The ethnonym Ukrainians became widely accepted only in the 20th century after their territory obtained distinctive statehood in 1917. From the 14th to the 16th centuries, the European part of Russia, the territories of northern Ukraine and Belarus (Western Rus') were largely known as Rus', continuing the tradition of Kievan Rus', the first East Slavic state. People of these territories were usually called Rus or Rusyns (known as Ruthenians in Western and Central Europe). The Ukrainian language appeared in the 14th – 16th centuries (with some prototypical features already evident in the 11th century), but at that time, it was mostly known as Ruthenian, like its brothers. In the 16th – 17th centuries, with the establishment of the Zaporizhian Sich, the notion of Ukraine as a separate country with a separate ethnic identity came into being. However, the ethnonym Ukrainians and the linguonym Ukrainian were used only occasionally, and the people of Ukraine usually continued to call themselves and their language Ruthenian. After the decline of the Zaporizhian Sich and the establishment of Imperial Russian hegemony in Ukraine, Ukrainians became more widely known by the Russian regional name, Little Russians (Malorossy), with the majority of Ukrainian élites espousing Little Russian identity. This official name (usually regarded now as colonial and humiliating) did not spread widely among the peasantry which constituted the majority of the population. Ukrainian peasants still referred to their country as Ukraine (a name associated with the Zaporizhian Sich, with the Hetmanate and with their struggle against Poles, Russians, Turks and Crimean Tatars) and to themselves and their language as Ruthenians/Ruthenian. With the publication of Ivan Kotliarevsky's Eneyida (Aeneid) in 1798, which established the modern Ukrainian language, and with the subsequent Romantic revival of national traditions and culture, the ethnonym Ukrainians and the notion of a Ukrainian language came into more prominence at the beginning of the 19th century and gradually replaced the words "Rusyns" and "Ruthenian(s)". In areas outside the control of the Russian/Soviet state until the mid-20th century (Western Ukraine), Ukrainians were known by their pre-existing names for much longer. The appellation Ukrainians initially came into common usage in Central Ukraine and did not take hold in Galicia and Bukovyna until the latter part of the 19th century, in Transcarpathia until the 1930s, and in the Prešov Region until the late 1940s.
The modern name ukrayintsi (Ukrainians) derives from Ukrayina (Ukraine), a name first documented in 1187. Several scientific theories attempt to explain the etymology of the term.
According to the traditional theory (especially predominant in Russia), it derives from the Proto-Slavic root *kraj-, which has two meanings, one meaning the homeland as in "nash rodnoi kraj" (our homeland), and the other "edge, border", and originally had the sense of "periphery", "borderland" or "frontier region" etc.
According to some new alternative Ukrainian historians such as Hryhoriy Pivtorak, Vitaly Sklyarenko and other scholars, translate the term "u-kraine" as "in-land", "home-land" or "our-country". The name in this context derives from the word "u-kraina" in the sense of "domestic region", "domestic land" or "country" (inside the country).
In the last few centuries the population of Ukraine experienced periods of Polonization and Russification, but preserved a common culture and a sense of common identity.
Most ethnic Ukrainians live in Ukraine, where they make up over three-quarters of the population. The largest population of ethnic Ukrainians outside of Ukraine lives in Russia where about 1.9 million Russian citizens consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians, while millions of others (primarily in southern Russia and Siberia) have some Ukrainian ancestry. The inhabitants of the Kuban, for example, have vacillated among three identities, Ukrainian, Russian (an identity supported by the Soviet regime), and "Cossack". Approximately 800,000 people of Ukrainian ancestry live in the Russian Far East in an area known historically as "Green Ukraine".
According to some previous assumptions, an estimated number of almost 2.1 million people of Ukrainian origin live in North America (1.2 million in Canada and 890,000 in the United States). Large numbers of Ukrainians live in Brazil (500,000), Moldova (375,000), Kazakhstan (about 333,000), Poland (estimates from 300,000 to 400,000), Argentina (300,000), Belarus (estimates from 250,000 to 300,000), Portugal (52,300), Romania (estimates from 60,000 to 90,000) and Slovakia (55,000). There are also Ukrainian diasporas in the UK, Australia, Germany, Latvia, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Ireland, Sweden and the former Yugoslavia.
