The Culture of Ukraine


Despite its long history of conflict with Russia, Ukraine remains one of the most vibrant, diverse nations in Europe. Its rich culture reflects the country’s complex origins, with influences from Poland, Belarus and Russia. Cabbage and garlic are staple ingredients in hearty, savory dishes, while cottage cheese is used to make sweet desserts.

Ukrainian cuisine is comfort food at its best, and it encapsulates generations of traditions founded by hard-working people. Many of these traditional Ukrainian dishes include meat, but vegetarians will find plenty to enjoy as well. Most meals begin with soup or a cold appetizer, followed by a main course and a dessert. For drinks, the most popular option is horilka, a strong spirit infused with herbs, berries or roots.

Almost every region and family in Ukraine has its own take on the original Ukrainian staple – borscht, a red soup made from meat broth, cabbage, carrots, beets, tomatoes and other vegetables, with sour cream on top. Borscht is a national icon, and it’s served at weddings, festivals, birthday parties and other important events.

Ukraine is also a major producer of wine, including sparkling varieties. Until recently, however, many Ukrainians held a negative image of the nation’s wines. “People had a lot of preconceptions about Ukrainian wine, and many thought that foreign wine would be better,” says Kychma.

The country’s language, Russian, is a close relative to the Slavic languages of neighboring Poland and Belarus, and it uses the Cyrillic alphabet. As a result of centuries of intense Russification, the vast majority of Ukraine’s residents are bilingual in both Russian and Ukrainian.

While the Ukrainian government has been working to align with Western institutions, it is also struggling to bridge deep divisions between its different ethnic groups and overcome entrenched anti-Russian sentiment. In an April 2017 survey, 57 percent of Ukrainians polled expressed a very cold or cold attitude towards the country’s neighbor.

Although some of these tensions are rooted in political issues, most are related to the fact that most Ukrainians feel a sense of cultural identity that’s distinct from Russian. Many of them identify as Ukrainians rather than as Russians, and they want to preserve their independence from Russia.

The country’s natural resources are a vital asset, and its forests are a source of timber, firewood, mineral wealth and even clean water. They are also a great place to see a variety of wildlife, from moose and lynx to beaver and wolf. There are many protected areas for travelers to visit.