Archive for Ethnography Of Ukraine

Ethnography Of Ukraine

Musical Instruments of Ukrainian PeopleSince time immemorial the Ukrainian people were distinguished for musical talent and love for singing. The melodious character of the Ukrainian song and Language gave birth to advanced original musical instruments. Making musical instruments and playing them have always been considered a noble occupation. It is not without reason that our people call a good musical instrument-maker or a musician a sorcerer. People believed musical instruments as well as music could protect them from evil or malicious spirits. Music for this purpose was performed on such instruments as: violin, hudok, sopilka, volynka (bagpipe) and others.
Trumpet, horn, trembita and others were the means of communication between shepherds and hunters, and helped to find the way home in bad weather. Some of these functions are still found today, particularly in the life of the Carpathian dwellers where art has been preserved intact so far.
In Kyivan Rus musical instruments were widely used in the life of Kyivan princes, voivodes and common people. The gusli, horn, tambourines, surmas, and trumpets have been known since those times. The power of an army used to be defined by not only the quantity of soldiers but also by the quantity of trumpets and bubons.
The violin, kolysna lyre, dulcimer, drum, tambourine, reed-pipe, and other instruments were an integral part of various rituals, religion, secular and calendar holidays and ceremonies.
As it is known musical instruments were not used at Orthodox divine services. At the same time, people used kobza, bandura, kolysna lyre, husla, turban to accompany prays outside of church, at home.
Music incessantly accompanied the Ukrainian Cossack’s life. A special place was given to kettle-drums, the sacred symbols of Zaporozhian Sich. Their thunderous blows gathered the Cossacks for meetings; the orders were transmitted to soldiers with the help of conventional signals.
The violins, dulcimers, bagpipes, basolias, pipes, military trumpets, kettle-drums and drums were the basic instruments of Zaporozhian Army orchestra.
The kobza and bandura, the symbols of the national heroic and patriotic epos, have no analogues in world musical culture. They were the instruments of the legendary kobza-players. Maintaining human honour, dignity, and the right to their own art, kobza-players united in kobza-player’s brotherhoods, had a democratic form of government, their own judicial procedure, and even their own language for communicating between themselves. Every kobza-player had his region to serve, and had no right to go to a neighbouring village.
Folk musical instruments developed in close connection with different kinds of art: folk choral, vocal, dancing, and theatrical arts.
Every statum of society had their favourite instruments. Thus, the nobles preffered the table-like gusli and torban; among the Cossack’s chiefs it was considered prestigiouis to play the turban and to accompany on it kobza-player’s repertoire. The famous Cossack’s hetmans Ivan Mazepa and Petro Doroshnko could play the torban.
In the times of Kyivan Rus the collective instrumental performance became widely spread. As of today this tradition has been better preserved in Western Ukrainian regions. The so-called troisti muzyky (orchestra of three musical instruments) are rather popular in Hutsul instrumental ensembles. According to a legend three young musicians fell in love with a beautiful girl who arranged for them a public competition: each of the fellows had to play his own tune. They played so well that it was impossible to select the winner. So she suggested that they should play by turn the same melody. Finally they played together, and their music was so wonderful that neither the girl, nor the public wanted to separate the musicians. The beauty remained alone, and the ensemble of three musicians became the most favourite in Hutsulia. The troisti muzyky, which make different combinations of the violine, sopilka, dulcimer, basolia, tambourine, and some other instruments, is an important factor in creating Hutsul instrumental musical culture.
Ukrainian musicians were often invited to play at Polish royal, and Russian imperial courts. Thus, the names of Ukrainian minstrels were on the list of musicians of the Polish royal choir beginning from 1500. Starting in the early 18th century Ukrainian guslars and bandura players played at Russian imperial court, and at palaces of the nobles. Under the Imperial Ukase of 1838 a musical school was set up in the city of Hlukhov for replenishing the court choir and orchestra.
While researching Russian musical culture of the mid-18th century, the German musicologist Schtelin compared Ukraine with French Province, and noted an exceptional musical talent of the Ukrainians. In the 18th century count and wealthy landlord’s estates had instrumental ensembles and orchestras, which serviced balls and accompanied singers, as well as performed music as such. The nobles such as Polubotko, Potocki, Shyray, and Troschynsky had similar orchestras. Big orchestras belonged to prince Cyril Rozumovsky, and others. In 1789 prince Grigoriy Potiomkin opened musical academy in Yekaterinoslav (today Dnipreoetrovsk), and attached to it an orchestra of 47 musicians. In the latter half of the 18th century municipal orchestras were organized in different cities of Ukraine, which serviced various holidays, celebrations, and ceremonies. The creation of such orchestras was accompanied by the delimitation of professional and amateur music. After abolishing serfdom in Russia in 1861, serf orchestras began to break up, many musicians returned to their native villages, and continued to play folk ensembles in their spare time.
In the 18th-19th century musical guilds, which united musicians and instrument-makers, were created all over the Ukraine. They adopted their own regulations, which protected the interests of their members, regulated service charges, divided the spheres of service, etc.
In the 20th century the growth of musical educational institutions, was accompanied by an intensive process of evolution of folk musical instruments. However paradoxical it is, but the improvement of folk instruments began to threaten with the disappearance of authentic instruments.
In modern Ukraine measures are being taken to revive and preserve the original instruments as a source of national art. In particular, in kobza player’s schools which are being created in Ukraine, young performers study playing the instruments and singing, along with kobza player’s traditions, rites, philosophy, and ethics of their life. The National union of kobza players of Ukraine arranges concerts, competitions, festivals of kobza-players art, jubilee evenings of outstanding kobza players and instrument makers. Ukrainian museums gather and popularize collections of original folk instruments. The biggest one is found at Museum of theatrical, musical, and cinema art of Ukraine in Kyiv.
Today a folk musical instrument is not just an instrument for playing music; it is a memorial of national culture, an object for collecting, which indicates the level of intellect and spirituality of its owner.
Let us start the acquaintance with this instrument with a pun: to play this instrument is not serious for serious musician. The point is that everything is ridiculous and unusual in it: its construction, its name, and the way of playing. The buhay, in literal translation “pedigree bull,” has timber, which sounds somewhat like a bull’s roar, hence the name of the instrument.
There is no exact data about the time or place of its origin. It is only known that in the 19th century the buhay, as a ritual instrument, was episodically used as an accompanying ensemble instrument in Hitsulia, where it has a number of synonymous names, depending on the dimension of a barrel of which it is made.
The buhay belongs to cord-friction musical instruments the sound of which is produced by rubbing fingers against a bun of horsehair tied to the center of a leather membrane. The barrel is half a meter or meter high. When playing a big instrument, it is placed on the floor, when a small one – one of the performers holds it, and the other plays, tugging at the horsehair with his hands wetted in kvass, which provides better friction. This instrument became popular in many regions of Ukraine for its exotic kind.
