Ukrainian culture refers to the culture associated with the country of Ukraine and sometimes with ethnic Ukrainians. It contains elements of other Eastern European cultures, as well as some Western European influences. Within Ukraine, there are a number of other ethnic groups with sizeable populations, most notably Russians. Ukrainian customs are heavily influenced by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Pre-Christian Alpine traditions still present in Slavic mythology.
Ukraine has a shared culture with neighboring nations, dating back to the 9th century and the Land of Rus. Mutual influence is particularly apparent among the cultures of Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus.
Social gatherings like Vechornytsi have a long history in Ukrainian culture, and so do traditional holidays like Ivan Kupala Day, Maslenitsa, Koledaruvane, and Malanka, where people gather in large groups. "Razom nas bahato, nas ne podolaty" is a popular cultural and political statement of both traditional and modern Ukrainians. It translates as "Together we are many! We cannot be defeated!"
Religion is practiced throughout the country. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Eastern Catholicism are the two most widely practiced religions. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the largest in the country. Faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the second largest, practice Byzantine rites, but are united with the Roman Catholic Church.
Food is an important part to the Ukrainian culture. Special foods are used at Easter, as well as Christmas. During Christmas, for example, people prepare kutia, which is a mixture of cooked wheat groats, poppy seeds, honey, and special sweet breads.
An average Ukrainian diet consists of fish, cheese, and a variety of sausages. Head cheese is also quite popular in Ukraine, as well as Kolbasa (Ukrainian: Ковбаса́, Kovbasa), a type of sausage. Typically bread is a core part of every meal, and must be included for the meal to be "complete." During Christmas, for example, it is the tradition to have a twelve-course meal. Included at Easter are the famous pysanky, which are colored and patterned eggs. Making these eggs is a long process, and they used for display at the center of the table rather than consumed.
Ukrainians often toast to good health, linger over their meal, and engage in lively conversation with family and friends. Often they will drink tea (chai), wine, or coffee afterwards with a simple dessert, such as a fruit pastry.
Popular foods in Ukraine include salo, borscht (national soup), sarmale, chicken kiev, pierogi, pilaf, vareniki, pączki, and crêpe.
Weddings traditionally take place in churches, the bride in white and the groom in black. Wedding celebrations are known to continue for days and even weeks. They are accompanied by lively music and dancing, drinking and eating, and fellowship.
Some particular wedding customs include:
Before the wedding, the groom goes with his friends to the bride's house and bargains with "money' to get a bride from her family. When leaving the church, the bride carries a basket of candies or sweets to throw to children and the crowd. The groom carries her down the stairs. At the reception, the bride dances with each of the unmarried women present, and places a special veil on each of them. This veil symbolises that they are still pure, but that the bride hopes they will get married soon. She also throws her veil and the girl who catches it first will likely be the next to marry.
Traditional art forms
Every aspect of ordinary life is transformed into an art form on special occasions in Ukraine. Pysanka, rushnyk, korovai, vyshyvanka, and ochipok are examples that illustrate extensive decorative finishes used throughout.
For men, traditional dress includes Kozhukh, Kontusz, Żupan and Sharovary. For women, traditional dress includes Vyshyvanka, Kozhushanka, Ochipok for married women, and Ukrainian wreath for unmarried girls.
Weaving and embroidery
Artisan textile arts play an important role in Ukrainian culture, especially in Ukrainian wedding traditions. Ukrainian embroidery, weaving, and lace-making are used in traditional folk dress and in traditional celebrations. Ukrainian embroidery varies depending on the region of origin, and the designs have a long history of motifs, compositions, choice of colors, and types of stitches. Use of color is very important and has roots in Ukrainian folklore. Embroidery motifs found in different parts of Ukraine are preserved in the Rushnyk Museum in Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi.
National dress is woven and highly decorated. Weaving with handmade looms is still practiced in the village of Krupove, situated in Rivne Oblast. The village is the birth place of two famous personalities in the scene of national crafts fabrication. Nina Myhailivna and Uliana Petrivna with international recognition. In order to preserve this traditional knowledge, the village is planning to open a local weaving center, museum, and weaving school.
Other forms of Art
"Art has never been unchangeable. It is evident that Ukrainian art could not grow stiff. As far back as the revolution, we had Futurists and Constructivists and Cubists. All that was choked from above." M. Butovych. New York. 1956
In 1963, the art critic Kuriltseva, destroyer of the Ukrainian Avant-garde, complacently summed up the results of her activities: "Where have the once notorious Bohomazov and the Pastukhov brothers vanished? They disappeared from art without trace, as if they had never existed."*
Her generation triumphed: Khrushchev himself headed the struggle against abstractionism and other 'isms/ They persecuted leftists for decades, killed the Boichukists, in 1937, in the People's Commissariat for Public Education, burnt down portraits of 'the enemies of the people' painted by Petrytsky, cut paintings by Sedlyar, Shekhtman and Hvozdyk in the Kyiv Museum of Russian Art, in 1952, passed death sentences to canvases by Palmov, Bohomazov and others in the Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts, and, in the same year, destroyed works by Arkhypenko, Kovzhun and Narbut in Lviv, and fired Yermylov and Synyakova from the Artists Union for their pro-Western moods.
