Information & Chat > Russian, Ukrainian & FSU Culture and Customs

Ukrainian culture

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mendeleyev:
This will be a thread dedicated to sharing information, asking questions, and exploring Ukrainian culture together.  Come on in and enjoy yourself.

This thread makes these promises:

1- The tea will always be on so you can relax and stay awhile.
2- Kvas is always free while you're here.  We have cold Kvas in the fridge for westerners and warm Kvas bottles on the counter for easterners.
3- No smoking, we are a smoke free environment.
4- Tort and confetti are in plentiful supply.  Help yourself.
5- Just remember your mother doesn't live here.  If you spill something or make a mess please clean up after yourself.
6- Toilets are down the hall, on the right.  Please don't use the ones on the left, those are Russian only and the Russian mafia tend to be a bit territorial about Ukrainians in 'their' toilets.  Thanks for understanding.

Enjoy!

mendeleyev:
Topical Guide to this thread:

Chronology of Ukraine, page 1
Currency, pages 1 & 4
Easter, page 2
Economy, page 4
Government, page 4
History of Ukraine, page 1
Language, page 4
Music, page 2





Ukrainian cities:
Follow this link to Ukrainian cities in the RUA thread on FSU cities:



Major Ukrainian cities:

Kiev - the capital and largest city of Ukraine
Lviv - the major city of Western Ukraine
Dnipropetrovsk - population 1.1 million inhabitants
Odessa - the Black sea's gateway to Ukraine
Kharkiv - 1.5 million inhabitants. Second largest city
Donetsk - industrial center of Ukraine
Zaporizhzhya - 800 thousands inhabitants
Uzhhorod - Main town in Transcarpathian (Zakarpatska) region of Ukraine
Chernivtsi - 250 thousands inhabitants
Vinnytsia - 330 thousands inhabitants
Crimean peninsula - the resorts' area of Ukraine. Mountains & Black sea

Jinx:
 Mendeleyev,

  I would be interested in finding out the history of Ukrainian culture, did they borrow from other countries...Russia of course (other way round actually), but what about other influences, like Romanian, Polish, Turkish, Mongol etc.? Ukraine was sacked so many times, I'm sure bits and pieces of other cultures were absorbed.

 I see a sort of gypsy, Romanian influence in many things, but maybe I'm wrong  ???

 The history of Ukraine is fascinating, it's a land that was in the middle of everything, a gateway. The name "Ukraine" means borderland I think. So much has happened there, a long history of turmoil and war, struggle and survival, you have to admire them for still being around and thriving as a culture.  :party0031:

 

 

mendeleyev:
Yaroslav Kryshtalsky, President of The Ukrainian Institute of America in the NYC York gives a nice piece on promoting Ukraine and its culture abroad then and now:



One of the best histories of Ukraine, including the periods of domination by outside kingdoms right up to the present time, is found here.


Here is a modern look at old time Ukrainian culture as expressed through dancing and music. This blend of new and old is fascinating!

mendeleyev:
My friend 'Vova' (Vladimir) in Kherson owns a translations company named Ukraine Postal Express.  Here is some great historical information taken from his site www.ukrainepostalexpress.com

Allow me to briefly tell you a little more about Vladimir.  He is a man in the finest sense of the word.  Honest, direct and compassionate.  When his daughter was born disabled, instead of consigning her to an institution like so many, Vladimir and his wife have raised this special girl and cared for her themselves.  On that alone, he is a man among men.

Secondly, his business is to translate letters.  Much of his work is translating between western men and Ukrainian ladies.  He understands both languages and both cultures and is often asked for advice in addition to translating.  I don't need to recommend him or suggest that you use his services.  His work and his reputation speaks for itself.  He is very proud of his country, it's place in history and it's culture.  So with gratitude we acknowledge that the information in this post was taken from his website.


In The Beginning
Archeological finds show that the earliest inhabitants of Ukraine were Neolithic tribes in the Dnipro and Dniester valleys, who had settlements in the area of Kyiv 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. At that time, the area between the Black Sea and the glacial ice sheet of the last Ice Age was a level, fertile region with a cool, temperate climate: ideal for nomadic people and their flocks.

