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Ukrainians ( , Ukrayintsi, ) are an East Slavic ethnic group primarily living in Ukrainemarker, or more broadly—citizens of Ukrainemarker (who may or may not be ethnic Ukrainians). Some 200 years ago and times prior to that, Ukrainians were usually referred to and known as Rusyny ( , commonly translated as Ruthenians).

A 2002 study found that 57 percent of Ukrainians base their identity upon citizenship, 34 percent by ethnicity and 13 percent on language.


Spread of Ukrainian language in the beginning of 20th century
Most ethnic Ukrainians live in Ukrainemarker where they make up over three-quarters of the population. The largest Ukrainian community outside of Ukraine is in Russiamarker, about 3 million Russian citizens consider themselves ethnic Ukrainians, while millions of others (primarily in southern Russia and Siberiamarker) have some Ukrainian ancestry.

There are also almost 2.1 million of people of Ukrainian origin in North America (1.2 million in Canadamarker and 890,000 in the United Statesmarker). Large numbers of Ukrainians live in Brazilmarker (1,100,000), Kazakhstanmarker (about 700,000), Moldovamarker (450,000), Polandmarker (estimates from 300,000 to 400,000), Argentinamarker (305,000), Belarusmarker (estimates from 250,000 to 300,000), Portugalmarker (100,000), Romaniamarker (estimates from 60.000 to 90.000) and Slovakiamarker (55,000). There are also Ukrainian diasporas in the UKmarker, Australia, Germanymarker, Latviamarker, Switzerlandmarker, Austriamarker, Italymarker, Irelandmarker, Swedenmarker and former Yugoslavia.


Kievan Rus (11th c.)
Halych-Volhynia (14th c.)
Cossack Hetmanate (1649 - 1667)
Population of Ukrainians in Ukraine (2001)
Population of those whose mother tongue is Ukrainian in Ukraine (2001)
In antiquity, numerous nomadic tribes inhabited the territory of modern Ukrainemarker. They included Iranic-speaking Scythians and Sarmatians, Greeks from the Black Sea colonies, Thracians from modern-day Bulgariamarker and Romaniamarker, Illyrians from modern day Albaniamarker and former Yugoslavia, Germanic-speaking Goths and Varangians, Turkic-speaking Bulgars, Khazars, Pechenegs and Cumans, and the Crimeanmarker Armenians in the early second millennium AD. However, Ukrainian origins are predominantly Slavic, while non-Slavic nomads who lived in the steppes of southern Ukraine had little influence on the ancestry of modern Ukrainians.

Gothic historian Jordanes and sixth-century Byzantine authors named two groups that lived in the south of Europe: Sclavins (western Slavs) and Antes. The Antes are normally identified with proto-Ukrainians. The name Antes is of Iranic origin and means people living on the borderland. The state of Antes existed from the end of 4th to early seventh century. In the fourth century. the Antes fought against the Goths. In 375, the Gothic king Vinitar, facing the Antes, at first experienced defeat but later captured the king of Antes, Bozh, whom he executed together with his sons and 70 aristocrats. The Goths did not manage to subdue the Antes, since in the same year the Gothic union fell from the attack of the Huns. From the sixth century the Antes fought Byzantium and in the sixth and seventh centuries colonised the Balkan peninsula. From the end of sixth century they fought against the Avars. The Antes included of several East Slavic tribes who lived on the territory of today's Ukraine, including the Polans, Drevlyans, Severians, Dulebes (which later likely became Volhynians and Buzhans), Tiverians, and Ulichs. The Ukrainian language is an East Slavic language, and Ukrainian people belong to the same branch of the Slavs as Rusyns, Russians (which emerged as vernacular from Church-Slavic) and Belarusians.

Slavic tribes inhabited modern-day lands of Ukraine from ancient times, and were dominant by the fifth century AD, founding the city of Kievmarker—later capital of a powerful state known as Kievan Rus'. Kniaz Volodymyr I of Kiev adopted Christianity in 988 and proceeded to baptise the whole Kievan Rus. Polans played the key role in the formation of the Kievan Rus' state.

Among the native Ukrainian population of the Carpathiansmarker, there are several distinct groups, namely the Hutsuls, Volhynians, Lemkos and Boykos, each with peculiar area of settlement, dialect, dress, anthropological type and folk traditions. There are a number of theories as for origins each of these groups, the Volhynians with Romanians or shared a Romance-Latin culture in the 10th century AD, the Lemko with Baltic Finno-Ugric peoples, some even connecting Boykos with the Celtic tribe of Boii and Hutsuls with Uz people of Turkic stock.

It is argued that the oldest known population of Ukraine - Scythians and Sarmatians were of Iranian stock. They inhabited Ukraine in 7 b.c. — 3 a.d. Rarity of hard g sound (use of guttural gh instead) and absence f in some dialects (often rendered as khv in the countryside) in Ukrainian along with some folk traditions (as greeting with bread and salt, houses with straw-roof, popular through history self-designations Roxolany, Roxolana, Sava or Sevae, and Savromaty among Ukrainians) is attributed to ancient Scythian language and culture.