Meanwhile, the youth of the 1960s tried to find information on Ukrainian Avant-garde art and discovered a hot mainland of Ukrainian art history. They sought out the survived Boichukists and Constructivists such as Pavlenko, Yermylov, Bizyukov, Vrona, Pecharkovska, Kolos, and the widows and relatives of the deceased Bohomazova, Petrytska, Redko, Zhdanko, Khvostenko, and Manevych. They searched in the funds, archives and libraries. They also informed the collectors Sigalov, Ivakin, Sveshnikov and Lobanov-Rostovsky, and consulted researchers from Moscow, Leningrad, Warsaw, Paris, and the USA. They risked their careers and freedom to penetrate the Ukrainian diaspora 'In search of the time past."
Additional interest came from Western art historians, specializing in Russian art, who told each other "Go to Kyiv, there is Bohomazov." As it turned out, the roots of Russian Avant-garde could be found in Ukraine. For example, Natalie Goncharova had been inspired by Polovtsian stone images from the steppes of Ukraine. Which cities were associated with the life and work of the Futurist and trans-rationalist Terentyev? — Kherson, Kharkiv, Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk. Kazimir Malevich mades frequent mentions of Pymonenko and "the famous master from Chernihiv, Murashko" in the last years of his life. What does the title of Exter's painting, Fundukleyivska at Night, mean? How can you explain why Davyd Burlyuk called himself a 'Tartar-Za-porozhian Futurist'? How did it happen that Matyushin, prohibited in Leningrad, was readily published in Kharkiv?
Deciding these questions, some Western historians of Russian art became historians of Ukrainian Avant-garde as well (the Marcades — France, Boiko — Poland, Bowlt — the USA, Nakov — France, Mudrak — the USA).
Furthermore, well-known London art collector, Mr. Lobanov-Rostovsky, collected sketches by stage designers of the Kyiv school, Exter, Meller, Petrytsky, Khvostov, Rabynovych, Tyshler and Chelishchev. At the 1988 exhibition of his collection of paintings in Moscow, he told me with conviction: 'You must write a book on five uniquely gifted Ukrainian artists: Arkhypenko, Bohomazov, Exter, Yermylov and Petrytsky." I gladly consented to this proposition adding to the list some more names — Malevych, Palmov, Tatlin, Burlyuk and Boichuk. These are the great names around which dozens of students and adherents grouped establishing various art trends, schools and currents. Through them, Ukrainian culture was rapidly Europeanized, while in Europe and America it began to breathe with Rus-Ukraine. Unfortunately, Stalin's terror cut off information of Ukrainian art to the world.
The term 'Ukrainian Avant-garde' was introduced by Paris art critic, Nakov, in reference to the exhibition, Tatlin's Dream, held in London in 1973. For the first time ever, the West saw world-class works by Yermylov and Bohomazov, two obscure Avant-gardists from Ukraine. Their works brought to mind the names of world-famous masters whose origin, education, self-perception and national traditions were linked with Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odessa and with the Ukrainian cultural tradition in general. Among them were Burlyuk, "the most faithful son of Ukraine," Malevich, who considered himself to be a Ukrainian; Tatlin, professor of the Kyiv Art Institute and bandura-player; Exter, the founder of the Ukrainian school of constructivist stage design. And lastly, Alexander Archipenko, who was inspired by his indelible impressions of his homeland, the magic of the Tripillya civilizatbn. the archaic Polovtsian stone images, the resonant contours of mosaics in St. Sophia of Kyiv and reliefs of St. Michael's Cathedral of the Golden Domes, and the colours of folk ceramics.
Dmytro Gorbachev, "Ukrainian Avant-Garde Art 1910s-1930s", "ART" Publisher, 1996, Kyiv
LIGHT, LUCIDITY AND FREEDOM
The city of Odessa is arguably the most important artistic centre in Ukraine. Its landscape stands firmly within the artist's field of vision, transformed into a creative image by figurative experiment. Indeed, with its spectacular topography and pan-mediterranean, Odessa has long been an inspiration to the great painters, who exploit the bright sun filled colours of the Odessa landscape. Odessa painters are able to capture the purest elements of art, exploiting not just the airy brightness typical of the city but also the rectilinear and cursive shapes of rock formations along the shores of the Black Sea and even the expanse of the shoreline repeated in horizontal stripes on their canvasses.
The importance of light in their work can not be overstressed. The unique qualities of light on the Black Sea shore have caused artists working their to deploy a diversity of spacial solutions and to develop special notions of plasticity to convey volumes and outlines. Formal experiment with light developed during the 1970s in contrast to the deepening gloom of social reality and the slow decline of national consciousnes; the works of Odessa artists more and more are imbued with the strongest sensations of purifying, cleansing sunlight in all its depth. One Ukrainian painter in the 1970s defined her aesthetic credo as: 'light, lucidity and freedom'
"The Specific Characteristics of The Odessa Group"
There is a strong folkloric tendency in Odessa art and an awareness of the Black Sea's ancient cultures. One ritual characteristic is the ubiquitous female form. Totemistic 'stone women' are plentiful on the steppes of Ukraine and in the museums of Odessa and contemporary Ukrainian art reflects this. The woman is invoked to protect even the modern artist. She is the original source of life whether mother or mother-earth, both stone goddess and contemporary icon. The woman has become the symbol of a primeval deity, invoked to protect the work and lending it a spiritual (pre-Christian) intensity. She can be an angel, lover, mother-earth or goddess but always a woman.