There was a professional band which used to have such a performance when a musician appeared on the stage, holding a small barrel underarm and all of a sudden the other actor came running up to him to tug at the horsehair hanging from the barrel. The first musician continued walking, pretending he didn’t notice that his barrel was playing. The other one, after a masterly performance, to the applause of the audience, disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared.
The buhay is used in many professional bands, filling their performances with folk colouring , humour and jokes.
Many folk instruments are deeply rooted in the hoary past. The kozobas, in contrast, appeared in the late 1960s. The first model of it was made in Hryhoriy Veriovka National Ukrainian Folk Choir. Almost at the same time a similar chimera was contrived in Kyiv orchestra of folk instruments.
The word “kozobas” consists of two words – “goat and “bass”.
There was such a custom in Ivano-frnkivsk province: after musicians left a wedding party, but the guests still wanted to dance, they took a bucket, put a shoulder-yoke in it, fastened a piece of wire to the handle of the bucket and the other end of the yoke, and played it with a stick as a bow. They played such an “instrument” on the 5th-7th day after the wedding party; with this “instrument” they went caroling from door to door on Christmas tide, and led a young bachelor disguised as a dancing goat from house to house on New Year’s Eve. Singing carols was always accompanied with vivid theatrical shows and witty humour. That is how an idea emerged on the Hutsul folklore-ethnographic basis to make an accompanying instrument. The musician plays the kozobas with a short straight bow, or by plucking the strings with the fingers, and striking the plate with a small steel rod.
The kozovas became popular among professional and amateur folk ensembles. The musical workshop in Ternopil region began the production of this instrument, so we became witnesses of the birth of a new kind of folk contrabass.
The name of this instrument is derived from the Italian “ocarina,” which means “gosling”. The Italians, perhaps, saw a similarity in the outward appearance between the ocarina and gosling, or maybe they associated the sound of the ocarina with the cheep of gosling. Anyhow, but the ocarina is known to the whole world under this name. In Ukraine the ocarina also has another, more poetic name – zozulka (young cuckoo), which is obviously called forth by the timber of this instrument – fairy, at times fantastic, which imitates the howl of wild animals and the song of birds so well. By its construction and character of music the ocarina is allied with whistlers. In contrast to whistlers, which are not only musical instruments, but also works of decorative art, the ocarina is a purely musical instrument.
Traditionally ocarinas were made of terra cotta. Technology of making an ocarina is the same as that of whistler. It is shaped like a sweet potato, with finger holes (from 7 to 10) and a mouthpiece.
In the 19th century the ocarina was widely spread throughout the whole Western Europe. In Ukraine it could be acquired at the music shop, together with a manual and note repertoire. These instruments were made of porcelain, decorated with different pictures and floral ornaments, sometimes the finger holes were provided with a system of valves.
Volynka (bagpipe)
The exotic instrument – volynka- was in existence in ancient Greece and Rome; it is rooted in the culture of Ancient China and India, and in the Middle Ages it accompanied folk holidays all over Europe. In Italy the volynka was considered a rural instrument, in Poland it had a derogatory name of koziol (goat). A different attitude to the bagpipe was in Lithuania, where it was a very popular instrument in the early 19th century. The bagpipe is a traditional instrument of Scotland, where big bagpipe ensembles take part in State celebrations. In Britain the bagpipe acquired the image of an original court ceremonial instrument.
It is considered that in Ukraine the volynka appeared in the 16th century in the territory of Volyn (Volhynia), hence the name of the instrument. Later it spread throughout the territory of the former Russian empire. The volynka was used by the Cossacks, and was included in the musical regiment of Zaporoshian Army.
In the 19th – 20th century the volynka was a traditional folk instrument in the Carpathian area.
The volynka is distinguished for its original timber, and ability to combine playing with singing
Horn and Trembita
The horn and trembita are colourful national versions of trumpets, which preserve old traditions. The horn is one of the oldest instruments of mankind. Since the times of Old Testament, made of mountain goat or buffalo horns, it was an indispensable utensil of shepherd and hunter, and only later it turned into a truly musical instrument. In the 14th century wooden, and later copper, instruments often imitated the form of a horn.
The trembita is an old mouthpiece signal instrument of the mountaineers. It looks like a long cone-shaped trumpet. It is from 3 to 4 m long, and its signal can be heard at a distance of 10 km. The trembita performs important functions linked with the everlasting practice of the mountain dwellers, their life and customs.
In old times sentries posted on the Alps could warn the mountain dwellers of an approaching enemy by transmitting conventional signals. By trembita signals the senior shepherd reports shepherd’s boys of the time of milking and watering, in the evening he gathers flocks of sheep scattered in the mountains, helps to find one’s bearings in bad weather. Trembitas announce the spring holiday of the Hutsuls – going out to the mountain meadows. Sometimes trembitas bring bad news, reporting of somebody’s death.
The trembita is made of fir. First the tree is chopped off up to a needed dimension, then it is chopped lengthwise in two, the core being removed, after which both halves are stuck together with resin, pressurized with birch bark, and a wooden mouthpiece is put in the upper opening. The pitch of trembita sound depends on the force of blowing. In Polissia a traditional trembita is shorter; 1 to 2m long, and called lihava.
Now and then the trembita is used in orchestra music. Collapsible metal trembitas participate in modern wedding orchestras.
Wooden Architecture
Since the time immemorial, the major part of present-day Ukraine has been covered with impassible woods. Even in the cat steppe expanses of Southern Ukraine, known in the old days as “Dyhke Poleh” (Wild Field), the valleys of winding rivers were green with leafy groves. Wood, as the prevalent material, was used by Ukrainian’s ancestors not only in construction but also in producing furniture, kitchenware, household equipment, agricultural and manufacturing tools as well as different means of transportation. They treat wood with due respect contemplating it as a living and spiritual substance salutary for human beings. As late as until the end of the 18th century, everyone in Ukraine, from a poor peasant to an affluent magnate, was convinced that living in a brick construction was pernicious for human’s health, while a wooden house or palace was the only suitable habitation. Centuries later, the same adamant belief played a mean trick on the nation. Stone mansions, castles and churches were scarce, while wooden constructions, which once had been in abundance, soon deteriorated and collapsed. Thus, Ukraine’s historical and cultural heritage was artificially impoverished. Of how impressive our wooden constructions looked is anyone’s guess. However, their looks can be restored on the grounds of archeological finds, foreign travelers’ rapturous descriptions of Ukrainian wooden architecture and few timber structures, which have miraculously survived through the ages.
