5 Ukrainians in History You Need to Know

Yaroslav the Wise

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Vladimir the Great

Vladimir the Great

Vladimir the Great was a ruler of Kyivan Rus from 980 to 1015. Vladimir’s father was Prince Sviatoslav I of Kyiv. After his father’s death, Vladimir, who was then the Prince of Novgorod, was forced to flee to Scandinavia to escape the wrath of his brother, Yaropolk. Vladimir eventually made his way back to Rus, and in 988, he led a rebellion against his brother. Vladimir emerged victoriously, and Yaropolk was killed.

Vladimir’s subsequent reign was marked by a period of great expansion. He annexed the neighboring principalities of Polotsk, Chernihiv, and Red Ruthenia. Vladimir also embarked on a series of military campaigns to expand Rus territory even further. In 992, Vladimir led an expedition against the Volga Bulgars, and in 995, he captured the city of Chersonesus.

Under Vladimir’s rule, Kyivan Rus became a powerful state. Vladimir himself was a devout Christian, and he promoted the spread of Christianity throughout his realm. In 988, Vladimir ordered the construction of the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv, which became a center of learning and culture.

Vladimir the Great was a highly effective ruler who left a lasting mark on Kyivan Rus. His military conquests expanded the territory of his kingdom, while his promotion of Christianity helped shape Rus’s religious and cultural identity. Vladimir’s legacy continues to be felt in the modern day; he is revered as a saint in the Orthodox Church, and his image appears on the Ukrainian 100-hryvnia banknote.

Yaroslav the Wise

Yaroslav the Wise

Yaroslav the Wise, also known as Yaroslav I, was the Grand Prince of Kyiv who ruled from 1019 to 1054. He is also widely regarded as one of the most intelligent and capable rulers in Ukrainian history.

Yaroslav consolidated his power following a period of turmoil in Kyiv and expanded the city’s territory. He also reformed the government and embarked on a series of military campaigns to expand Kyiv’s control over the surrounding region. In 1054, he defeated an army of nomadic invaders, solidifying Kyiv’s status as a major power in Eastern Europe.

Yaroslav was also known for his patronage of the arts and sciences and helped to spread Christianity throughout his realm. He built numerous churches and monasteries and commissioned the creation of many manuscripts. He is also credited with introducing a legal code, which helped bring about an era of peace and prosperity in Kyiv.

Yaroslav’s reign was marked by significant advances in the arts, sciences, and economy. He is remembered as one of the most enlightened rulers of his time.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky

Bohdan Khmelnytsky

Bohdan Khmelnytsky was a Ukrainian Cossack leader who led the Cossack uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1648. The uprising resulted in creating the independent Ukrainian state known as the Cossack Hetmanate.

Khmelnytsky was born in 1595 in the Ukrainian town of Chyhyryn. His father was a Cossack officer, and his mother was of noble Ruthenian ancestry. Khmelnytsky attended a Jesuit school in Warsaw, where he learned Latin, Polish, and Ukrainian. In 1617, he joined the Cossacks and took part in several campaigns against the Ottomans. In 1620, he was wounded in battle and captured by the Tatars. He spent nearly a year as a Tatar slave before being ransomed by his father.

In 1648, Khmelnytsky led the Cossack uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The uprising was sparked by several factors, including the Commonwealth’s repressive policies toward the Cossacks, economic hardship, and religious persecution. Khmelnytsky’s brilliant military strategy and charismatic leadership led to a series of Cossack victories against the Polish forces.

Vladimir II Monomakh

Vladimir II Monomakh

Vladimir II Monomakh was the Grand Prince of Kyiv from 1113 to 1125 and the last native ruler of Kyivan Rus. He is also sometimes referred to as Vladimir III.

Monomakh’s father, Vladimir I, was the great-grandson of Vladimir the Great (Volodymyr), the first Christian ruler of Kyivan Rus’. Monomakh’s mother, Gytha, was the daughter of Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. Monomakh was born in Pereyaslavl, Ukraine. He is reputed to have been baptized in the Church of St. Basil the Blessed in Moscow.

Monomakh’s mother died when he was three, and his father when he was seven. He was then raised by his uncle, Yaroslav I the Wise, Grand Prince of Kyiv.

In 1093 Monomakh married Gytha, the daughter of Harold II of England. They had five children:

  • Vsevolod II, Prince of Pereyaslavl and Novgorod
  • Anastasia, who married Vsevolod Davidovich, Prince of Gorodets
  • Mstislav, Prince of Chernigov
  • Lyubava, who married Mstislav Vladimirovich, Prince of Novgorod
  • Izyaslav, who became Prince of Polotsk

Monomakh played an important role in defeating the Cumans, a Turkic people who were threatening Kyiv. He also waged war against the Polovtsy, or Kipchaks, and made peace with them in 1113.

In 1125, Monomakh gave up his throne in Kyiv and retired to Pereyaslavl. He died there on May 19, 1125 and was buried in the Church of the Transfiguration.

Vladimir II Monomakh is revered as a saint in the Orthodox Church.

Olga of Kyiv

Olga of Kyiv

Olga of Kyiv was the regent of Kyiv during the early years of her grandson Vladimir’s rule. She is credited with bringing Christianity to Kyivan Rus and is recognized as a saint by the Orthodox Church.

Olga was born in Pskov, Russia, in 890. Her father was Igor, the prince of Kyiv, and her mother was Malusha. She married Prince Vladimir of Kyiv in 907. Vladimir’s previous wife, Rogneda, had been exiled to Novgorod for adultery. Olga and Vladimir had six children together: Sviatoslav, Yaroslav, Vsevolod, Mstislav, Boris, and Gleb.

In 945, Olga’s husband Vladimir was assassinated. The killer, his cousin Dobrynya, was captured and executed. Olga became the regent of Kyiv and ruled in her grandson Vladimir’s name until he came of age.

Under Olga’s rule, Kyiv flourished. She built churches and fortifications and improved the city’s defenses. She also continued her husband’s policy of expanding Kyivan Rus. Olga defeated the Drevlians, a tribe that killed Vladimir, and annexed their territory. She also conquered the Chuds, Slavs, and Estonians.

In 955, Olga converted to Christianity. She was baptized in Constantinople and took the name, Helena. Olga continued to rule Kyiv until she died in 969. She was buried in the Church of the Holy Wisdom, which she had built in Kyiv.

Olga is recognized as a saint by the Orthodox Church. She is commemorated on July 11, the day of her death.