I suppose most of us in the west don't really know much about Ukraine--its amazing history, archaeology, mythology, art, religion, and culture. It may just seem like some outlier of Russia with a Communist-block past. But no, Ukraine's foundation is the Old European Cucuteni-Tripolye culture that Marija Gimbutas taught us about back in the 1980s--and now her work (supposedly "debunked") has been validated by recent DNA studies corroborating the dramatic history she proposed through her meticulous archaeological investigations.
The Old European culture grew up around the Danube River during Neolithic (early agricultural) times (6th-5th millennia BCE) and sustained itself for at least fifteen hundred years. The Danube Culture--as it is also known--was highly evolved: peaceful, artistic, ritualistic, innovative, and female-centered or "matristic" as Gimbutas called it. The figurines of snakey women sitting in a circle on special chairs (a council of women?) were found inside a large ceramic pot created in the 5th millennium BCE (early Cucuteni); Gimbutas called them Snake Goddesses "probably...used for the reenactment of rites." (Language of the Goddess, plate 9)
In the middle of the 5th millennium BCE, steppe tribes from north of the Black Sea (to the east of Ukraine) made forays into the Old European sites and learned of their cultural wealth--artistic objects, script, joyful ritual; they were most especially attracted by the gold which was originally hammered into jewelry worn by priestesses of the Goddess religion. (See photos below.) The invading proto-Indo-European males were buried in large mounds called Kurgans and their influx into Old European sites wreaked havok on the peaceful farming people, sending them fleeing into caves, mountains, and islands for refuge.
Many of the refugees living near the Black Sea fled to Ukraine (just north of the Black Sea) and joined the like-minded people there whose gorgeous pottery is pictured below, creating in the late 5th and early 4th millennia great "mega-cities" as the archaeologists have named them. But the academic scholars are puzzled: These huge cities appear to have been egalitarian, without centralized government or class stratification, and yet they grew to enormous sizes (e.g., 40,000 people) long before the rise of the State in Mesopotamia or Egypt; how is it possible?? The cities were built in several concentric ovals with the houses close together, forming "defensive concentrations of population at a time of increased conflict"; Eventually even these cities were destroyed ("all of the houses were burned simultaneously"), the inhabitants fleeing to the west coast of what we now know as Turkey and beyond. Ref: "The Rise & Fall of Old Europe" by David Anthony in The Lost World of Old Europe, edited by David Anthony.
And at the end of the 4th millennium a massive wave of Indo-European males entered the territory of Old Europe and eradicated the culture entirely (along with its script and all of its gorgeous pottery). The male farmer DNA disappeared from the record, replaced by Indo-European male DNA (in other words, the farmer men were killed) and the women were abducted and colonized through "intermarriage." Fortunately for us, the women's culture--weaving, dancing, ritual, festivals--continued as an underground stream of motifs, values, and religious customs for the next few thousand years and scholars like Marija Gimbutas (who grew up in Lithuania) were able to access and connect them to the archaeology of Old Europe.
The current culture of Ukraine carries remnants of these ancient traditions, which can be seen in their "arts and crafts" as well as "folk rituals and festivals." Nine thousand years of peaceful and artistic values undergird this culture that Putin is now desecrating and attempting to destroy--a karmic throwback to the original Indo-Europeans. I pray that the ancient Goddess and her invisible helpers might intervene in some magical and transcendent way, as the humans are not able to respond appropriately.
1) Council of Snake Goddesses or Council of Women, figurines with chairs found in a Cucuteni vase
2) A typical female figurine from Cucuteni culture (4200 BCE) found in a vase with other figurines (male and female).
3) One of many elegant vases belonging to the Cucuteni culture, this one from around 3700 BCE.
4) Another elegant pot with a female dancing figure in a classic ancient hourglass (double axe) shape from Cucuteni, around 4050 BCE
5) What archaeologists call an "anthropomorphic" vase (they are always female) from earlier Cucuteni, around 4450-4200 BCE.
6) This priestess necklace was found at Varna, a seaport on the Black Sea that became very wealthy with the copper and gold that Old Europeans learned metalurgy. Varna appears to be the first place where Indo-European chieftains may have taken up residence and colonized the locals for their rich artifacts.
7) The shell necklace on the right was found in Moldava (also Cucuteni) around 4500-4300 BCE and almost certainly belonged to a priestess if we follow the scholarship of Jeannine Davis-Kimball, whose research indicated shells as one of the main features of priestess burials in later Amazon graves.