Wooden premises construction was put on the mass production in Ukraine. Folk house architecture, which cherished thousand-year-old traditions, was both conservative and open to innovations. Construction techniques applied to folk architecture differed from those of modern building engineering. Unlike their present-day counterparts, which are first carefully designed, accommodation and utility premises were modeled after similar constructions, following the traditions of a particular region or village. These folk construction customs, like folk songs, were passed from generation to generation. Unfortunately, each year more and more samples of folk architecture disappear. Thus, visiting museums of folk architecture and rural life that feature the most accomplished examples of construction art is perhaps the easiest way to get acquainted with this unique phenomenon.
In Ukraine, houses for all-the-year-round habitation were called “khata”, while seasonal or temporary dwellings were known as “kolyba” or “kuren”. Utility premises, which constituted a typical peasant homestead and included a shed for storing valuables, a cellar, a stable, a cart-shed for storing carts and sledges, a cattle-shed, a pig-pen, hen-house, a well with sweep and barn for unhulled wheat, located outside the courtyard, were just as important . A typical farm comprised a so called “clean” and utility yard. An orchard and a kitchen garden were an integral part of each farm. The harsh natural conditions resulted in the development of a unique architectural phenomenon, a walled farm, known in the Carpathians as “hrazhda”. Premises, confining a courtyard, formed a small castle with blank external walls and a gate. The “hrazhda” became a vivid embodiment of the English proverb “My home is my castle”.
A traditional Ukrainian “khata” is an enduring masterpiece of architecture, distinguished by both an efficient construction design and high artistic value. Most “khatas” consisted of one or two living quarters. One-room “khatas” were adjacent to an inner porch and shed, while two-room buildings abutted on various utility premises, and in some cases to workshops. “Khata” was of a rectangular shape covered with a hipped roof. It was easy to put up and maintain such simple and efficiently designed construction, as well as it was easy to warm it up in wintertime. “Khatas” were built of different wooden structural materials, including, logs, timber or blocks. Sometimes a wooden frame was filled up with sawdust, springs or clay mixed up with straw. Linden was considered the best tree for construction purposes. Roofs were covered with thatch, reed or thin wooden planks – shingles or clapboards.
Although elegant and diverse, the interior of Ukrainian wooden constructions was first of all distinguished for its efficient design – only the visible parts of the building were decorated and the method of color, shape, material and style contrast, which allowed achieving the highest artistic effect with the minimum techniques applied, was widely used.
Apart from traditional peasant constructions, the Ukrainian folk architecture is known for some fine examples of public buildings, including churches, schools, village councils, inns and large barns for storing grain. Utility premises – water and wind mills, saw-mills, fulling-mills, oil pressing mills, grits cutters and smithies – constituted an indispensable part of life and economy of a Ukrainian village.
Cheap and environment-friendly constructions that satisfied the needs of a Ukrainian farmer, traditional Ukrainian windmills are among some of the most ingenious inventions of engineering. The earliest mills known in Ukraine were water mills, while wind mills appeared only in the 18th century. All the windmills fall into two main types: pole-like constructions with the whole body of a mill rotated by the wind, and polyhedral or Dutch mills, in which only the upper part of the mill together with the vanes is turned. In the old days, wind and water mills could be found in every village or town, while in larger settlements the amount of mills reached several dozens.
Yes, the highest peak of its development the Ukrainian wooden architecture demonstrated in church constructions. Among the enduring masterpieces of wooden architecture are large cathedrals and small chapels, parish churches and belfries, fences, gates and towers. And it is no wonder why. The church was not only a spiritual sanctuary for worshipping and meditations, but also played a focal part in public life.
First wooden churches had been built long before Christianity was officially introduced on the territory of Ukraine. With time wooden church architecture gained popularity and adopted certain folk features. It was in constructing wooden churches that architects managed to preserve the forms and designs of ancient sacral edifices. Strange as it was, the same cherished old traditions laid foundation for developing new techniques in national architecture.
In building wooden churches, pine-tree, oak, hornbeam squared into four cants was among the most extensively used structural material. Other popular building materials were round logs or logs cut lengthwise. Wooden edifices were erected without a single iron nail or any other iron tools. And what was done not for the lack of iron or our ancestor’s inability to use iron nails. This sophisticated technique was based on the observation that high humidity made iron construction tools, such as nails, rusty. And this very rust deteriorated the wood, thus making the construction rickety and insecure. If need be, iron joining material was substituted with pegs of strong wood (oak or beech).
Churches and belfries were supported by stumps of oak logs vertically dug into the ground under the construction. The tradition of putting up churches on stone or brick foundations originated in the Podillya region and by the end of the 18th century was caught up by the rest of Ukraine.
The durability of any wooden structure depends on the measures taken to protect it from rain and snow. The amount of precipitation in Ukraine and especially in the Carpathians is rather high. Thus, roofs were made high and steep for the rain water and snow to stream down from the hips. Among the most popular roofing material were shingles (thin? Oblong pieces of wood used to cover the roofs and sides of houses, the so-called “wooden tiles”), clapboards and thin planks. The lower parts of the walls were additionally secured from rain or snow by “under-roofs” – a roof circumscribing the building and resting on columns or projecting lower rows of logs, also called corbels or protrusions.
All the architectural masterpieces featured in this album were created with the help of an axe and some other primitive tools. That is why they look more like sculptures, as if retaining the warmth of their creator’s skillful hands.
All the Ukrainian wooden churches fall into two main types: three-compartment and cross-like constructions. The prevailing type is definitely that of a three-compartment construction. Such churches consist of three main chambers – central chamber or nave, eastern chamber or altar and western chamber or narthex. Three-compartment churches are either one-roofed or three-roofed.
Cross-like churches are usually five or nine-compartment structures or have the shape of a Greek cross with arms of equal length. Such constructions are crowned by one, three, five or nine domes.
Whatever the type a wooden church belonged to, the uniting element for all the chambers was the central compartment or nave, which was made one tier higher than the side compartments. The dominating design of three-compartment churches comprised a rectangular or octahedral nave, a polyhedral altar and polyhedral or rectangular narthex. In cross-like churches the central compartment, in most cases, was square with each side equal the width of side compartments. The height of churches differed from region to region.
Among the wide variety of elaborated architectural forms, there are churches of simple outlines, which look more like simple peasant houses or barns. At the same time, there are edifices, among them the famous Trinity church in Novomoskovsk, whose exquisite design and accomplished shapes place them far above the most renowned sacral constructions. Ukrainian wooden church architecture is as diverse as Ukraine’s Landscapes. Tall as popular trees are churches in Boikivschyna region, elegant in the Lemkivchyna region, harmonious in the Podilya region, somewhat heavyset in the Halychyna and Volyn regions, or monuments like lighthouses in eastern regions.
