Varangians (Vikings) from Sweden who appeared in and around Kyiv in the mid-9th Century. Theses Varangians were 'invited', according to the oldest written records of this time period, "Chronicle of Bygone Years", which was compiled by
Sex slaves then and now
After the end of the control of the Mongols, the next group to lay claim to the lands in and around Kyiv were the Lithuanians, and more importantly the Poles, who then formed a formidable alliance in 1385. The Polish would become a thorny issue for Ukraine for the next 600 years. During the Polish-Lithuanian (part II of this series will look at this troubled relationship between Poland and Ukraine) domination which extended to Kyiv in the east but centred on the areas known as Galicia-Volhynia, in present day southeast Poland and northwest Ukraine, the Tartars began to control the southern parts of present Ukraine from their stronghold in Crimea. They mostly raided the other areas of the country to take back slaves to their overlord the Ottomans. Many were women and they were used for sex. A certain sultan, Süleyman the Magnificent, married one of these Ukrainian harem girls, Roxelana, who was captured near L'viv. She became quite famous for her machinations in the royal court, and their son succeeded Süleyman.
During the time of the Kyivan Rus' women were given many rights that other women in Europe did not get until the early 20th Century. They could inherit property if their husbands died before them, and they could become the head of the household and allot patrimony to the sons. If a woman was murdered, it was the same crime as if a man had been murdered. And now it has come full circle. Groups like Femen, who have resorted to using their naked breasts to demonstrate against the world's
Michael V Owens lived in Ukraine for a year and was a professor of English at Kyiv International University. His father is from Dneprpetrovsk and his wife was born just outside of Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast.
|@ Dave not Yaroslav--Certainly there must be glaring omissions, because to go over every event in a country's 1,000 year history would be beyond the scope of our paper. In my defence, I will say that there are still 4 more articles to come, and hopefully I will be able to touch on (at least tangentially) some of those things. I have specifically left out many of the names, places and dates because it would be just too much. Thanks for reading, Hope to have part II up in the next day or so... @ W B...I'm sure the women of Femen have tried other ways, and would gladly accept any suggestions. Lets not forget, in the last 50 years-how many leaders of major countries have been women? German women earn about 78% of what their male colleagues do for the same work. So it's not even equal here. And if you've followed the news recently from Ukraine, women are treated as nothing more than subservient citizens, Except for one, and she's in prison...|
Dave the not as wise as Yaroslav
|Now I'm no expert on Ukrainian history, but there does seem to be several glaring omissions from your version of Ukrainian events.|
|I think if women want to be taken seriously then first they should take themselves seriously and use their brains and not their bodies to make a point. It just undermines their argument and reinforces the stereotype that women use their bodies at every opportunity to gain attention. How often do you see men pulling the same stunt? There must be better ways for women to get their point across than stooping to cheap publicity stunts which could reinforce the view that women have nothing to offer other than their body.|
Michael V Owens
|@Dave. Not really. If all you can see is women demonstrating naked then you have proved their point. And how else would you get on the news cycle?|
|Why is it that women feel the need to get naked to prove a point? Does that not contradict the point they are making?|
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