Understanding Ukrainian Culture

Ukraine is located between Asia and Europe so its culture is a combination of Eastern and Western European influences. With more than 110 ethnic groups, there’s a lot of diversity and unique characteristics in Ukrainian culture. During the Renaissance and the rule of the Byzantine Empire, Ukrainian culture went through tremendous changes. Dominated by the Eastern Orthodox Church and pre-Christian traditions, Ukrainian culture also shares its origin with the neighboring Belarusian and Russian cultures. The origin of these three cultures can be traced to Kievan Rus.

The effects of the socialist style of living are evident in the region as a result of the enforcement of communist rule in Russia in the late 1920s. Ukrainian culture can be identified by the ‘pysanky’ (the painted Easter egg), the ‘hopak’ (the Ukrainian dance), the ‘bandura’ (the musical instrument), Cossacks, ‘borscht’ (the soup), the cooked chicken dish, and the ‘salo’.

Religion and Customs

Orthodox Christianity is possibly the most popular religion in Ukraine, along with Eastern Catholicism. A number of holidays and festivals are celebrated by Ukrainians including popular Christian festivals such as Christmas, Easter, and New Year. There are also local festivals such as Whitsuntide and Ivana Kupala. There’s a social gathering called Vechornytsi, which is commonly found on traditional holidays such as Koledaruvane and Ivan Kupala Day. The Ukrainian people celebrate togetherness and it is called "Razom nas bahato, nas ne podolaty."

Ukrainian Cuisine

Ukrainian dishes are often very rich and include cheese, fish, and many different types of sausages. Bread is included in almost all types of meals and during Easter, colored eggs are placed on the table around the bread. A special Ukrainian cuisine prepared on Easter and Christmas is “Kutia”, which is a dish made from poppy seeds, wheat groats, honey, and sweet bread.

Music and Dance

The effect of ancient traditions is visible in the songs and dances performed in the country. The Kozak is a popular dance from Central Ukraine with a long history. Initially, only men or women groups performed during cultural celebrations but now, mixed groups participate in various functions and enjoy the celebrations together. Other famous cultural dances of Ukraine are Kozachok, Hopak, and Tropak. The music and dance culture of Ukraine has a strong influence on Gypsy music and also the Jewish culture of Hava Nagila, which is also called “Let's Rejoice.” Kalyna is a famous dancing style of Ukraine where women wear colorful clothes with matching aprons and tunics, and men wear baggy trousers with embroidered shirts.

Traditional Ukrainian music can be solo singing or ritual singing. Ritual singing is performed to signify an occasion such as birth, death or marriage. The folk music includes traditional instruments such as the bandura, the kobza (lute), violin, basolya, volynka (bagpipes), floyara, sopilka (duct flute), and buben (frame drum). A traditional ensemble is comprised of three musicians (troïstï muzyki) playing three instruments. The oldest forms of Ukrainian songs are Cossack songs and the cultural celebrations are also famous for certain cultural games such as Tavriya Games which are played during the celebrations. Two forms of contemporary Ukrainian music are the Kolomiya Rap and Polissia Magic Pop.

Weddings

Traditional weddings in Ukraine are organized in churches where the bride wears a white costume and the groom dresses in black. The celebration of weddings continues for almost a week and is followed by dance, music, eating, and drinking. Generally, a Ukrainian wedding starts with the custom of bargaining before the marriage. The prospective groom goes to the house of the prospective bride to discuss the matter of the dowry. After the marriage, the bride throws chocolates and candies to the children as she leaves the church. At the reception, the bride is expected to dance with unmarried women, placing a veil on them. To top it off, the bride throws her own veil up in the air and the woman who catches the veil is believed to be the next woman who will get married.

Dressing Style

Ukrainian culture is also reflected in its dressing style. There are costumes such as Kozhukh, ?upan, Kontusz, and Sharovary for men, as well as Vyshyvanka and Kozhushanka for women. The dress style of married and unmarried women is different and the traditional dressing includes embroidery which varies according to the regions in the country.

Sports

The government of Ukraine places a heavy emphasis on physical education and health so it’s easy to find swimming pools, gymnasiums, and sports fields in many places. A few popular sports of Ukraine include handball, soccer, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, ice hockey, and other athletics. There’s a big following for soccer and Ukraine has its own professional league. The national team qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup where they lost in the quarter finals to eventual champions Italy.

Here are some resources on Ukrainian culture.

  • Ukraine: The webpage provides information on geography, government, people and society, economy, and more.
  • Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village: This open air museum is dedicated to the preservation of the culture of Ukrainian immigrants in Alberta, Canada.
  • Traditions & Customs: The article touches on the various traditions and customs according to the National Calendar.
  • History: Here’s a concise account of the history of Ukraine.
  • Customs: The PDF highlights some aspects of Ukrainian customs like superstitions, food, social norms, and the like.
  • Religion: A great overview of the major religions in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian Cuisine: The webpage is an excellent introduction to the world of Ukrainian cuisine.
  • Hopak: A description of the traditional Ukrainian dance form which combines martial arts and dance.
  • Musical Instruments: The webpage provides information on various types of Ukrainian musical instruments.
  • Folk Musical Instruments: Here, you can find information on instruments like the Husla, Kobza, Bandura, Surma, and more.
  • Music of Ukraine: A collection of folk music, mostly used for dances.
  • Ukrainian Weddings: The FAQ answers most questions you may have on the subject.
  • Wedding Traditions: The article provides an overview of wedding traditions in Ukraine.
  • Clothing: A fascinating look at Ukrainian dressing.
  • National Suit: The webpage provides information on the national suit of Ukraine.

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