An integral part of a sacral construction complex is a bell tower, which borrowed its architectural outline from ancient watch or fortification towers. One of the remainders of this “kinship” is a corbel gallery on the upper tier of multi-tiered bell towers, which theoretically allowed holding the defense against enemies.
All the wooden bell towers fall into two main types – framed structure constructions and log constructions. The type of the bell tower largely depend on the chiming techniques used, either the whole bell was swung or only its tongue. Swinging the whole bell to chime put additional dynamic load on the construction. Thus, the building had to be stronger, i.e. framed, structure. That is why framed bell towers prevail in western regions (Haluchyna and Volhyn), where bell-swinging is the preferred technique. In other regions, most bell towers are of a log, or log and framed (the lower tier was made of logs, while the upper tier was framed) structure.
Scientists still dispute about the amount of regional wooden church architectural schools in Ukraine. However, a profound study of edifices of multifarious forms and designs made scientists agree that similarities demonstrated by all the crchitectural schools underpin the unity of the Ukrainian nation and the unanimity in architectural and construction approaches.
Wooden constructions are the part of national heritage most susceptible to deterioration. They die of water, fire, bark beetles and shipworms, yet peoples’ carelessness and ignorance remains their most dangerous enemy. Being an acute problem not only for Ukraine but for Europe in general, the issue of preserving wooden architectural monuments of folk architecture became one of the most popular and efficient ways of preserving wooden constructions.
Today, Ukraine boasts several open-museums of folk architecture located in Kyiv, Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, Lviv, Chernivtsy, Uzhhorod and the village of Krylos not far from Ivano-Frankivsk. Each museum presents a rich collection of masterpieces, revealing the achievements in folk wooden architecture. These exhibits are valuable “bank deposits”, which cannot be spent but only increased and multiplied.
Yet, no matter how much effort is made to preserve this part of national heritage, the time, and the implacable enemy of art, takes away the best masterpieces. To study, guard and secure them for the following generations is the mission of modern scientists, architects and restorers. Presenting the rigid beauty of Ukraine’s wooden architecture, the authors of this album pursue the same aim.
This fight should go on, until people learn to appreciate beauty, respect works of art and the remains of our once rich heritage.

Ukrainian Cuisine and Folk Traditions

Ukrainian national cuisine, being a part of the European cuisine, it has accommodated some of the culinary traditions of Asian nations. People do not seal themselves off from other nations. Intermingling with neighboring countries, people adopt new dietary habits along with other cultures. In addition to this, similar geographical and climate conditions predetermine similar culinary ingredients. Thus, foods comparable to Ukrainian specialties are found in the cuisines of other nations. Such are Ukrainian varenyky, which are slightly reminiscent of Italian ravioli. Ukrainian ovochevi pecheny (stewed vegetables) might remind one of French sauté. Many similar dishes are cooked in Ukraine and Poland, especially along the frontier regions, where identical festive foods are served on similar occasions. For example, on Christmas Eve the red-beet borsch is served with vushka (“ear” dumplings) etc. Meanwhile, borsch, the masterpiece of Ukrainian culinary traditions, has become part of the world cuisine. Mistakenly, however, the Ukrainian red beet soup is known under other names too – “Russian borsch”, “Moscow borsch” or even “Siberian borsch”.
Each nation boasts original culinary habits. In Ukraine, most of the dishes are either boiled or stewed, while among the diversity of ingredients, vegetables and groats still prevail. Of all the variety of meat, a Ukrainian will definitely choose pork. Yet, culinary traditions amount not only to the ingredients chosen. They include different ways of cooking, spices and seasonings which accompany particular dishes, prohibitions of certain products, preferences and restrictions in food, rules of behavior observed while cooking and consuming food, table etiquette, ritual and customary meals, beliefs and superstitions, etc.
Here is a list of religious holidays celebrated in Ukraine: Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year, The Epiphany, The Meeting in the Temple, Pancake Week, Great Lent, Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, St. Eudoxia, The Annunciation, Easter, Commemoration of the Dead, The Ascension, Pentecost, St. John the Baptist, Sts Paul and Peter, The Maccabees, The transfiguration, The Blessed Virgin, The Protecting Veil, St. Michael, St. Andrew, St. Nicolas.
In the following articles we will present the Ukrainian dietary customs, which are firmly connected with the folk calendar.
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve, or “Svjaty Vechir” (Holy Night) in Ukrainian, is a big religious holiday. The last day of Christmas fast is celebrated only with meat-and milk-free food.
The whole family usually woke up at daybreak. The mother would wash non-ground wheat (the wheat what was popular on the Right Bank of Ukraine was substituted for barley on the Left Bank of Ukraine) and set the saucepan with the wheat into the oven. Some families had the tradition of cooking “kutia” (Christmas Eve wheat dish) in a new clay or ceramic pot. Children would crack and chop walnuts and grind poppy seeds in a wooden bowl. The father prepared “syta” (honey dissolved in boiled water). Boiling water, added to honeycombs smashed in a bowl beforehand, melted down the wax, which now floated on the surface. However, if the water was not hot enough, a warmed-up brick was put under the bowl, which brought the water to the boil right in the vessel. Then the liquid was quenched and the wax was skimmed off. The melted honey was added to the kutia.
Christmas is one of the greatest religious holidays, which, despite the persecution of the Church during the atheistic Soviet era, has always been celebrated by the majority of Ukrainians. This pious adherence to traditions helped to preserve ancient Christmas rituals, such as carol-singing, in which people praise the born Christ, and perform Nativity scenes or scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Family.
This day as well as Christmas Eve reflected the people’s idea of well-being, prosperity, welfare and happiness. The head of the family not only made sure that the meal was hearty and sumptuous, but also watched that the atmosphere in the house was festive and peaceful. Even one-day fasts, usually observed on Wednesdays and Fridays, are abated during the Christmas holiday season, which lasts for fourteen days from Christmas (January,7) to Epiphany (January, 19).
New Year
New Year Eve (also known as Schedry Vechir or Lavish Night in Ukrainian) is undoubtedly one of the most popular secular holidays in Ukraine, free from any ecclesiastical influence, except for the fact that on January 1 (13) the Church celebrates the memory of St. Melania and on the next day it commemorates St. Basil the Great.
Great Lent
One of the four fast periods, Great Lent is the longest and lasts for seven weeks. It begins after the Cheese-Fare Week and ends on Easter. The Church year is not all the holidays and feasts. The Orthodox Church has set four fast-periods – the summer fast lasts for about three to six weeks from Whitsunday through St Peter and Paul’s Day (Petrivka), the last two weeks in August are known as Spasivsky Fast or Spasivka, six weeks that precede Christmas are called Pylypivsky Fast or Pylypivka and the longest and strictest of all is Great Lent.

