Updated:
Original:
Year
1918

Ukraine declares its independence

Soon after the Bolsheviks seized control in immense, troubled Russia in November 1917 and moved towards negotiating peace with the Central Powers, the former Russian state of Ukraine declares its total independence.

One of pre-war Russia’s most prosperous areas, the vast, flat Ukraine (the name can be translated as at the border or borderland) was one of the major wheat-producing regions of Europe as well as rich with mineral resources, including vast deposits of iron and coal. The majority of Ukraine was incorporated into the Russian empire after the second partition of Poland in 1793, while the remaining section—the principality of Galicia–remained part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and was a key battleground on World War I’s Eastern Front.

Immediately following the overthrow of the czar in February 1917, Ukraine set up a provisional government and proclaimed itself a republic within the structure of a federated Russia. After Vladimir Lenin and his radical Bolsheviks rose to power in November, Ukraine—like its fellow former Russian property, Finland—took one step further, declaring its complete independence in January 1918.

But Ukraine’s Rada government, formed after the secession, had serious difficulty imposing its rule on the people in the face of Bolshevik opposition and counter-revolutionary activity within the country. Seeing Ukraine as an ideal and much-needed source of food for their hunger-plagued people, Germany and Austria brought in troops to preserve order, forcing the Russian troops occupying the country to leave under the terms of the treaty at Brest-Litovsk, signed in March 1918, and virtually annexing the region, while supposedly recognizing Ukrainian independence. In the words of Wilhelm Groener, a German army commander in Kiev, The [Ukrainian] administrative structure is in total disorder, completely incompetent and in no way ready for quick results.It would be in our interests to treat the Ukrainian government as a cover’ and for us to do the rest ourselves.

The defeat of the Central Powers and the signing of the armistice in November 1918 forced Germany and Austria to withdraw from Ukraine. At the same time, with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire, an independent West Ukrainian republic was proclaimed in the Galician city of Lviv. The two Ukrainian states proclaimed their union in early 1919, but independence was short-lived, as they immediately found themselves in a three-way struggle against troops from both Poland and Russia. The Ukrainian government briefly allied themselves with Poland, but could not withstand the Soviet assault. In 1922, Ukraine became one of the original constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.); it would not regain its independence until the U.S.S.R.’s collapse in 1991.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Republic of India born

On January 26, 1950, the Indian constitution takes effect, making the Republic of India the most populous democracy in the world. Mohandas Gandhi struggled through decades of passive resistance before Britain finally accepted Indian independence. Self-rule had been promised ...read more

Pinzon discovers Brazil

Spanish explorer Vicente Yanez Pinzon, who had commanded the Nina during Christopher Columbus’ first expedition to the New World, reaches the northeastern coast of Brazil during a voyage under his command. Pinzon’s journey produced the first recorded account of a European ...read more

Franco captures Barcelona

During the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona, the Republican capital of Spain, falls to the Nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco. In 1931, King Alfonso XIII approved elections to decide the government of Spain, and voters overwhelmingly chose to abolish the monarchy in favor ...read more

Baird demonstrates TV

On January 26, 1926, John Logie Baird, a Scottish inventor, gives the first public demonstration of a true television system in London, launching a revolution in communication and entertainment. Baird’s invention, a pictorial-transmission machine he called a “televisor,” used ...read more

Australia Day

On January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip guides a fleet of 11 British ships carrying convicts to the colony of New South Wales, effectively founding Australia. After overcoming a period of hardship, the fledgling colony began to celebrate the anniversary of this date with ...read more

POW spends 2,000th day in captivity

U.S. Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez Jr. spends his 2,000th day in captivity in Southeast Asia. First taken prisoner when his plane was shot down on August 5, 1964, he became the longest-held POW in U.S. history. Alvarez was downed over Hon Gai during the first bombing raids against ...read more

Bears beat Patriots in Super Bowl XX

On January 26, 1986, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Chicago Bears score a Super Bowl record number of points to defeat the New England Patriots, 46-10, and win their first championship since 1963. Led by Coach Mike Ditka, a tight end for the Bears during their last Super Bowl ...read more

So-called Mad Butcher terrorizes Cleveland

Thedismembered body of Florence Polillo is found in a basket and several burlap sacks in Cleveland. The 42-year-old woman was the third victim in 18 months to be found dismembered with precision. It sparked a panic in Cleveland,where the unknown murderer was dubbedthe “Mad ...read more

First Australian penal colony established

The first 736 convicts banished from England to Australia land in Botany Bay. Over the next 60 years, approximately 50,000 criminals were transported from Great Britain to the “land down under,” in one of the strangest episodes in criminal-justice history. The accepted wisdom of ...read more

Audie Murphy wounded

On this day, the most decorated man of the war, American Lt. Audie Murphy, is wounded in France. Born the son of Texas sharecroppers on June 20, 1924, Murphy served three years of active duty, beginning as a private, rising to the rank of staff sergeant, and finally winning a ...read more