In the last decades of the 19th century, many Ukrainians were forced by the Tsarist autocracy to move to the Asian regions of Russia, while many of their counterpart Slavs under Austro-Hungarian rule emigrated to the New World seeking work and better economic opportunities. Today, large ethnic Ukrainian minorities reside in Russia, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Italy and Argentina. According to some sources, around 20 million people outside Ukraine identify as having Ukrainian ethnicity, however the official data of the respective countries calculated together doesn't show more than 10 million. Ukrainians have one of the largest diasporas in the world.
The East Slavs emerged from the undifferentiated early Slavs with the Slavic migrations in the 6th and 7th centuries CE. The East Slavs were united in the Kievan Rus' during the 9th to 13th centuries. East Slavic tribes cited as "proto-Ukrainian" include the Volhynians, Derevlianians, Polianians, and Siverianians and the less significant Ulychians, Tivertsians, and White Croats. The Gothic historian Jordanes and 6th-century Byzantine authors named two groups that lived in the south-east of Europe: Sclavins (western Slavs) and Antes. Polianians are identified as the founders of the city of Kiev and as playing the key role in the formation of the Kievan Rus' state. At the beginning of the 9th century, Varangians used the waterways of Eastern Europe for military raids and trade, particularly the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks. Until the 11th century these Varangians also served as key mercenary troops for a number of princes in medieval Kiev, as well as for some of the Byzantine emperors, while others occupied key administrative positions in Kievan Rus' society, and eventually became slavicized. Besides other cultural traces, several Ukrainian names show traces of Norse origins as a result of influences from that period.
Differentiation between separate East Slavic groups began to emerge in the later medieval period, and an East Slavic dialect continuum developed within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, with the Ruthenian language emerging as a written standard. The active development of a concept of a Ukrainian nation and a Ukrainian language began with the Ukrainian National Revival in the early 19th century. In the Soviet era (1917–1991), official historiography emphasized "the cultural unity of 'proto-Ukrainians' and 'proto-Russians' in the fifth and sixth centuries".
The Ukrainian gene-pool includes the following Y-haplogroups, in order from the most prevalent: R1a (43%) I (23% I2a), R1b (8%), E1b1b (7%), I1 (5%), N1 (5%), J2 (4%), G (3%), T (1%). Roughly all R1a Ukrainians carry R1a-Z282; R1a-Z282 have been found significantly only in Eastern Europe. Chernivtsi Oblast is the only region in Ukraine where Haplogroup I2a occurs more frequently than R1a, much less frequent even in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. In comparison to their neighbors, Ukrainians have a similar percentage of Haplogroup R1a (43%) in their population—compare Poles, Russians, Lithuanians and Belarusians (55%, 46%, 42% and 51%, respectively). Note that populations in Eastern Europe which have never been Slavic do as well.). Unlike Poles and Russians, Ukrainians have a high percentage of I2a, which is typical of the Balkan and Danube regions, but a smaller percentage than Russians of the N1c1 lineage found among Finnic, Baltic, and Siberian populations, and also less R1b than West Slavs. In terms of haplogroup distribution, the genetic pattern of Ukrainians most closely resembles that of Belarusians. The presence of the N1c lineage is explained by a contribution of the assimilated Finno-Ugric tribes. In some parts of central Ukraine the domination of the clade of R1a M458 over Z280 is traced to Lechites, as a genetic connection to the tribes of Radimichs, Polans and Vyatichi.