HolidaysOn the national scale, in Ukraine the following days are set apart for observance or commemoration:
New Year’s Day – January 1
Christmas Day – January 7
Unification of Ukraine Day – January 22
Women’s Day – March 8
Velykden’ (Easter) – movable
Labor Day – May 1 and 2
Victory Day – May 9
Triytsia (Pentecost) – movable
Constitution Day – June 28
Independence Day – August 24
Except Easter and Triytsia, which mobility is linked to the religious tradition, all the above holidays are celebrated on a fixed day. Christmas Day and Velykden’ (Easter) are celebrated in accord to the Orthodox Old Calendar.
New Year’s Day is one of the most popular holidays in modern Ukraine. In addition to the traditional celebrations the Old New Year’s Day, a folk symbol of tradition and originality, is marked on January 14.
Religious holidays are distinguished by special traditions and peculiar to exclusively Ukraine coloring combining the Christian Orthodox culture and beliefs rooted deep in the antiquity. Thus, maybe the most full of splendor and beauty is the Christmas celebrations in Ukraine. On the eve of the action, that is, on January 6, the families that keep traditions have their festive supper. In harmony with the old custom twelve fasting dishes are served with sweet kutia, boiled wheat, as the major dish. They sit down at the table when the first star rises and greet each other with the saying “Khrystos rozhdayetsia!” (Christ is being born!). After celebrations within family circle, the festivities reach the streets on January 7 and 8; during these days people exchange visits, share the good news and sing Christmas carols, religious folk songs praising the birth of Christ. On the city and village streets, one may watch verteps, dramatized and fancy-dressed performances dedicated to Christ. On January 8 and 9, the annual vertep contest occurs with amateurish and professional teams of actors participating. Traditional also became the festival of authentic Guzul verteps in the Carpathian town of Kolomyia.
Nowadays, the traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s Day in Ukraine increasingly expand through the Western influence: fur-trees are decorated, street trees and shop windows illuminated, as well as fireworks let off.
Another prominent holiday of the religious cycle in Ukraine is Velykden’ (Easter Holiday). Similar to Christmas, in addition to purely Christian motifs the holiday embraces the traditions associated with the ancient tiller’s calendar combining surprisingly well the celebrations of Christ resurrection with motifs of spring nature awakening. On the holiday eve, that is, Saturday, consecrating of paskha, Easter cake, is held; people bring to the church baskets full with Easter food – special cakes traditionally baked at home, dyed and painted Easter eggs, pysankas, and other eatable attributes of the feast. The priests consecrate this food, and the church heads celebrate holiday service with great many people attending the God’s house. The greeting during the Easter days is “Khrystos voskres!” (Christ has arisen!). The white dress and colorful towels make the atmosphere of the holiday especially pure and elevated. Of special attention deserves such an imperative attribute of the holiday as the sacral art of Ukrainian pysanka that keeps on amazing contemporaries with the beauty and refinement of its symbolism.
Triytsia (Pentacost) is believed to be one of the greatest religious holidays next to Christmas and Easter. In accord with tradition, Ukrainians decorate their homes with branches of basswood, grasses and flowers bringing it another name – Green Holidays.
Victory Day is the major national holiday of Ukrainians that serves a reminder about the great feat of arm and immense losses. It is the day to remember those perished and to honor veterans of the WWII.
Among the holidays connected with the historical past of the Ukrainian people of interest is the Unification Day. On January 22, 1919, a significant event of the Ukrainian history took place in Kyiv’s St. Sophia square – the union of the Ukrainian People and the West Ukrainian People Republics into a single Ukrainian unified state. Historians believe that it was on this day that the existence of Ukraine as a state became a historical fact. Despite the fact that at the start of the 20th century the Ukrainian State failed to assert independence in its struggle with enemy forces, the Union of January 22 remains one of the most ponderable symbolic acts for the national consciousness; it is the reason the date is marked by the Ukrainian nation as a national holiday.
The Decree “On Declaration of Independence of Ukraine” adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR on August 24, 1991, became the act expressing the will of Ukrainian people and finally establishing the independent Ukrainian state. The day that commemorated the completion of the centuries-old strife of the Ukrainian people for its freedom became the major national holiday – Independence Day.
In addition to the national holidays, traditional holidays of the national minorities are marked locally. In accord to Article 24 of the Law of Ukraine “On the National Minorities” “in their activity the organs of local self-government are to take into the account marking of certain holidays and events of the national minorities on the territories of latter’s compact residence. Additional non-working days may be set to celebrate the traditional national religious holidays.”
Traditions, Rites and CeremoniesThe Ukrainian people’s native customs are primarily connected with the traditional way of thought and outlook on life that have been forming throughout the ages, and preserved quite a few features of the pre-Christian beliefs. . Two main types of ceremonies are distinguishable: the domestic (family) and calendar ones. The former were the rites of passage marking a significant transition in a human life, while the latter performed to celebrate achievements or milestones in the lives of individuals or groups of people. Every conventional celebration and every ritual were closely connected with the folk-believes and legends of yore.
The Family Rituals and Rites
Puerperal ceremonies that accompany delivery of a child are part of especially delicate spheres; hence, they are being surrounded by magic actions and charms. While helping deliver babies a midwife was seeking to inculcate and instill in the child the important elements of character. For a child to grow healthy sviachene zillia (consecrated herbs and flowers) were made use of: for girls to be beautiful honey and, sometimes, milk were added to the font or put roots of elecampane there for boys to enjoy good health, or an axe placed to be become proficient in various skills. Everyone who happened to drop in during the ceremony was to drop a lucky penny into the basin holding baptismal water.
Wedding among Ukrainians was indeed a solemn stage play accompanied by music, singing, dancing and games that grew into s folk feast. It all has been starting with wooing and seeking marriage (that is, towel presentation, proposing, towel taking and arrangement) when elders, representatives of the brides-to-be came to an agreement concerning wedding. (Instances happened when the intended bride said no to the marriage seekers. In such cases, she gave back the loaf of bread that seniors brought with them and ‘presented’ the man seeking marriage with either a pumpkin or makohon (a wooden club-shaped, hand-held tool for grinding or mashing poppy seed, cereals, etc. in a mortar).
Soon thereafter, the betrothal was arranged that began with a posad ceremony-the expression of mutual consent by those to be married and consecration of it by both parentages with bread and towel being the symbols of unity. With the betrothed seated at the head of the table, the elders covered the bread with a towel, then placing the girl’s hand there and overlaying it with that of the boy, tied up the both hands with a towel.
This was followed by tying up of the seniors with towels and presentation of all those in attendance with kerchiefs, pieces of cloth or shirts.
