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Human chain formed to commemorate Ukraine’s Day of Unification over Dnipro River

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People walk over Kyiv's Paton Bridge from the west bank of the Dnipro River to meet with their compatriots walking from the east bank in the middle of the bridge as they celebrate Unity Day on Jan. 22. (Anastasia Vlasova)

A traditional human chain was formed on Jan. 22 across Kyiv's Paton Bridge over the Dnipro River to commemorate the unification act between the Western Ukrainian People's Republic and Ukrainian People's Republic 97 years ago in 1919. Both republics emerged from the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian and Tsarist empires in the wake of World War I.

A traditional human chain was formed on Jan. 22 across Kyiv’s Paton Bridge over the Dnipro River to commemorate the unification act between the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic and Ukrainian People’s Republic 97 years ago in 1919. Both republics emerged from the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian and Tsarist empires in the wake of World War I.

The act united ethnic Ukrainian territories on both sides of the Dnipro River into a sovereign state.

Independence, however, wouldn’t last long as the newly-emerged Poland would partition what today is much of western Ukraine and the Soviet Union the remainder of greater Ukraine early the next decade.

Ukraine’s short-lived independence after WWI wasn’t forgotten when around 3 million people formed a human chain, joining hands from Lviv to Kyiv on Jan. 22, 1990, one year before regaining independence as the Soviet Union imploded the next year.

The day also marks when on Jan. 22, 1918 the Central Rada (Council) of Ukraine in Kyiv proclaimed independence as the Ukrainian People’s Republic, breaking away from the crumbling Russian empire.

As recently as two years ago the EuroMaidan Revolution claimed its first two victims on this day. Serhiy Nihoyan, 21, whose parents emigrated from Armenia in 1992, and Mikhail Zhyzneuski, a native of Belarus, were shot by riot police. Their deaths came five days after new laws came into effect that restricted public demonstrations, and which the political opposition labeled as “dictatorial.” Protesters had been clashing with police that day along Hrushevskoho Street.

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