The first organized society in the region were the Scythians, who had tamed horses and used this mobility to rule most of the region north of the Black Sea. The Scythians flourished in the 8th to 1st century B.C. before succumbing to successive waves of migrating tribes sweeping in from the north and from Asia. In the 1st century BC to 6th century A.D. the region was overrun in turn by the Goths, Ostragoths, Visigoths, Huns, and Avars. The last such wave of migration were the Khazars, who ruled the region from the 7th to the 9th centuries. Their empire in turn started to crumble with the arrival of Kyivan Rus.

Rise Of The Kyivan Rus
The origin of Ukraine and its people dates from the late 600s when a Nordic people known as the Rus (from which we get the term "Russian") first entered the region.

At first, the Rus were concerned mainly with reaching Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) along a network of rivers and portage roads reaching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Down this route flowed furs, slaves and the priceless Baltic amber. In return, manufactured goods, wine, silks and gold flowed north.





To further this effort, the Rus established several small trading settlements along this "Amber Route"- notable among them being Kyiv (known as Kiev in the west); a point where several rivers meet.

The Rus settlers of Kyiv built their first citadel at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th centuries on the steep right bank of the Dnipro River to protect themselves from the marauding nomadic tribes of the region. The evolution of Kyiv into a city was tied closely to the development of the Kyivan Rus feudal state. Later, Kyiv's Grand Princes built their palaces and churches on Starokievska Hill, while artisans and merchants built their houses next to the wharf on the Dnipro.

Although vastly outnumbered, the warlike Norsemen used a combination of discipline, diplomacy and ruthless aggression to establish a strong, and ultimately dominant, position along the Amber Route. Within a few centuries, the Rus had evolved into three separate and distinct cultures: the Baltic Rus in the north, the Rus proper in the midlands around what later became Moscovy, and the Kyivan Rus in the south.

By the end of the 9th century, the Kyivan Rus princes had united the scattered Slavic tribes, with Kyiv as the political center of the Eastern Slavs. Legends and historical documents describe courageous Kyivites defending their city over the ages against the Khazars and Pechenegs, Polovtsi, Mongols, Lithuanian and Polish feudal lords, the Duchy of Muscovy, and the Russian Empire.

The Kyivan Rus reached their peak during the reign of Prince Volodymir the Great (980-1015). In 988, intent on strengthening his position, Volodymir introduced Christianity to improve political and cultural relations with the Byzantine Empire, the Bulgarians, and other countries of Western Europe and the Near East. By the 11th century, Kyiv was one of the largest centers of civilization in the Christian World. It boasted over 400 churches, eight markets and nearly 50,000 inhabitants. By comparison, London, Hamburg and Gdansk each had around 20,000.

After the death of the great Kyivan Prince Vladimir Monomakh (1125), the Kyivan Rus became involved in a long period of feudal wars. Foreign powers were quick to take advantage of this situation and the various Kyivan princelings spent as much time battling foreign aggressors as each other. But it soon developed that the Kyivan Rus, along with the rest of Europe, had a common, more pressing problem: the Mongols.

The Scourge Of The East
In the mid-13th century, the Golden Horde of Genghis Khan swept out of Asia like wildfire. The Mongols fielded an army only about 20,000 strong, but they were entirely highly trained horsemen who used tactics later copied by Heinz Gudaren and Erwin Rommel. Against the European's press-ganged peasant mobs, it was no contest. The Golden Horde routinely crushed armies ten times their size. Were it not for the untimely death of the Genghis Khan, all of Europe might have been overrun.

Against this overwhelming "blitzkrieg", not even the best defended cities could resist. In the autumn of 1240, the Mongols headed by Batu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, finally captured Kyiv after a series of long and bloody battles. Thousands of people were killed and much of the city was razed. Kyiv fell into a prolonged period of decline. The Mongols (also known as the Tartars by westerners) ruled for almost a century.

Pawns Of Empire
Despite foreign rule, Kyiv retained its artisan, trade, and cultural traditions of the ancient Kiyvan-Rus and remained an important political, commercial and cultural center. The furocious Mongols, ill suited for city life, soon began to assimilate and lose much of their former aggressiveness. As they melted into the local culture, a new political structure, the Galician-Volynian principality, grew from the blending of Rus and Mongol.

