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From the latter half of the thirteenth century until the sixteenth century, Ukraine fell under the rule of first Lithuania (Grand Prince Algirdas moved in to occupy Kiev in 1362) and then Poland, led by Casimir the Great (1310-1370).

Ukrainians, or Ruthenians (from Rus', as they called themselves during this period), preferred to be ruled by the Lithuanians, who treated them as equals.

In 1385, to consolidate power against a growing Muscovy, an alliance between Lithuania and Poland was struck.

Thus, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were years of struggle to keep Ukrainian lands from Poland, Hungary, and Lithuania, as well as free of the boyars or noblemen who tried to take control.

Jaroslav divided his kingdom among his sons with the idea that the eldest hold a position of seniority in maintaining unity, but Kiev declined as the political and economic center of Ukraine as each principality lived almost autonomously.

Eventually Kiev fell to the Mongols in 1240, under Ogodei Khan and Batu, the latter being the grandson of Genghis.

These men were free, as opposed to the serfs of the sixteenth century, and organized to fend off marauding Tatars.

They ruled for decades, freeing Ukraine from Polish rule and helping to defend the country from Turkish, Tatar, and other invaders.

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The Slavs made their way into the Balkans in the early seventh century A. By the middle of the ninth century, however, what was to become known as Kievan Rus was still relatively underdeveloped.Much of the ensuing progress is attributed to the Varangians (or Vikings or Normans) who visited Rus in the mid-ninth century.Following the reign of Oleh, Prince Ihor, and then his wife Olha ruled.The country's official language, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, is Ukrainian.The capital city is Kiev, and the national flag has two broad horizontal bands of blue and yellow, the blue on top representing the sky and the yellow representing fields of wheat.

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