Among Ukrainians, there are several distinct subethnic groups, especially in western Ukraine: places like Zakarpattia and Halychyna. Among them the most known are Hutsuls, Volhynians, Boykos and Lemkos (otherwise known as Rusyns – a derivative of Ruthenians), each with peculiar area of settlement, dialect, dress, anthropological type and folk traditions. There are several theories about the origin of each of these groups. Some of these subethnic groups were strongly influenced by the neighboring nations, but according to all relevant indicators they belong to the mainstream of Ukrainian people.
Ukraine has had a very turbulent history, a fact explained by its geographical position. In the 9th century the Varangians from Scandinavia conquered the proto-Slavic tribes on the territory of today's Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia and laid the groundwork for the Kievan Rus’ state. The ancestors of the Ukrainian nation such as Polianians had an important role in the development and culturalization of Kievan Rus’ state. The internecine wars between Rus' princes, which began after the death of Yaroslav the Wise, led to the political fragmentation of the state into a number of principalities. The quarreling between the princes left Kievan Rus’ vulnerable to foreign attacks, and the invasion of the Mongols in 1236. and 1240. finally destroyed the state. Another important state in the history of the Ukrainians is Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia (1199–1349).
The third important state for Ukrainians is Cossack Hetmanate. The Cossacks of Zaporizhia since the late 15th century controlled the lower bends of the river Dnieper, between Russia, Poland and the Tatars of Crimea, with the fortified capital, Zaporizhian Sich. Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky is one of the most celebrated and at the same time most controversial political figures in Ukraine's early-modern history. A brilliant military leader, his greatest achievement in the process of national revolution was the formation of the Cossack Hetmanate state of the Zaporozhian Host (1648–1782). The period of the Ruin in the late 17th century in the history of Ukraine is characterized by the disintegration of Ukrainian statehood and general decline. During the Ruin Ukraine became divided along the Dnieper River into Left-Bank Ukraine and Right-Bank Ukraine, and the two halves became hostile to each other. Ukrainian leaders during the period are considered to have been largely opportunists and men of little vision who could not muster broad popular support for their policies. There were roughly 4 million Ukrainians at the end of the 17th century.
At the final stages of the First World War, a powerful struggle for an independent Ukrainian state developed in the central Ukrainian territories, which, until 1917, were part of the Russian Empire. The newly established Ukrainian government, the Central Rada, headed by Mykhailo Hrushevsky, issued four universals, the Fourth of which, dated 22 January 1918, declared the independence and sovereignty of the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) on 25 January 1918. The session of the Central Rada on 29 April 1918 ratified the Constitution of the UNR and elected Hrushevsky president.
During 1932–1933 millions of Ukrainians were forced in starvation to death by a Soviet regime which led to a famine, known as the Holodomor. The Soviet regime remained silent about the Holodomor and provided no aid to the victims or the survivors. But news and information about what was going on reached the West and evoked public responses in Polish-ruled Western Ukraine and in the Ukrainian diaspora. Since the 1990s the independent Ukrainian state, particularly under President Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian mass media and academic institutions, many foreign governments, most Ukrainian scholars, and many foreign scholars have viewed and written about the Holodomor as genocide and issued official declarations and publications to that effect. Modern scholarly estimates of the direct loss of human life due to the famine range between 2.6 million (3-3.5 million) and 12 million although much higher numbers are usually published in the media and cited in political debates. As of March 2008, the parliament of Ukraine and the governments of several countries, including the United States have recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide.
The Ukrainian state has occupied a number of territories since its initial foundation. Most of these territories have been located within Eastern Europe, however, as depicted in the maps in the gallery below, has also at times extended well into Eurasia and South-Eastern Europe. At times there has also been a distinct lack of a Ukrainian state, as its territories were on a number of occasions, annexed by its more powerful neighbours.
The watershed period in the development of modern Ukrainian national consciousness was the struggle for independence during the creation of the Ukrainian People's Republic from 1917 to 1921. A concerted effort to reverse the growth of Ukrainian national consciousness was begun by the regime of Joseph Stalin in the late 1920s, and continued with minor interruptions until the most recent times. The man-made Famine-Genocide of 1932–3, the deportations of the so-called kulaks, the physical annihilation of the nationally conscious intelligentsia, and terror in general were used to destroy and subdue the Ukrainian nation. Even after Joseph Stalin's death the concept of a Russified though multiethnic Soviet people was officially promoted, according to which the non-Russian nations were relegated to second-class status. Despite this, many Ukrainians played prominent roles in the Soviet Union, including such public figures as Semyon Timoshenko.