In between the betrothing and wedding preparation the celebration continued with a series of rites, of which the principal were the hen and stag parties (or ‘periwinkle’ ceremonies), loaf baking and invitations. The hen and stag nights symbolizing parting with single life were held on the eve of the wedding party separately at places of residence of the affianced. Meanwhile, married and highly honored women were baking the karavai, the principal bread at Ukrainian wedding, as well as varied bridal cookies.
The most dramatic moment of the marriage was the pokryvania (bespreading) ritual that symbolized transfer of the young bride to the category of women and under husband’s authority and after which the general revelry started. The archaic rite is still preserved in Hutsul region. There, close to the end of the dinner party young bride was called to the barn to a sad tune played by musicians. When the groom heard the sound of a violin, he ran into the barn and bit through the ribbon that held metal decorations in the plait of the bride, thus making the entire splendid headdress spread. From this moment on she had to plait two braids, wind them around her head in a circle, and put on ochipok (a kind of a bonnet worm by married women), tying peremitka ( a shawl of fine fabric) or kerchief over it.
An important component of the marriage ceremony is the nuptial service consecrating the marriage by the church.
Funereal Rites and Customs were directed to reversibly transfer the souls of the deceased into the world of ancestors as well as protection of the living from detrimental influence of the spirits of the dead. The rituals comprised the burial and commemoration.
When a person died, all the relations and fellow-villagers were notified. For that purpose white kerchiefs and peremitka were hanged out on the windows of the house where the dead stayed. Among the highlanders it was customary to kindle a big fire before the hut of the deceased or to blow trembita (Hutsul folk music instrument in the form of a long wooden tube without vents).
The soul of the deceased was treated especially delicately. One should not drink water in the room since it was deemed possible to be consumed by the soul of the deceased; those wanting to sit down on a bench had to blow there to avoid crushing the soul of the dead.
The carrying-out of the coffin was marked by special magic since it was connected with protection of the family and the farm from detrimental influence. To bar finding the way back home, the demised was born out feet first predominantly through the back door knocking on the threshold with coffin thrice so that the departed bid farewell to the ancestors and never returned. As soon as the chest was brought out from the room, a new jar was broken over the place it stood on as a symbol of life renovation while the way it was carried out was sprinkled with rye or barley so that nobody else died in the house.
Ukrainians strictly kept the rite of semi-official church ‘sealing’ the grave unknown to other peoples: to a chant, the priest marked a cross over the grave with a spade, and then threw soil crosswise over the coffin.
After the burial ceremony had been over, a meal was arranged for all those present which mandatory dish was kolyvo, a dish of wheat cooked with honey. It was customary immediately after the meal to put a glass of horilka (vodka) and a piece of bread intended for the deceased on the windowsill: in popular belief, he returned home during the following nine days. The next day luncheon was carried to the grave (‘to wake up the deceased’. By this, the funeral ended and commemoration began.
Marking of certain commemoration days are linked with popular ideas about life and death. Hence, the belief was that soul leaved the body on the third day, spirit on the ninth, while on the fortieth day the body ceased its existence.
Calendar Holidays and Ceremonies
A calendar rites are divides into four principal seasonal cycles: winter, spring, summer and autumn with each of them timed on the one hand with the natural phenomena and to the correspondent types of agricultural activity on the other hand.
The winter cycle of popular calendar ritualism of the Ukrainian folk starts with Koliada marked on the eve of Christmas on January 7, ending with Vodokhresch on January 19. In general, the winter cycle includes the following holidays: Koliada (or the Holy Night); the Birth of the Sun Holiday (Christmas); the Old New Year’s Day (Malanka or Saint. Basil’s the Great Day), Vodokhresch (or Epiphany), Stritenia, and Obritenia.
The Christmas night (the Koliada, Holy Night) was also called bahata kutia accompanied by extensive preparations: the stove was kindled with 12 logs that dried for twelve days, 12 ritual dishes were baked and boiled, of which the principal ones were the Christmas kutia (boiled wheat corn with raisins and honey) and uzvar (dried fruits compote). Towards the evening didukh (reaped sheaf) was brought into the house since, in accord with a belief, together with other home objects it acquired miraculous power bringing luck and providing for fruitful toil. In the evening children were sent to relations and kinsfolk with gifts and kutia to commemorate the souls of the dead.
Starting with the Holy Night until the Vodokhresch the ritual wish-singing continued addressed to the hosts of lodgings and habitations, and to all their folks.
Connected with the most vitally important business – laying foundation for the future harvest, the Spring Cycle of the calendar ritualism was of special significance among Ukrainians. For this reason, the people with the help of rituals and magic actions tried with all their might to speed up the coming of spring, warm weather and rain. In addition, the season is also famous for the alchemy of spring and awakening of human feelings. Hence, the spring ritualism was directed at recreation of the youth, telling fortunes and magic signs of supernatural protection. The characteristic colors of the spring rituality in Ukraine were vesnianky, highly poetic folk singing that penetrated more than one holiday and ceremonial actions.
The Velykden (the Great day) was always seen among the people as the principal spring holiday that later was established by the Christian Church as Easter, a Christian festival commemorating Resurrection of Christ. Quite organically it combined pagan rites and canon ceremonies. The Velykden is a complete ritualistic cycle, which comprises the following chief elements: the Maundy-Week that in its turn divided into Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday; Velykden (Easter) and Svitlyi Easter Week including Radunytsia (veneration of ancestors) and Svitlyi Monday. On Palm Sunday, withes of willow were consecrated in church to be used at home for whipping the house folk and domestic animals. On Velykden, paskha (the Easter cakes) and decorated eggs, which were prepared in advance, are also consecrated.
The most diversified is the Summer Ritual Cycle that lasted from the holy day of rusalii at the end of May until the Day of Holovosiky (beheading of St. John the Baptist) and included the following: rusalii, Trinity Sunday (the Green Feast), Kupaila or Ivan Kupala (St. John the Baptist Day), Petriv Den (Saints Peter and Paul Day), Maccabeus, Elijah and Saint Panteleimon the Healer Days, and the Savior Day, as well as quite forgotten today holydays of Thunder and pagan gods Lada, Yarylo, etc.
Within the Summer Ritual Cycle two ideas were prominent: water and plants. Special appeal of romance and magic distinguish The Ivan Kupala Feast. There is a folk-belief that to anyone who is lucky to pick the flower of fern (assumed to bloom at midnight, take fire and fall there and then) the hidden treasures are revealed while the person himself acquires miracle-working powers and knowledge. Hence, during Midsummer Night brave people were looking for fern in the wood, girls were telling fortunes by wreaths, young country folk lighted fires on the water and jumped over them presumably in a belief that Kupala fires and water had curative and purifying properties.
The autumn cycle of the calendar holydays does not present itself as an integral order, but instead incorporates separate customs and omens with their general character defined by the nature going to sleep and preparation for winter. Ceremonial actions move predominantly indoors acquiring the form of evening sessions.