The late 14th century brought a growing threat from the northwest. The Kingdom of Lithuania (the Baltic Rus) and Poland began to enlarge their territory at the expense of their eastern neighbors. Soon the Poles were pressing into the western part of Ukraine while the Lithuanians helped themselves to the area just to the north (in modern Belarus). This was not a large scale invasion as such, but more a series of small scale actions in which various feudal nobles were overthrown and their lands occupied in a sort of creeping conquest. At the same time, to the south and southeast, the Turks were making similar moves into the Crimea and along the Sea of Azov.

Unfortunately, the Galician-Volynian principality had lost much of the warrior spirit of their ancestors and proved too weak and decentralized to organize an effective defense. While nobles and religious factions feuded among themselves, the rot settled deeper into the principality and the foreign armies grew ever closer to Kyiv.

At the beginning of the 16th century, a new force appeared on the scene: the Ukrainian Kozaks (Cossacks). The Kozaks started as semi-autonomous slavic tribes settled in various regions of Ukraine. As the authority of Kyiv waned, these tribes took increasing control of their own affairs and were soon forming loose knit alliances. As the Galician-Volynian principality fell apart, this alliance rallied under the Zaporozhyan Sich, which became the military and political organization of the Ukrainian Kozaks and thus of Ukraine.

By the mid-17th century, the foreign erosion had taken over half of Ukraine, with the Poles finally occupying Kyiv itself. This led the Zaporozhyan Sich to war against Poland (in 1648-1654) to regain this lost territory. However, the Poles (then at the height of their military strength) proved to be too great a challenge. In desperation, Ukraine turned to their northern neighbor, the Duchy of Moscovy, for protection.





The Romanovs
Modern Russia came into being in the 1300s when a Rus Duke known as Ivan the Terrible began expanding his influence along the Amber Route from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. As part of this effort, he fortified the monastery at Moscovy (in Russian, the word Kremlin means "fortified city") and made it his formal capital.


Monomacho's Cap Of State
The hereditary Crown of the Tsars of All Russias. This beautiful work of art was created in the Orient in the late 13th Century and is made of gold with gems, pearls and sable trim. Now on display at the Russian Museum, Moscovy.
 

The Russian Empire was ruled from first to last by the heirs of Ivan the Terrible: known as the Romanov Dynasty and originally styled as the "Tsars of All Russians". (The term "Tsar" is the Russian translation of "Caesar".) Later, as the nation state concept came into being, the Romanovs began to think of themselves as the Emperors of a group of subject states, and thus began calling themselves the "Tsars of All Russias".

In 1654, a treaty of political and military alliance was signed and Ukraine came under the influence of Moscovy for the first time. What had been supposed as a military alliance soon grew into Russian domination over Ukraine. For nearly a century, the Zaporozhyan Sich maintained a nominal, if increasingly fictional, sovereignty. In 1775, however, the Sich was finally suppressed by the Tsar and Ukraine became a vassal state.

Despite this, the Kozaks were not a force to be ignored. What emerged was something of a unique phenomenon: from the later 1700s until the Great War, the Kozaks held a special role as "overseers", a form of middle class, maintaining order among the serfs at the behest of the Romanov aristocracy.

As late as the beginning of the 20th century, the Tsar was a true despot, answerable to no one except the ever present risk of assassination.

The 20th Century
The last 100 years have been a time of turmoil for Ukraine, starting with an all but forgotten war in the far Orient.

Historically, whenever the Tsars lost a war, they were forced by public unrest to institute social reforms. (It was the disastrous showing of the Tsarist armies in the Crimean War that resulted in the freeing of the serfs in 1863.) The Russo-Japanese war of 1905-1906 was no exception. In short order, the bulk of the Tsarist navy was sunk and the Tsarist armies fought to a bloody stalemate in Mongolia. Even the peace imposed by western powers could not prevent a tidal wave of unrest from erupting into revolution.

