Ukrainian is an Eastern Slavonic language spoken mainly in Ukraine. In 2016 there were about 30 million speakers of Ukrainian in Ukraine, where it is an official language. There were about 1.1 million Ukrainian speakers in Russia in 2010, and smaller numbers in other countries, particularly in Brazil (500,000), the USA (152,000), Germany (141,000), Italy (120,000) and Moldova (107,000). It is estimated that there are 45 million Ukrainian speakers worldwide.
Ukrainian is closely related to Belarusian and Russian, and is to some extent mutually intelligible with them, especially with Belarusian.
Ukrainian developed from Old East Slavic, a language that was used from about the 10th century in Kievan Rus'/Kyivan Rus' (Роусь). After Kievan Rus’x fell in 1240, part of it became the Kingdom of Ruthenia (Королѣвство Русь), and Old East Slavic developed into a language known as Ruthenian. In the part of Ruthenia that would become Ukraine, a form of Church Slavonic known as Kyiv Izvod (Kyiv version) was used in church services.
In 1349, the area that had been Ruthenia was divided between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland. In the parts controlled by Lithuania, Ruthenian became the official language. While in the parts under Polish control, Polish and Latin were used for official purposes. Ruthenian began to split into Ukrainian and Belarusian during this period.
The Cossacks later moved into eastern Ukraine, and during the 17th century, their leader, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, invited Russia to help against Polish domination in 1648. During the reign of Catherine the Great, the Cossacks moved to the eastern frontiers of Russia, but Ukraine remained under Russian domination, and the Russians considered the Ukrainian language as little more than a dialect of Russian.
A decree in 1876 banned the printing or importing of Ukrainian books. Inspite of this, there was a revival of Ukrainian poetry and historiography during the 19th century.
Ukraine enjoyed a brief period of independence from 1918 to 1919, then was taken over by the USSR and declared a Soviet Republic. During the Soviet era, Russian was the main language of education and employment and Ukrainian was sidelined.
Ukraine declared independence in 1991. Since then many Ukrainian émigrés have returned to Ukraine, particularly from central Asia and Siberia.
Please note, the capital of Ukraine is written Київ (Kyiv) in Ukrainian, and Киев (Kiev) in Russian. It is usually written Kiev in English, however since 1995 the Ukrainian government has written it Kyiv in legislative and official acts, and this spelling is used by international organisations such as the UN, and international news sources, such as the BBC.
There are a number of systems for transliterating Ukrainian into the Latin alphabet. The Ukrainian National transliteration was first codified in 1996 and is used to write personal names in passports, and for geographical names on maps and road signs. A new system was introduced in 2007, and revised in 2010.
Hear how to pronounced Ukrainian:
Download an alphabet chart for Ukrainian (Excel)
You can find a detailed discussion of Ukrainian phonology at:
More information about the transliteration of Ukrainian
Всі люди народжуються вільними і рівними у своїй гідності та правах. Вони наділені розумом і совістю і повинні діяти у відношенні один до одного в дусі братерства.
Vsi liudy narodzhuiutsia vilnymy i rivnymy u svoiii hidnosti ta pravax. Vony nadileni rozumom i sovistiu i povynni diiaty u vidnoshenni odyn do odnoho v dusi braterstva.
Vsi ljudy narodžujut'sja vil'nymy i rivnymy u svojij hidnosti ta pravax. Vony nadileni rozumom i sovistju i povynni dijaty u vidnošenni odyn do odnoho v dusi braterstva.
A recording of this text by Anatoli Sakhnik
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about Ukrainian | Phrases | Numbers | Tower of Babel | Learning materials
Information about Ukrainian
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Online Ukrainian phrases
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Online Ukrainian Transliteration and Spell Check
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Languages written with the Latin alphabet
Page last modified: 03.03.23
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