The creation of a sovereign and independent Ukraine in 1991, however, pointed to the failure of the policy of the "merging of nations" and to the enduring strength of the Ukrainian national consciousness. Today, one of the consequences of these acts is Ukrainophobia.
Biculturalism is especially present in southeastern Ukraine where there is a significant Russian minority. Historical colonization of Ukraine is one reason that creates confusion about national identity to this day. Many citizens of Ukraine have adopted the Ukrainian national identity in the past 20 years. According to the concept of nationality dominant in Eastern Europe the Ukrainians are people whose native language is Ukrainian (an objective criterion) whether or not they are nationally conscious, and all those who identify themselves as Ukrainian (a subjective criterion) whether or not they speak Ukrainian.
Attempts to introduce a territorial-political concept of Ukrainian nationality on the Western European model (presented by political philosopher Viacheslav Lypynsky) were unsuccessful until the 1990s. Territorial loyalty has also been manifested by the historical national minorities living in Ukraine. The predominant belief in Ukraine today is that all permanent inhabitants of Ukraine are Ukrainians regardless of their ethnic origins or the language in which they communicate. The official declaration of Ukrainian sovereignty of 16 July 1990 stated that "citizens of the Republic of all nationalities constitute the people of Ukraine."
Due to Ukraine's geographical location, its culture primarily exhibits central and eastern European influences. Over the years it has been influenced by movements such as those brought about during the Byzantine Empire and the Renaissance. Today, the country is somewhat culturally divided with the western regions bearing a stronger central European influence and the eastern regions showing a significant Russian influence. A strong Christian culture was predominant for many centuries, although Ukraine was also the center of conflict between the Catholic, Orthodox and Islamic spheres of influence.
Ukrainian (украї́нська мо́ва, ukrayins'ka mova, [ukraˈjinʲsʲka ˈmɔʋa]) is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the only official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses the Ukrainian alphabet, one of many based on the Cyrillic alphabet. The language shares some vocabulary with the languages of the neighboring Slavic nations, most notably with Belarusian, Polish, Russian and Slovak.
The Ukrainian language traces its origins to the Old East Slavic language of the medieval state of Kievan Rus'. In its earlier stages it was called Ruthenian language. Ukrainian, along with other East Slavic languages, is a lineal descendant of the colloquial language used in Kievan Rus' (10th–13th century).
While the Golden Horde placed officials in key Kievan Rus areas, practised forced resettlement, and even renamed urban centers to suit their own language, the Mongols did not attempt to annihilate Kievan Rus society and culture. The second onslaught began with the destruction of Kiev by the Golden Horde in 1240. This khanate formed the western part of a great Mongol Empire that had been founded by Genghis Khan in the early 13th century. After the Mongol destruction of Kievan Rus in the 13th century, literary activity in Ukraine declined. A revival began in the late 18th century in eastern Ukraine with overlapping literary and academic phases at a time when nostalgia for the Cossack past and resentment at the loss of autonomy still lingered on.
The language has persisted despite several periods of bans and/or discouragement throughout centuries as it has always nevertheless maintained a sufficient base among the people of Ukraine, its folklore songs, itinerant musicians, and prominent authors.
According to the 2001 Ukrainian census, 85.2% of all people of Ukrainian ethnicity living in Ukraine named Ukrainian as their mother-tongue, and 14.8% named Russian as their mother-tongue. This census does not cover Ukrainians living in other countries.
Historically Ukraine was inhabited by pagan tribes, but Byzantine rite Christianity was introduced by the turn of the first millennium. It was imagined by later writers who sought to put Kievan Christianity on the same level of primacy as Byzantine Christianity that Apostle Andrew himself had visited the site where the city of Kiev would be later built.