The cycle starts with Simeon feast that formerly coincided with the canon New Year’s Day. The whole cycle comprised of the following holidays and ceremonies: Simeon Day, Pokrova, saints’ days of Dymytriy, Kuzma and Demian, the Feast of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, Kateryna, Saint George and Saint Andrew Days, as well as Saint Barbara and Saint Nicholas Days. The ceremonies of the autumn cycle were oriented predominantly at domesticity. Weddings started with the Pokrova with other holidays of the season also connected with marriages or divination about those to wed. Engagement in fortune telling was also intensive during the Feast of presentation of the Blessed Virgin, as well as on saints’ days of Kateryna and Andriy with the stock of techniques extremely diverse.
Presently, traditional customs and rites are gradually becoming the thing of the past; however some of the elements still stay in the ceremonies of today to be used during celebrations of the most popular folk holidays.

FolkloreThe folk culture and art of Ukrainians are justly considered a part of the most abundant gains of the European cultural inheritance. Diversified genres and perfection of forms, poetic and exquisite lyricism, profound philosophical thought and irrepressible fieriness are defining the colors of the Ukrainian folklore.
For centuries, the unwritten folk account was almost the sole means to epitomize the Ukrainian lifelong experience and embodiment of popular wisdom, world outlook and high ideals. In addition to the most important events in the Ukrainian history starting from the princedom age, folklore reflected and preserved numerous archaic pagan motifs and symbols often hidden under the cover of Christian tradition. Thanks to the folklore heritage, those living today are able to familiarize themselves with the way of life of the remote and not far off generations, their red- and black-letter days filled with magic and fascinating ceremonial rites.
The Ukrainian folklore tradition one could classify into two blocks: music and poetic (songs, dumy (ballads), folk-tunes, etc.) and prose (fairy tales, legends, anecdotes, and so on) forms.
In addition, the music and poetic art is separated into the basic groups: ceremonial folklore, epic and lyrical folk tradition. The ceremonial folklore includes calendar events and domestic ritual songs; the dumy, historical and epic poetry songs belong to the epic group, while the lyrical one contains social and everyday life poetics.
One of the ancient layers of the Ukrainian folklore is incantation, that is, short oral mythological texts used by our ancestors in looking after the house, to avert misfortune or disease, as well as in the field of romance. Both groups of the ritual songs, that is, calendar (koliadky, schedrivky, vesnianky, rusalni, tsarynni, kupalsky and petrichansky, zhnyvasksy) and domestic ritual songs (the ones for marriage and burial rites, and christening) are rated as the oldest examples of the traditional folklore.
The calendar-ceremonial tradition is divided into four cycles commensurable with the seasons.
The most fully represented and applied at present is the winter cycle of the Ukrainian tradition. Primarily, it is the songs dated for Christmas: koliadky (carols) and scenarios for the Christmas Day activities. The winter cycle also include the so-called schedrivky that are structurally similar to koliadky and meant for singing on Christmas Eve. These are especially rich with wishes of happiness, good health and prosperity to the host of the house of attendance.
The so-called vesnianky or hayivky, numerous texts for games played on Easter while leaving the church represent the spring folk tradition. The motifs of nature awakening together with that of sensuality of human body dominate here. These songs accompanied by round dance, a choreographic element, are part of the spring cycle from antiquity, as well as rusalski (water-maid) songs representing the most ancient layer.
Since times immemorial the Kupala celebrations and games fell with Ukrainians to the days of the summer solstice. These holidays were linked with dancing and singing and were of orgiastic character. It originated at the times the cult of the Sun and worshiping of pagan gods Yarylo and Dazhdboha reigned among the grain-grower tribes living on the territory of Ukraine. Later on, already in Christian time these rituals laid over the celebrations of the major religious holidays: the John the Baptist Day and Peter and Paul Day with the petrichanski songs sung during the petrivka, the fasting preceding the later holiday. The major themes of these songs were romance, wedding, and married life.
Obzhynkovi (or reaping) songs are the constituent of the rituals connected with crop harvesting actually crowning the calendar cycle. Although a period of very intensive labor, they marked the end of the tillage year with dominant themes of the obzhynkovi songs being glorification and praise for the masters (the host and hostess) of the house.
Within the complex of ceremonial songs, the domestic ritual songs that attend the rites of passage in a person’s life occupy a highly important place. These are baptizing and wedding songs, as well as the so-called ‘folk hollering’ – a unique phenomenon in the spiritual culture of the Ukrainian people.
A significant feature of the Ukrainian musical and poetic folk art is the immensity and beauty of the epic genres: the historic songs, dumy, ballads, and chronicle songs.
Dumy, the most unfolded vocal and instrumental compositions requiring long training, outstanding talent, and perfect knowledge of traditions, are the most significant piece of the Ukrainian verbal epos. The preceding bylyny, folk epic songs and sagas of heroes, had transformed completely and have preserved only in the European part of Russia. Experts believe dumy have their roots in even older form of lamentations and are telling about the Cossack life, wars waged against invaders, expeditions to the other lands and everyday life of the families that stayed in Ukraine. In the 17th to 19th centuries the so-called kobza-player’s brotherhoods or guilds existed that united the performers of dumy and songs on historical events. The organizations had the charter and regulations of their own, as well as strict subordination and fixed stock of songs or other pieces that a player or company was prepared to perform and the occupation was respectable ssince 17th century.
The newest of the vocal folklore is lyrical songs and their kinds with their coming-to-be taking place in the 16th to 19th centuries. All of them are grouped into two large categories, that is, social and household. The former includes Cossack, recruit, chumak (peasant engaged with transporting and selling salt), hireling and emigrant songs, while the latter are virtually all the songs about family life as well as those that concern private life (songs about love and woman’s hard lot; orphanage, funny chants, lullabies and songs of kids, youth and adults).
Quite curious examples of household vocal lore are also the dance songs (to accompany dancing) and Ukrainian kolomyiky subdivided into groups ‘for chanting’ and ‘for dancing’. Actually, this kolomyika form expanded actively to different genres of folklore, having stricken roots also in professional Ukrainian poetry.
The system of genres of the traditional Ukrainian folklore also comprises dramatic forms (folk theater, vertep (puppet shows)), prose (fables, fairy tales, short stories, anecdotes, narrations, and legends), and gnomic varieties (proverbs, sayings, riddles, wishes, etc.).
Since 17th century, on a Christmas Day performing literate commoners, clerics, pupils, students and church choristers moved a puppet show called vertep from house to house. The performance consisted of two parts: the Christmas events enacted with stable religious and festive plot, and automatically entailing satirical interlude of everyday life; worldly and popular, its story line changed in accord to local situation, historical span and capabilities of the performers themselves.
