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Center for International Studies
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Собор Святої Софії, Київ, Україна / Saint Sophia Cathedral, Kiev, Ukraine

Ukraine

Ukrainian Society and Culture

Modern Ukraine culture has a lot in common with Russian and Belarusian cultures. It is quite understandable as all three nations have their historical roots and origins from Kievan Rus, but during the 13th century they began developing as the individual nations they are now.

History demonstrates that every nation tends to create legends and stories about its historical past. Historical events are often interpreted in a way people desire to see them, but that does not mean that this is the way the real events took place.

It is difficult enough to read the historical past, it becomes even more difficult to read when that past covers the long and interesting story that has become the modern history of Ukraine.

To be objective and honest while talking about Ukraine culture, we always have to remember that modern Belarusians, Russians and Ukrainians all originated from the common home of Kievan Rus. Many times events in history have separated them and also brought them together again. Today each nation has its own state and its own home, but all of them have the same historical and cultural roots. All of them are Slavs.

Etiquette and Customs

Meeting Etiquette

  • Greet with strong handshake and eye contact.
  • Close female friends will cheek kiss three times, starting with the left cheek. Close male friends pat each other on the back and hug.
  • Don’t shake hands over a threshold or with gloves on.
  • Don’t stand with your hands in your pockets.
  • Don’t point with your index finger.
  • Don’t make a fist with your thumb in between your index and middle finger.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

  • Wrap the gift nicely.
  • Give tickets to an opera or concert.
  • Gifts are usually opened later.
  • Don’t give yellow flowers or bouquets of flowers in even numbers.
  • Don’t give an expensive gift.
  • Don’t give white Easter lilies.

Dining Etiquette

  • Partake in toasts when possible.
  • If you do not drink, be prepared to make up an excuse. Ukrainians are suspicious of people who do not drink.
  • Rest your wrist at the edge of the table.
  • Don’t eat until the host invites you to begin.
  • Don’t refuse a dish. Try everything and save room for seconds.
  • Don’t leave an empty bottle on the table.

Quick Facts

Climate: Temperate continental and Mediterranean only on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed, highest in west and north, lesser in east and southeast. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. Summers are warm across the greater part of the country, hot in the south.

Population: 45,888,000 (2010 estimate)

Ethnic Make-up: Ukrainian, 77.8 percent; Russian, 17.3 percent; Belarusian, 0.6 percent; Moldovan, 0.5 percent; Crimean Tatar, 0.5 percent; Bulgarian, 0.4 percent; Hungarian, 0.3 percent; Romanian, 0.3 percent; Polish, 0.3 percent; Jewish, 0.2 percent; other, 1.8 percent (2001 census).

Religions: Ukrainian Orthodox-Kyiv Patriarchate, 19 percent; Orthodox (no particular jurisdiction), 16 percent; Ukrainian Orthodox-Moscow Patriarchate, 9 percent; Ukrainian Greek Catholic, 6 percent; Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, 1.7 percent; Protestant, Jewish, none, 38 percent (2004 estimate).

Government: Semi-Parliamentary, Semi-Presidential Democratic Republic

Languages in Ukraine: Ukrainian is the official state language and is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. 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 early medieval state of Kievan Rus. In its earlier stages, it was called Ruthenian.