Several other minor non-Slavic ethnic groups undoubtedly partially contributed to formation of Central Ukrainian ethnic type. These include a row of Turkic tribes, such as Chorni Klobuky, Berendei and Torks, who were settled along the river Ros and Rusavamarker and eventually all being absorbed by Ukrainians. Many Turkic place names in Ukraine as Karabachyn, Torets, Torky, Berdychivmarker (lit. "of Berendychi", or Berendei) remain in these areas.

In Western Ukraine, ancient Dacian influences can be traced. From the middle of the first century (the peak period of Dacian society) until early 3 century, the left bank of the upper Dniestermarker was populated by the Dacian tribe of Costoboci Transmontani (mentioned in Geographia of Ptolemaeus), who were the carriers of Lipica culture (of Verkhnya Lypytsya, Maydan Holohirskyy, Remezivtsi, Voronyaky etc.) The Dacian roots of Lipica culture is evidenced by findings of ceramic types, burning burials, houses analogous to those of Dacians in Romaniamarker. Costoboci were the most northernmost branch of Thracodacians and bordered with the carriers of Przeworsk culture to the north-west (i.e. Przeworsk culture settlement in Pidberiztsi near Lvivmarker), Zarubintsy culture to the north who were all succeeded by Chernyakhov culture. It is with Costoboci was the fight of Romans against the Free Dacians in the 2nd century mentioned in different written sources. In the beginning of 3rd century Dacian archeological elements in Upper Dniestermarker disappear.

So Roman chronicles of the 1st century report that in the Carpathiansmarker there was a Dacian tribe of Karpi. Karp-At meant mountains of Karpi. From possible Dacian meaning "mountains" may derive the name of people karpi—those who live in the mountains. At any case, the area of inhabitation of Free Dacians covered western Ukraine, and besides Costoboci, to the northern Dacians belonged are the Anarti and Teurisci. Ukrainian mountaineers Hutsuls, inhabiting the areas of old land of Free Dacians are often stated as being of Dacian stock. Archeologists also discovered several Celtic settlements in Zakarpattia Oblast of south-western Ukraine. There were numerous cases of Jewish conversion to Eastern Orthodox or Catholic faith in Ukraine in medieval and early modern eras, whether forced (during the Deluge or Koliyivshchyna) or voluntary. Several Cossack surnames are traced to such converts (see Jewish Cossacks). Though non-Slavic elements did have some impacts on the Ukrainians, as mentioned above, they are predominantly Slavs.

DNA tests of Y chromosomes from representative sample of Ukrainians were analyzed for composition and frequencies of haplogroups. In the Ukrainian gene, pool six haplogroups were revealed: E, F (including G and I), J, N3, P, and R1a1. The major haplogroup in the Ukrainian gene pool, Haplogroup R1a is thought to mark the migration patterns of the early Indo-Europeans and is associated with the distribution of the Kurgan archaeological culture. The second major haplogroup is haplogroup F, which is a combination of the lineages differing by the time of appearance. Haplogroup P found represents the genetic contribution of the population originating from the ancient autochthonous population of Europe. Haplogroup J and Haplogroup E mark the migration patterns of the Middle-Eastern agriculturists during the Neolithic. The presence of the N3 lineage is likely explained by a contribution of the assimilated Finno Ugric tribes. A recent study (Rebala et al. 2007) studied several Slavic populations with the aim of localizing the Proto-Slavic homeland. A significant finding of this study is that according to the authors most Slavic populations have similar Y chromosome pools, and this similarity can be traced to an origin in middle Dnieper basin of Ukrainemarker.


Ukrainemarker had a very turbulent history, a fact explained by its geographical position. Up to the fifteenth century, Ukrainians were part of the Old East Slavic stock which according to some historians also gave rise to the Belarusians and Russians. However, long history of separation and foreign influences have perceptibly reshaped their ethnolinguistic identity differentiating them from the rest of East Slavs.

The history of independent statehood in Ukraine is started with the Cossacks. The Cossacks of Zaporizhia since the late fifteenth century controlled the lower bends of the river Dnieper, between Russia, Poland and the Tatars of Crimea, with the fortified capital, Zaporizhian Sich. They were formally recognized as a state, the Zaporozhian Host, by treaty with Poland in 1649.

Modern day Ukraine encompasses the seats of six of the original twelve principalities of the ancient Kievan Rus empire which flourished from 882 to 1245 AD. Those principalities were Halych, Volodymyr-Volhynia, Kyiv, Pereyaslavl, Chernihiv, and Novhorod-Serverskyi and comprised the major centers of power of Kyivan Rus in its heyday. The thirteenth century Mongol invasion devastated Kievan Rus'. Kievmarker was totally destroyed in 1240. Subsequent to the fall of a united Halych-Volodymr-Volhynia in 1342 these principalities were taken over by the Lithuanians and incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and still later of the Russianmarker, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, Polandmarker and the Soviet Unionmarker, finally gaining its independence on August 24, 1991.

