For many observers Ukraine "appeared" on the international map in 1991. In reality Ukraine has been where it is for centuries. What happened in 1991 is that Ukrainian elites assumed political power and the country became internationally recognised as a separate political entity. By gaining independence Ukraine began a new chapter in its history. It did not begin its life as an independent nation-state from a tabula rasa but inherited an institutional infrastructure and set of attitudes which in some ways have been an obstacle to overcome rather than a foundation to build on. The two dominant legacies shaping the present are lack of statehood in the modern era and the totalitarian experience of Communist Party rule.