The origin of the name Ukraine has been attracting the attention of scientists for a long time, but there is still no clear explanation. Some researchers linked it with the words “krai” (eng. edge) — “a part of the territory which is the most distant from the center; the outskirts” and “u” (eng. in) — “near”, i.e. “borderland”.
The first record of the word “Ukraine” dates back to the last quarter of the 12th century. This word was mentioned in The Tale of Bygone Years where the chronicler talks about the death of Prince Volodymyr Hlibovych of Pereyaslav in 1187. Two years later, in 1189, it was noted that Prince Rostyslav arrived “to Ukraine of Galicia”.
Ukraine has the oldest written monuments that are known to the world. There are writings which are 12-21 thousand years old on the walls of the Stone Grave (they are called protosumerian writings and their content has not been clarified yet). Sumerian writings themselves date back to 3rd millennium BC. The investigation of th Stone Grave was initiated by well-known archaeologist, professor at the St. Petersburg University M. Vesselovsky in 1890. In the 20th century it was continued by V. Danylenko, O. Bader, Ya. Rudynsky, V. Hladylin, Yu. Shylov, A. Kyfishyn, B. Mykhailov.
As a result of archaeological excavations of the Stone Grave, 65 grottoes and caves were discovered. There were several thousand rare cave paintings on the walls and ceilings. Deeply realistic drawings give an idea of the household of the primitive people of Southern Ukraine and their spiritual culture. There are drawings of different epochs: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Middle ages.
Thus, the chronology of cave paintings of the Stone Grave covers a huge period (from ХХІІ–ХVІ millenniums BC to Х–ХІІ centuries AD).
The Cucuteni–Trypillia culture and domination in the ancient times of the tribes of Cimmerians and powerful Scythians influenced the formation of the rich culture of Ukraine in the Eneolithic period. Findings of archaeologists of the period of Trypillian and Scythian cultures, are characterized by the skillful method of execution and attest to the high artistic level of the works of the ancestors of modern Ukrainians.
Trypillian culture, or rather, civilization played an extremely important role in laying the foundations of spiritual, social, political, productive and cultural life. Trypillian culture left its own distinct traces, preserved in vestiges.
A characteristic feature of Trypillian culture is the remains of dwellings in the form of “platforms” — clusters of burnt clay. Such objects are reconstructed as remains of rectangular buildings made of wood and clay that were destroyed in the ritual fire.
There are many settlements of Trypillian culture which are characterized by thoughtful planning, buildings are often located in the shape of a circle or an oval. From the early period, settlements of a large area – more than 10 hectares – are recorded. Then the largest ones — “proto-cities” appeared in-between Southern Buh and Dnipro rivers. They reach more than 100 hectares and the largest ones — 450 hectares. There are dwellings densely placed one by one in the outer circles of the cities that form a “wall” that was supposed to protect residents from the encroachments of neighboring tribes.
Various tools, as well as weapons were made of flint, stone, bone, horn, and much less of copper, and in the late period they were made of bronze. There were also ceramic wares.
The ceramic complex of Trypillian settlements is characterized by a variety that is peculiar to all ancient agricultural civilizations. It is characterized by a complex colored pattern on the dishes. Anthropomorphic statuettes, zoomorphic figures, models of buildings, ritual items belong to the ceramic products of Trypillian culture.
The whole amount of data indicates that the economy of the Trypillians was based on agrarian production. Trypillians possessed advanced agrarian technologies at that time, however, the stability of their society was largely determined by the climatic factor.
Crop farming was the main agro-based industry. Trypillians grew wheat, two varieties of barley, oats, millet and also legumes: peas, lentils. However, the preference was given to wheat and barley.
Animal husbandry met not only food demands, but also supplied raw materials for the production of household equipment and clothes — bone, leather, and wool. In addition, it provided the Trypillians with draught animals — oxen. There was higher number of cattle, the priority was given to milk production. Pig breeding was in the second place, sheep and goats were also bred. The farm used horses.