Modern Ukrainian national identity continued to develop, especially in opposition to foreign rule in the nineteenth century. In Imperial Russiamarker the use of the Ukrainian language was discouraged and banned at different times in history; however, as many were illiterate, persecutions had little effect. During the Soviet era, the Ukrainian language was at times suppressed at others tolerated or even encouraged.

From 1932-1933 millions of Ukrainians starved to death in a famine, known as the Holodomor. Modern scholarly estimates of the direct loss of human life due to the famine range between 2.6 million
and 3-3.5 million although much higher numbers are sometimes published in the media and cited in political debates. As of March 2008, the parliament of Ukrainemarker and the governments of several countries have recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide.



Ukrainian (украї́нська мо́ва, ukrayins'ka mova, ) is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the only official state language of Ukrainemarker. Written Ukrainian uses a 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 or Little Russian. Ukrainian, along with other East Slavic languages, is a lineal descendant of the colloquial language used in Kievan Rus' (10th–thirteenth century).

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 2001 All-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 doesn't cover Ukrainians living in other countries.


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. Various Protestant churches have a growing presence among the Ukrainian population. There are also ethnic minorities who practice Judaism and Islam.



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 instantly recognized and highly 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 bicolor rectangle. The color fields are of same form and equal size. The colors 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 Lvivmarker in October 1848. Its colors 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 coincidently prior to Christianity the people of today's Ukrainemarker believed in Triglav, with the similar concept of three.

See also



  2. Гринчук. Формування українського етносу (in Ukrainian)
  3. В.М. Цигилик. Населення Верхнього Подністров’я перших століть нашої ери (Племена Липицької культури). Київ: Наукова Думка, 1975 (in Ukrainian)
  4. Gene Pool Structure of Eastern Ukrainians as Inferred from the Y-Chromosome Haplogroups. Russian Journal of Genetics, Volume 40, Number 3 / March, 2004.
  5. Rebala K et al. (2007), Y-STR variation among Slavs: evidence for the Slavic homeland in the middle Dnieper basin, Journal of Human Genetics, 52:406-14
  6. The Destruction of Kiev
  7. Encyclopedia of Ukraine Ems Ukaz
  8. France Meslè et Jacques Vallin avec des contributions de Vladimir Shkolnikov, Serhii Pyrozhkov et Serguei Adamets, Mortalite et cause de dècès en Ukraine au XX siècle p.28, see also France Meslé, Gilles Pison, Jacques Vallin France-Ukraine: Demographic Twins Separated by History, Population and societies, N°413, juin 2005
  9. Jacques Vallin, France Mesle, Serguei Adamets, Serhii Pyrozhkov, A New Estimate of Ukrainian Population Losses during the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s, Population Studies, Vol. 56, No. 3. (Nov., 2002), pp. 249-264
  10. Stanislav Kulchytsky, "How many of us perished in Holodomor in 1933", Zerkalo Nedeli, November 23-29, 2002. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian
  11. Peter Finn, Aftermath of a Soviet Famine, The Washington Post, April 27, 2008, "There are no exact figures on how many died. Modern historians place the number between 2.5 million and 3.5 million. Yushchenko and others have said at least 10 million were killed."
  12. Sources differ on interpreting various statements from different branches of different governments as to whether they amount to the official recognition of the Famine as Genocide by the country. For example, after the statement issued by the Latvian Sejm on March 13, 2008, the total number of countries is given as 19 (according to Ukrainian BBC: "Латвія визнала Голодомор ґеноцидом"), 16 (according to Korrespondent, Russian edition: "После продолжительных дебатов Сейм Латвии признал Голодомор геноцидом украинцев"), "more than 10" (according to Korrespondent, Ukrainian edition: "Латвія визнала Голодомор 1932-33 рр. геноцидом українців")
  13. The language composition of the population of Ukraine according to the nationwide census - Ukraine Census 2001, State Statistics Committee of Ukraine
  14. For more information, see History of Christianity in Ukraine and Religion in Ukraine
  15. Government portal- State symbols of Ukraine
  16. Encyclopædia Britannica
  17. CIA World Factbook - Flag of Ukraine
  18. FOTW:Ukraine - History of the Flag


Online sources

  • "How Rusyns Became Ukrainians", Zerkalo Nedeli (the Mirror Weekly), July, 2005. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
  • "When Was the Ukrainian Nation Born", Zerkalo Nedeli (the Mirror Weekly), April 23 - May 6, 2005. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
  • 'We are more "Russian" then them', the History of Myths and Sensations, Zerkalo Nedeli (the Mirror Weekly), January 27 - February 2, 2001. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
  • External Migration - the Main Cause of Ethnically non-Ukrainian Population in Modern Ukraine. Zerkalo Nedeli (the Mirror Weekly), January 26 - February 1, 2002. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
  • Halyna Lozko, "Ukrainian ethnology. Ethnographic division of Ukraine" (in Ukrainian). Available online.

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