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Ukraine

Geography & Topography

Capital: Kiev

Area: 603,628 km2 (233,090 sq mi)  

Language: Ukrainian

Religion: Atheist majority, Orthodox Christians, Catholic, Protestant

Currency: Hryvnia

History

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe that gained national independence when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. The country is home to 46 million people and Kiev is the capital and largest city. The Ukrainian language is the official language in Ukraine. Russian is also widely spoken. The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which has heavily influenced Ukrainian architecture, literature and music.

Performing Arts

Music

Music is a major part of Ukrainian culture, with a long history and many influences. From traditional folk music, to classical and modern rock, Ukraine has produced a long list of internationally recognized musical talent including Tchaikovsky and Okean Elzy. Elements from traditional Ukrainian folk music made their way into Western music and even into modern Jazz.  Since the mid-1960s, Western influenced pop music in various forms has been growing in popularity in Ukraine. One of the most important and truly original musicians to come out of Ukraine in recent years is the ultra-avant-garde folk singer and harmonium player Mariana Sadovska. Ukrainian pop and folk music arose with the international popularity of groups like Vopli Vidoplyasova and Viy.

 

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Ukrainian music are:


Bandura: Ukraine’s national instrument bandura is a plucked instrument which is related to the medieval psaltery and to the Russian husli types, though its form is entirely different. The bandura is a chromatic, harp-like hybrid instrument with forty or more melody strings and ten to thirteen unfretted bass strings on the neck. It has an oval, flat body.

Surma (or Zurna): It takes many forms but is most commonly a conical wooden tube with a double reed and usually a piroutte. It is a type of shawm that had widespread use in the Cossack host. It is thought that the instrument was introduced into the Ukraine from the Caucasus. It is also found as “zurna” in the Caucasus (Armenia, Daghestan, Azerbaijan, and to a lesser extent in Georgia). The Surma is used on the occasion of weddings, dances, celebrations and many other situations.

Some interesting facts:

  • Ukraine is the second largest country in the European continent.
  • Ukraine is mainly a vast plain with no natural boundaries except the Carpathian Mountains in the southwest and the Black Sea in the south.
  • The name “Ukraine” is derived from the word “krai” which means border.
  • The territory known as Ukraine only had brief periods of independence before 1991.

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