Ukrainian Culture

Ukrainian Culture

The best way to begin to understand Ukrainian
culture is to review early Ukrainian history. This will give us a good
step from which to look at traditional Ukrainian culture. Unlike the Russian
people, who descended from northern tribes descending from Scandinavia
and the far north, Ukrainian history was influenced by southern civilizations
such as Scythians and Greeks. Invasions by the Huns and the Khazars between
the 3rd and 9th centuries mixed Ukrainian bloodlines with those from all
over Asia. During the 10th century, Kievan Rus was established and the
golden age of Ukrainian kings was born. During this period, many important
events took place, notably; King Volodymyr the Great introduced Christianity
to the Ukrainian State.

The region fell to the Mongols Golden

Horde in the 13th century, and was eventually ruled by Poland and Lithuania.

This was known as the Age of the Kozaks, Ukrainian horseman that formed
one of the largest armies of the time to fight against the invading armies
of more powerful nations. These Kozaks were active in their fight for independence
well into the Russian occupation, before eventually coming under the control
of Russia in the late 18th century. In 1918, Ukraine declared its independence,
only to be reclaimed in 1922 by Communists during the Bolshevik Revolution.

Ravaged by war and Nazi occupation during WWII, Ukraine remained under

Soviet rule until declaring its freedom in 1991.

Ukrainian culture has been defined in many
creative styles. Literature is arguably the most prominent expression of

Ukrainian culture. Ukrainian literature had been developing since the early

11th century, when people of the early Kievan Rus drafted some of Ukraine’s
first works in early Church Slavonic, such as the Hypathian Chronicles.

The first historical epic of Ukraine, Slovo o polku Ihorevi, was written
during this period. The major authors of this period were two monks known
as Ilarion of Kiev, Cyril of Turov, and Prince Volodymyr Monomah II. The

16th century brought such innovations as the printing press that allowed
the church to spread information during a period of Polish occupation.

Works such as Perestoroha and Apocrisis bound together the religious community
in these tough times.

Ukraine experienced the Baroque period
in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the rest of Europe. The best known
poet of the 18th century was Hryhory Skovoroda, often referred to as the

"Ukrainian Socrates". The Ukrainian dialect was greatly strengthened during,
and after, the 18th century when Ukrainian began to overcome Russian as
the language of literary choice. The 19th century brought about the Golden

Age of Ukrainian literature with authors such as Ivan Kotlyarevski (Eneida),
and Hryhory Kvitka Osnovyanenko. The romanticism was centered in Kharkiv
during the 1830’s producing more ‘enjoyable’ works that were read by both
the affluent and the poor alike. The trio of Shashkevich, Holovatsky, and
vahylevich wrote the most notable works.

Taras Shevchenko, the greatest recognized
poet of Ukrainian history, was the first to write of the Russian oppression
of the Ukrainian serfs in poems such as Haidamaky, which eventually became
national treasures.

Authors such as Marko Vovchok, and Ivan

Nechuy-Levitski supported Ukrainian realism. Their works took a more somber
role of looking at the aspects of their country around them, from the suffering
of the serfdom to the Ukrainian intelligencia. Lesya Ukraina, who worked
in prose, best defined Modernism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Authors
such as Pavlo Tychyna, Mykhylo Symenko, and Mykola Bazhan produced the
greatest works of their time during this period known as the ‘realism’.

After this period, Ukrainian works became more and more oppressed by Soviet
occupation, and would eventually end the trail of great Ukrainian works.

Ukrainian art took shape in two very notable forms. In music, the bandura;
and in visual arts, the pysanka, or, Ukrainian Easter egg. The bandura
is an old instrument from the old days of the kozak armies. Banduristiv,
as they were called, would roam from the different villages singing songs
about the kozak battles, and sharing the rich history of the country at
a time when travel was long and dangerous. The pysanka is a decorated egg
that descended from pagan times as an offering of good will and religious
gift between family and friends. The pysanky were found to be very superstitious,
and played an active role in a persons life, be it as a blessing for good
crops, or as an icon of protection over a families home. The pysanky are
an art form that is unique to Ukraine because of their heritage, applications,
and meanings in Ukrainian life. The most interesting aspect of pysanky
is perhaps the method in which they are created. The method, known as ‘dye
transfer’, involves applying thin layers