Ukrainian (national language: Українська мова) is the only official language in Ukraine. It is spoken as a native language by some people in other countries, including Transnistria (Republic of Moldova), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Belarus.

In Ukraine, around 32 million people are native speakers of Ukrainian. However, Ukrainian is also widely spoken as a second language by Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians. Almost 30% of Ukrainians also speak Russian as a second language.

Ukrainian belongs to the East Slavic language group. Together with Belarusian, Ukrainian is a Ruthenian language that became an official language for the first time when the Ukrainian People’s Republic was founded in 1918. Russian rulers rejected the Ukrainian language long before the formation of the Soviet Union, including Tsar Michael, who ordered the burning of Ruthenian books in 1627. In addition, Tsar Peter the Great and his second wife Catherine the Great had the Ukrainian language banned in public and at universities. Until the 1960s, the Ukrainian language was mistakenly regarded as a Russian dialect and was widely recognized as a minor Russian language.

As part of the East Slavic language group, Ukrainian is related to the Belarusian and Russian languages. However, similarities can be found with the West Slavic languages such as Polish, which, according to a study by the University of Krakow, has a lexical overlap of 70%, while the Russian lexicon is said to overlap with Ukrainian by only 62%.

Due to its complicated vocabulary, difficult pronunciation, unique alphabet and complex grammar, Ukrainian is one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn alongside Russian and Finnish. To reach B1 level (intermediate level), 200 to 300 hours of intensive lessons are required. Ukrainian is considered somewhat easier to learn than Russian or Polish, as words with alternating stresses are not used.

Ukrainian is spelt in (Ukrainian) Cyrillic script. The Ukrainian alphabet comprises 33 letters, 10 vowel signs (two each for a, e, i, u; one each for o and ji), 21 consonant signs and two special characters („soft“ sign and apostrophe).

The first Ukrainian grammar by Alexey Pavlovsky was published in 1818. He had first presented it to the scientific community 13 years earlier, where the subject aroused interest but was rejected due to the Polonisms it contained (undesirable Polish cultural influences).

There are phonetic peculiarities. In addition, a mix of Ukrainian and Russian is used in colloquial speech in Ukraine, which is known as Surzhyk.

There are no widely differentiated dialects in the Ukrainian language area. Officially, there are three basic dialects (northern, south-western and south-eastern), some of which are subdivided into sub-dialects.


The traditions of Ukrainian culture have always been challenged from outside, both politically and intellectually, by tyrants, autocrats and tsars. Today, past and future, tradition and modernity, are intertwined. Due to the strong Slavic influences, the religious community is predominantly Orthodox, but other Christian confessions are also present. Since gaining independence in 1991, Ukrainians have been proud of their country and their heritage. The Ukrainian literary scene can look back on an exciting heritage, especially as the use of the Ukrainian language was often discriminated and authors were sometimes politically persecuted. 

The country has produced world-class boxers and numerous international chess champions.

There are 11 public holidays in Ukraine. The most important of these include 28 June (Constitution Day), 15 July (Ukrainian Statehood Day) and 24 August (Independence Day).

Easter is an important holiday for Ukrainians, with the spotlight on the family and the religion. Traditionally, pysanka eggs (colourfully patterned) and krashenka eggs (originally dyed red, but now often coloured) are made using a complicated process. Ukrainian Easter is often celebrated a week after the Catholic feast.

The best known is borscht, a traditional stew made from beetroot, beef or pork, potatoes and cabbage, for which there are countless recipes. Other popular dishes include kapusnyak, a sauerkraut soup, kulich, a millet soup, solyanka, a stew of pickled gherkins with meat or fish, olives, lemons and capers, and Kiev chops. Ukrainians also love all kinds of desserts.


Ukraine’s most important exports are grain and grain products. However, raw or refined vegetable fats and oils are also shipped all over the world. Ukraine also supplies crude oil and natural gas, machinery and equipment, chemical products, electronics and consumer goods.

In 2022, Ukraine’s gross domestic product (GDP) totalled around 160.50 billion US dollars.

Despite current military confrontation, Ukraine’s GDP is forecast to increase continuously between 2023 and 2028 by a total of USD 50.1 billion (+28.89%).


Around 39.7 million people lived in Ukraine in 2022, compared to around 50.9 million in 1996. The number of people living in Ukraine is therefore constantly decreasing.

In addition to Ukrainians (approx. 37 million), Russians (approx. 8 million) and smaller numbers (under 1 million) of Romanians, Moldovans, Belarusians, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Magyars (Hungarians), Poles, Jews and Armenians reside in Ukraine. The indigenous Crimean Tatars are a Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group.

The capital is Kiev, which stretches along both sides of the Dnieper.