Characteristically, Odessa art is non-literary and rejects narrative implication. These artists strive for the purity of the image, with an emphasis on decorativeness and on a specifically painterly professionalism. Formal experiment often leads to metaphysical flight and aesthetic rebellion is confined within the frame of the painting without reference to any social theories. There is an implicitly optimistic psyche motivating the creative energy of the artists. It is a psyche in which there is no room for fatalistic notions.
Whether in exile in Munich, New York or Washington, in internal exile in Moscow, or living in Odessa, these artists have remained true to their century-long traditions of formal pictorial experiment.
Museum of Decorative Finishes in Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi.
Different regions in Ukraine have their own distinctive style of vernacular architecture, based on local traditions and the knowledge handed down through generations. The Museum of Folk Architecture and Way of Life of Central Naddnipryanshchyna is located in Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi. The open air museum contains 13 theme museums, 122 examples of national architecture, and over 30,000 historical cultural objects. The Museum of Decorative Finishes is one of the featured museums that preserves the handiwork of decorative architectural applications in Ukrainian architecture. Decorative finishes use ancient traditional patterns like the lozenge shape, featured on the Pysanka Museum.
Traditional dances are popular within Ukraine, many of which derive from rural Cossack villages. One Ukrainian style of dancing is called the kalyna. Both men and women participate in this type of dancing.
The women wear colourful costumes, sometimes featuring a solid-coloured (usually blue, green, red, or black) tunic and matching apron, and under that an open skirt, and below that a white skirt with an embroidered hem that should reach an inch or so below the knee. If they wear a tunic, then under that they wear a long-sleeved richly embroidered white shirt. Traditionally, women wear a type of red leather boots to dance in. They also wear a flower head piece (vinok), that is a headband covered with flowers and has long flowing ribbons down the back that flow when they dance, and plain red coral necklaces.
The men wear baggy trousers (usually blue, white, black or red) and a shirt (usually white, but sometimes black) embroidered at the neck and down the stomach. Over the shirt they sometimes will wear a richly embroidered vest. Around their waist they wear a thick sash with fringed ends. Like the women, they wear boots, but these can be black or white in addition to red.
Kalyna dancing involves partner dancing. One dance, called the pryvitannia, is a greeting dance. It is slow and respectful, the women bow to the audience and present bread with salt on a cloth and flowers. Another, called the hopak is much more lively, and involves many fast-paced movements. Hence hopak as a dance is derived from hopak martial art of Cossacks.
Museums and libraries
There are nearly 5,000 different museums in Ukraine, e.g. National Art Museum of Ukraine, National Historical Museum of Ukraine, Museum of Western and Oriental Art, Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv, Lviv National Art Gallery, Poltava Art Museum, Simferopol Art Museum, and many others of art, history, traditions or dedicated to different issues.
There are 14 libraries of state significance (Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, National Parliamentary Library of Ukraine, National historical library of Ukraine in Kyiv, Korolenko State Scientific Library in Kharkiv, and others), and 45,000 public libraries all over Ukraine. All these institutions own 700 millions of books.
Ukrainian tennis player Sergei Bubka.
Ukraine greatly benefitted from the Soviet emphasis on physical education, which left Ukraine with hundreds of stadiums, swimming pools, gymnasiums, and many other athletic facilities.
Football is the most popular sport in Ukraine. The top professional league is the Vyscha Liha, also known as the Ukrainian Premier League. The two most successful teams in the Vyscha Liha are rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Although Shakhtar is the reigning champion of the Vyscha Liha, Dynamo Kyiv has been much more successful historically, winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup two times, the UEFA Super Cup once, the USSR Championship a record 13 times, and the Ukrainian Championship a record 12 times; while Shakhtar only won four Ukrainian Championships and one and last UEFA Cup.
Many Ukrainians also played for the USSR national football team, most notably Igor Belanov and Oleg Blokhin, winners of the prestigious Golden Ball Award for the best footballers of the year. This award was only presented to one Ukrainian after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Andriy Shevchenko, the current captain of the Ukraine national football team. The national team made its debut in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and reached the quarter-finals before losing to eventual champions, Italy.
Ukrainian brothers Vitaliy Klychko and Volodymyr Klychko have held world heavyweight champion titles in boxing.
Ukraine made its debut at the 1994 Winter Olympics. So far, Ukraine has been much more successful in the Summer Olympics (96 medals in four appearances) than in the Winter Olympics (Five medals in four appearances). Ukraine is currently ranked 35th by the number of gold medals won in the All-time Olympic Games medal count, with every country above it, except for Russia, having more appearances.
Other popular sports in Ukraine include handball, tennis, rugby union, basketball, gymnastics, and ice hockey.