However it was only by the 10th century that the emerging state, the Kievan Rus' became influenced by the Byzantine Empire, the first known conversion was by the Princess Saint Olga who came to Constantinople in 945 or 957. Several years later, her grandson, Knyaz Vladimir baptised his people in the Dnieper River. This began a long history of the dominance of the Eastern Orthodoxy in Ruthenia (Ukraine).
Ukrainians are predominantly Orthodox Christians. In the eastern and southern areas of Ukraine the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate is the most common. In central and western Ukraine there is support for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate headed by Patriarch Filaret and also in the western areas of Ukraine and with smaller support throughout the country there is support for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Mefodiy.
In the Western region known as Galicia the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, one of the Eastern Rite Catholic churches has a strong membership. Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been a growth of Protestant churches and Rodnovery, a contemporary Slavic modern pagan religion. There are also ethnic minorities that practice other religions, i.e. Crimean Tatars (Islam), and Jews and Karaim (Judaism).
As of 2016 the majority of Ukrainian populations was adhering to Christianity. Of these Christians, 52% are Eastern Orthodox (33% of the Kiev Patriarchate and 19% of the Moscow Patriarchate), 9% are Greek Catholics, 1% are Latin Rite Catholics and a further 1% are Protestants. As of 2016, 23% of the population does not claim a religious affiliation, and 1% adheres to other religions.
Ukrainian music is considered one of the most influential high-quality music in the world and its content covers diverse and multiple component elements of the music that is found in Western and Eastern musical civilization. It also has a very strong indigenous Slavic and Christian uniqueness whose elements were used among many neighboring nations.
Ukrainian folk oral literature, poetry, and songs (such as the dumas) are among the most distinctive ethnocultural features of Ukrainians as a people. Religious music existed in Ukraine before the official adoption of Christianity, in the form of plainsong "obychnyi spiv" or "musica practica". Traditional Ukrainian music is easily recognized by its somewhat melancholy tone. It first became known outside of Ukraine during the 15th century as musicians from Ukraine would perform before the royal courts in Poland (latter in Russia).
A large number of famous musicians around the world was educated or born in Ukraine, among them are famous names like Dmitry Bortniansky, Sergei Prokofiev, Myroslav Skoryk, etc. Ukraine is also the rarely acknowledged musical heartland of the former Russian Empire, home to its first professional music academy, which opened in the mid-18th century and produced numerous early musicians and composers.
Ukrainian dance refers to the traditional folk dances of the peoples of Ukraine. Today, Ukrainian dance is primarily represented by what ethnographers, folklorists and dance historians refer to as "Ukrainian Folk-Stage Dances", which are stylized representations of traditional dances and their characteristic movements that have been choreographed for concert dance performances. This stylized art form has so permeated the culture of Ukraine, that very few purely traditional forms of Ukrainian dance remain today.
Ukrainian dance is often described as energetic, fast-paced, and entertaining, and along with traditional Easter eggs (pysanky), it is a characteristic example of Ukrainian culture recognized and appreciated throughout the world.
The national symbols of the Ukrainians are the Flag of Ukraine and the Coat of arms of Ukraine.
The national flag of Ukraine is a blue and yellow bicolour rectangle. The colour fields are of same form and equal size. The colours of the flag represent a blue sky above yellow fields of wheat. The flag was designed for the convention of the Supreme Ruthenian Council, meeting in Lviv in October 1848. Its colours were based on the coat-of-arms of the Galicia-Volhynia Principality.
The Coat of arms of Ukraine features the same colours found on the Ukrainian flag: a blue shield with yellow trident—the symbol of ancient Slavic tribes that once lived in Ukraine, later adopted by Ruthenian and Kievan Rus rulers. Others say that the coat represents also the importance of the Holy Trinity, although coincidentally prior to Christianity the people of today's Ukraine believed in Triglav, with the similar concept of three.