Policy Research: Who Made Ukraine’s Independence?

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Amidst the current turmoil in Ukraine, with President Zelensky rallying his country against Russian aggression, this paper delves into the historical context of Ukrainian independence struggles, focusing on the pivotal figure of Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1595–1657). Founder of the Cossack Hetmanate, Khmelnytsky led a successful uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1648 to 1657, ultimately establishing an independent Cossack state. The paper poses the question: Did Khmelnytsky make the uprising, or did the uprising make Khmelnytsky? By examining Khmelnytsky’s leadership, societal circumstances, and external influences, the paper offers a nuanced interpretation. While Khmelnytsky played a crucial role, his success was also shaped by broader social trends and collective actions. The paper concludes that while leaders influence history, they are also products of their historical context. As Ukraine faces its current challenges, understanding the complexities of historical leadership sheds light on contemporary struggles for independence and resilience.

Main Author: Jiansheng Zhang

Co-authors: N/A

Research Paper Type: Historical Analysis Paper

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