Trypillians reached the high level in the production of pottery, stone and bone carving, metalwork, weaving, housebuilding and extraction of various mineral raw materials.
Thousands of Trypillian artifacts (handmade things) such as ornamented pottery, ritual objects, terracotta sculpture testify to the high spiritual development of the people that left us such an inheritance. Academician Rybakov called the period of Trypillian culture “The Golden Age of the Eenolithic”. It is impossible to understand the public interest in Trypillian culture without understanding the role of Trypillia’s phenomenon in the ancient history and civilization process in Ukraine.
Signs and symbols on Trypillian ceramics are the basis of all known symbolic knowledge and ancient philosophy of our ancestors and the whole world. The meaning of these signs and symbols is unknown but they have taken root in our lives, traditions and customs. This civilization influenced the development of other nations, their languages and culture.
Besides Trypillians, our land was inhabited by the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, the Antes, Goths, Croats, Roxolans and Rusychi and others. Velbarian, Chernyakhivsk, Saltivska and other cultures are named after the places of the settlements of these civilizations. That is why our land is often called a “cradle of civilizations”.
Folk culture is the basis of modern Ukrainian national culture. Professional science, literature and art were gradually formed on its basis. The peculiarity of Ukrainian culture was also determined by the influence of geographical conditions and interaction with other ethnic cultures.
Peasants, Cossacks and craftspeople were true creators of culture and culture-bearers. Ukrainian culture has evolved over the long periods of its history as a folk one. A great place was occupied by folklore, folk traditions which had a special charm and coloring. It was especially brightly seen in art — folk dumas, songs, dances, decorative and applied arts. Owing to the preservation and continuation of traditions, the roots of which go back to the culture of Kyivan Rus, there were the rise of Ukrainian culture in the 16th and 17th centuries and the cultural revival of the 19th century.
The old system of education which reached its peak during Cossack era and ensured literacy of the population, the long tradition of book writing, orientation towards the leading centers of Europe, in particular the Byzantine cultural tradition, the role of Rus’ as the center of Christianity in the East Slavic world, patronage and state support for culture by a number of such prominent statesmen as Kostiantyn Ostrozky, Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny, Ivan Mazepa, and others — all this allowed to bring Ukrainian culture to the level of the world phenomenon, to create a number of classical masterpieces in the field of printing, architecture, literature, to achieve significant success in science.
The Ukrainian nation has a long and rich history. Many times, losing freedom, independence, Ukrainians felt a longing for it. All those feelings were recreated in all manifestations of their creativity – in the soulful songs, dumas, legends; in painting, embroidery, pottery, weaving, etc.
Traditions and culture in literature
The life and customs of Ukrainians are clearly depicted in numerous literary works. We learn about the culture and traditions of the Slavs from the chronicles of the times of Kyivan Rus’ and the Galicia-Volyn’ principality. The famous poem by Ivan Kotliarevsky “Eneid” tells about persistent Ukrainian traditions, the spirit of the Cossacks, heroism and loyalty of the Ukrainian people. This poem was the first literary work which was written in the “live” Ukrainian language. It was one of the key turns in shaping the modern Ukrainian language.
“Kaidasheva sim’ia” (“Kaidash’s Family”) by Ivan Nechuy-Levytsky describes the classic rural family and its customs.
The main religion in Ukraine is Orthodox Christianity. However, there are also representatives of many other religions, including Catholics, Muslims, and Jews because the lands of Ukraine were divided between different states and there are many nationalities here.
The division of land contributed to the distinction of the culture of individual regions. It is particularly clearly seen in urban architecture. We admire the best architectural heritage of the times of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Austria-Hungary.
The architecture of Eastern Ukraine is rich in traditional Orthodox churches; in the South, you can admire the examples of ancient Greek architecture (Olbia, Chersonese).