In Ukraine, actual revolt was limited and sporadic, although the Ukrainians siezed on the opportunity to strengthen their national identity. To prevent yet another uprising in the south, the Tsar conceded a limited autonomy to a loose knit Ukrainian nationalist movement. Political and labor organizatons came into being and the ban on the Ukrainian language recended. It was enough to keep the lid on until the revolts in the north and west could be crushed.

This reprive for the Tsar was short lived, however. In the Great War of 1914-1918, the generalship of the Tsarist officer corps was abysmal. By 1917, the Tsarist armies had been bled white at battles such as Tannenburg- where over 500,000 Russians were killed in action. This time, the situation was beyond saving. The rising unrest and mounting battlefield losses were simply too much: the decayed Romanov aristocracy collapsed, plunging Russia into civil war.

When the Tsar abdicated in early 1917, Ukraine made its first tentative steps toward independence as a provisional government, the Central Rada, was formed. When the Bolsheviks staged their revolution late in the year, the Central Rada formally declared independence and Ukraine, after two centuries, finally became free.

Unfortunately, Ukraine was simply not ready for political independence. The country split in two, with the western part becoming a separate state

As a practical matter, Ukraine soon became a stronghold of the "White" (Tsarist) Russians during the civil wars of the 1920s. When they were finally suppressed, the "Reds" (Soviets) ruthlessly crushed any remaining nationalist tendencies in a series of purges that saw millions killed or sent into exile in Siberia. Notable among these were the Kozaks, who had fought fiercely for their traditional rulers, and the reminants of the Tartars.

The dream of an independent Ukraine ended with the triumph of the Bolsheviks and the founding of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922. In an attempt to stack the deck at the newly formed League of Nations, the new Soviet Empire was made up of supposedly separate states in a "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics". In reality, however, Ukraine was a conquered province ruled directly from Moscovy.

The 1930s, the purges begun by Lenin continued- and grew- under Joseph Stalin.

There were also any number of "Hero Projects"- public works programs which, though badly needed to modernize the USSR, relied heavily on slave labor. Throughout the Stalinist era (and later) the KGB spent much of its time rounding up supposed "enemies of the state" on the flimsiest of legal excuses (often fabricating testimony and evidence) to be sentenced for construction work in Siberia.

Ukraine, having long been a rebellious region, suffered more than the run of the mill Russians.

The Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 saw Ukraine overrun by the Nazi armies. When the Germans first arrived, they were greeted by many Ukrainians as liberators (an error of perception that the SS and Gestapo soon rectified). In short order, the Ukrainian hinterland seethed with systematic guerella warfare and few Germans who wandered outside their fortified cities returned alive.

The German field commanders seemed perplexed at this tenacious resistance, wondering why anyone would fight to return to Stalin's rule. They would learn the hard way a lesson that all too many aggressors overlook: that a people will fight not for their dictators, but for their homes and families.

This truth would contribute to the Nazi downfall. The resistance that plagued the German rear areas drew away troops, consumed badly needed supplies and disrupted the rail lines, which had a direct impact on the fighting further to the east and led to the eventual distruction of an entire German Army Group at the battle of Stalingrad.

When the war ended, most Ukrainian cities - notably Kiev, Dnipropetrovs'k and Sevastopol - were in ruins. The Dnipro river was a major German defensive line prior to the general retreat of 1944, and these cities suffered prolonged sieges.

Not only did the fighting cause great destruction, but both sides practiced scorched earth policies to deny resources to their foes. Just as the retreating Soviets had done in 1941, the retreating Germans in 1944 systematically wreaked the railroads and other infrustructure and stripped the region of all resources, leaving its population to starve. To this day, mention of the "Fascists" will produce a sharp reaction from most Ukrainians.

The returning Soviet Armies were ruthless with the remaining population. In the immediate postwar period, there was an upswell of Ukrainian nationalist sentiment. In the paranoia of Stalinist Moscovy, anyone who had not fled or died fighting could very well be collaborators. A key province such as Ukraine, flushed with victory after driving the Germans out and fielding a substantial army, was something that Stalin could not accept for a moment. (Further west, Yugoslavia was in a similar situation, although their tough and well equipped army was a more formidible proposition than the Ukrainian guerella bands.) Moscovy was quick

Postwar treaties enlarged the Ukraine at the expense of German allies Hungary and Romania.

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