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The War in Ukraine — Postwar Soviet Ukraine (1945-1991)

A guide to better understanding the current crisis


Following the Second World War, the territory of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was expanded to include territories annexed from pre-war Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Crimea was later transferred to the Ukrainian SSR from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1954, after the death of Josef Stalin. Following Stalin's death, two Soviet leaders from Ukraine and brought up through the Ukrainian party system, Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, dominated Soviet politics from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s. Ukraine was rebuilt from the devastation of the war, maintaining its status as the agricultural breadbasket of the Soviet Union and developing a significant industrial sector during the postwar period. 

A significant event for Ukraine, the Soviet Union, and the entire world occurred in 1986, when reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant melted down and exploded. This led to airborne radioactive contamination that spread from the reactor, the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from their homes, and the creation of an exclusion zone that is still present today. Chernobyl became a symbol for the problems of the latter Soviet period and a symptom of its decline.   

For brief account of the history of postwar Soviet Ukraine, navigate to the section on "History of Ukraine," beginning on page 190 and ending on page 193, from:

Kubijovyč, Volodymyr, ed. “H.” In Encyclopedia of Ukraine: Volume II: G-K, 108–293. University of Toronto Press, 1988.

For a brief overview of the Chernobyl disaster, see:

“UNSCEAR Assessments of the Chernobyl Accident.” Accessed March 15, 2022.