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As the Dark Ages enveloped Europe, a civilization was born on the banks of the Dnieper River. Rus--whose capital at Kiev surpassed in grandeur most cities of Europe--was home to the Ukrainian people, whose princes made war on Constantinople and established the city states of what would become Russia. The cities of Rus were destroyed by the Mongols, their remains falling to the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom. With the steppe restored to wilderness, the "kraina" borderlands of the hardy frontiersmen known as Cossacks--who in the 17th century destroyed powerful Polish, Lithuanian and Muscovite armies--gained Ukrainian independence and established a unique social order. Drawing on English, Ukrainian and French sources, this book chronicles the military and social origins of Ukraine and describes the differences between Ukraine and its neighbors. The author refutes the claim that Ukraine and Russia were once united in a common political system.