1992: Ukrainian Champions in Barcelona

The 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona were held from late July to early August. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union the year before, athletes from the former USSR competed under their own flags and national anthems in individual events, and for the Unified Team in group events.

Ukrainian rhythmic gymnasts Alexandra Timochenko and Oksana Skaldina came home with the gold and bronze medals. They are the two fair-haired first place-getters pictured below at the 1991 World Championships.

Alexandra Timochenko (Ukraine), Oksana Kostina and Oksana Oxana Skaldina (Ukraine) (URSS) 1991 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Champions

Under their own flag for the first time, Ukraine’s 1992 female artistic gymnasts also outshone their teammates, with the women winning a further two gold, a silver, and two bronze medals individually, as well as a share in the team gold with their Belarusian, Uzbek and Russian teammates.

Stamp_of_Ukraine_s23 Rhythmic Gymnastics Stamp of Ukraine 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games

Ukrainian stamp from 1992, featuring Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics. X

Despite almost no funding and an ongoing war with Russia, Ukrainian gymnasts continue to win Olympic medals, most recently gold and silver in the men’s competition in 2016. Many gymnasts from the country have moved to compete for other nations in order to access proper training facilities. Following the 2016 Rio Games, the equipment used in the competition was donated to Ukraine’s gymnastics federation.

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On this day: the beginning of independence from the USSR

On the 24th of July, 1990, the year before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people of Ukraine celebrated their first National Flag Day. At an event in the centre of Kyiv (Kiev), the capital city, the blue and yellow flag was raised for the first time since being outlawed by Moscow when Russia absorbed Ukraine into the USSR.

Today the event takes place in August.

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Kiev_24_7_1990_Ukrainian_Flag The occasion of the raising of the Ukrainian flag outside Kiev's city hall on 24th July 1990 (during the decline of the USSR) Kyiv Soviet Union

On this day: a protest against communism

Ukrainians in Sydney, Australia march against Russian communism on the 28th of June, 1953. This image appeared in The Canberra Times the following day.

More Ukrainians died under Stalin’s rule than the entire death toll of the Holocaust, with ethnic Ukrainians singled out by Soviet authorities for a genocide barely recognised by the world until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ukrainians demonstrating against Russian Communism in Macquarie Street, Sydney. Just come from a Ukrainian Orthodox Church service at St. Andrew's Cathedral and were heading towards the

On this day: the death of a prima ballerina

Maya_Plisetskaya_-_1974Plisetskaya performing in Carmen (1974)

As Carmen in 1974.

Soviet ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, one of only a handful of dancers in history to hold the title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta, died on the 2nd of May, 2015.

Born into a prominent family of Lithuanian Jews, Plisetskaya completed her ballet training in Moscow, first performing at the Bolshoi Theatre at the age of eleven.

Maya Plisetskaya Grand Jete Ballet Vintage

Despite being one of the most respected dancers in history, she was treated badly by the anti-Semitic Russian authorities. For the first sixteen years of her career she was banned from leaving the country.

Her father was executed during the Stalinist purges, and her mother, a famous Lithuanian film actress, spent several years in a gulag in Kazakhstan.

Maya Plisetskaya Ballet Vintage

Plisetskaya followed in the footsteps of another great Soviet ballerina: Galina Ulanova, and took over her position as the Bolshoi’s star dancer upon Ulanova’s retirement. Plisetskaya was a member of the Theatre until 1990.

Succumbing to a heart attack, she was eighty-nine at the time of her death.

On this day: a nuclear disaster in the USSR

This is the first picture taken of the destroyed nuclear reactor in Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian), Ukraine. 27th April, 1986.

Taken from a helicopter flying over to assess the damage, the image is foggy because of radiation.

This is 4pm, fourteen hours after the explosion that immediately killed two, and would be directly responsible for the deaths of another twenty-nine people in the days to come.

27th-april-1986-the-first-photo-to-be-taken-of-the-chernobyl-chornobyl-reactor-at-4pm-14-hours-after-the-explosion-this-was-taken-from-the-first-helicopter-to-fly-over-the-disaster-zone-to-evaluat

On this day…

People magazine cover from the 1st of April, 1985. Featured are English actress Jacqueline Bisset and her then partner Alexander Godunov. Godunov was a Soviet ballet star who defected in the late 1970s, becoming a featured actor in Hollywood until his shock death a decade after this picture was taken.

Alexander Godunov People 21st April 1985 Cover