Ukrainian fairy tale is rooted deeply in the past which evidence is numerous features of mythicized outlook and animistic conception about the world around. The subjects of the Ukrainian fairy tales are extremely diverse. They tell about animals and nature, concern the everyday life, and are humorous, magic and adventurous, with features of archaic consciousness reflected by the fantasies. Despite diversity of story lines all the actions are about marvelous events, ordeals and exploits on the road of gaining a bride. Stories about animals seem somewhat simpler that fairy tales: they are shorter and have satirical or moralistic sounding. The majority of plot lines hark back to the times primordial, to totemistic myths that linked kinship of one or another human community to a common animal totem protecting the clan and embodying the soul of the late ancestor. In contrast to the fairy tales, stories of everyday life emphasized ordinariness of the characters and events. In stories like that, as in all the fairy tales in general, the good always wins, and in contrast to the facts of life a fabulous hero, a poor peasant or hireling, takes the upper hand over his social rival (the rich). At somewhat later phases of development the tales of everyday life took on features of social satire with the spear of it directed at such human vices as stinginess, volubility of women, sloth, adultery, etc.
The latest form of folklore is the student lore and that of informal social groups, as well as aphoristic genres, that is, popular anecdotes, toasts, salutations, and so on. Archaic and ‘classic’ varieties of vocal tradition take a new life in modern arrangements. In the 90s, Victor Morozov, bard, arranged and released an album of the batiarski (vagabond) songs of Lviv; Marichka Burmaka performed the most popular koliadky during the same period, while a decent selection of songs of the insurgents belongs to Taras Chubai and the rock-group Skriabin offered their album of streltsi (infantryman) and insurgent songs. Ukrainian folklore motifs are also addressed such rock-groups as Haidamaky, Mandry, and Perkalaba, etc. The popular rock-group VV and its leader Oleh Skrypka offer their versions of classical folk songs. Pop singer Ruslana produced the Wild Dances album based on Hutsul songs in 2003: the title song of the album brought her the first prize at the 2004 Eurovision song contest. Actors, artists and singers of today are also extensively using folklore motifs and forms not only in the sphere of music but in literature, fine arts and design.
Folk Music InstrumentsHusla
Husla is one of the oldest string instruments played by the Eastern Slavs. It already existed in the Kyivan Rus as evidenced by the author of Slovo o Polku Ihorevim and its image found in frescos at the St. Sophia Cathedral.
The oldest husla looked like a small plank with strings stretched across it. This resonant instrument used by skomorokhs, traditional storytellers and epic poets was carved out of a maple, willow or birch-tree board piece. To play, the husla was placed in the lap with right hand plucking strings while simultaneously using left hand to muffle cords not needed. With the number of strings reaching fourteen, this musical instrument was employed to provide musical backing for vocals and dancing, as well as accompany one’s own singing.
Kobza, one of the oldest Ukrainian musical instruments, is similar to lute, guitar and other string instrument played by plucking. The instrument’s body made of willow, pear, walnut or other tree wood is oval in form. While playing, kobza is held slightly slantwise with strings pressed on its neck.
From the Cossack age and up to the 19th century, blind vagrant musicians used kobza, as well as the bandura and the lyre, to perform dumy, heroic Ukrainian epic songs. By reflecting the historical realities of the 15th to 17th centuries, that is, the suffering of the Ukrainians enslaved in the Tartar and Turkish captivity and Ukrainian Cossacks’ triumphs the dumy epitomized the idea of national independence throughout the centuries in addition to demonstrating popular interpretation of history.
Bandura is a nip type instrument kindred to the ancient husla but with performing properties similar to piano: one may play using all ten fingers of hands and play chords. The instrument is held vertically, pressed to the breast with the strings accessible for playing for both hands. This manner of playing is called Kharkiv style in contrast to Chernihiv style habitual today, in which bandura is turned left with the left hand producing only the lowest pitches while the right hand tickling the shorter strings. The latter style of was not characteristic of kobzars during ancient times; it belongs to a lower date and was originated by the sighted amateur bandura players. This style is also linked to the introducing chromatics to bandura (constructural experiments in this field started as far as the edge of 19th and 20th centuries) thus making impossible playing shorter strings with left hand and transformed bandura from a domestic instrument into an exclusively concert one.
Lyre or Relia
Lyre (or relia) is known in Ukraine since 17th century, is often a companion of kobza/bandura. The lyre in Ukraine was specialized by blind vagrant singers, so-called lyrists, whose brotherhood guilds in contrast to kobzars covered almost the whole territory of ethnic Ukraine. At the same time, tone color of lyre and limited playing techniques stipulated predominantly sorrowful ecclesiastically didactic repertoire of the lyrists.
The present-day experts and musicians of Ukraine and Belarus turned their interest again to this ancient folk instrument with an aim of reviving and improving it, and introducing it to folk ensembles or orchestras.
Numerous literature sources inform us about the existence of wooden cone shaped trumpet called surma (or Cossack bugle) in the martial music of Ukrainian Cossacks. Unfortunately, a sample of the instrument did not survive, leaving us only the fact that it had been an instrument for military signals.
In ancient times, the trembita had been a signal instrument. It was made of a core of special sort of fir tree called smereka which forests cover the entire Carpathian Mountains. A piece of wood chopped in half, after being carved out inside, is glued together and wrapped tightly with birch bark of a birch tree. The instrument is capable of reproducing only natural sounds.
The length of trembita may reach four meters. The complete range of the instrument is two and a half octaves, and the sound could be heard at the distance as far as ten kilometers, hence the use of it to inform mountain dwellers about important events. This instrument, which is traditional for the population of Ukrainian Carpathians, is still in use today.
A Combination of a whistle with a piece of tubular plant makes a musical instrument called whistle flute to which variety belongs sopilka in Ukraine.
Skillful players are able to reproduce the entire chromatic scale and thus to play in all the keys. However, this requires extraordinary mastery.
Tsymbaly (or cymbals) have rich musical range of sounds and are employed both for solo performance and in ensemble. In appearance, the instrument looks like husla, but in contrast to husla player, who makes sounds by plucking strings, cymbalist plays by striking strings with special wooden sticks. Besides, strings are grouped 3 to 5, sometimes even 7, in number tuned to the same note. To play, the instrument is placed on a table or one’s knees, or held in front on a strap allowing playing standing or walking during wedding parties and other traditional ceremonies. In professional folk music concerts, the tsymbaly mounted on legs are used. Their musical range is large; they also possess varied expressive means. Virtuoso cymbalists often add plucking strings to stick striking them

Traditional DressThe array of the Ukrainian traditional clothing is characterized by wide regional and ethnic diversity. Even adjacent villages displayed dissimilarity let alone Hutsul, Lemkiv or Rusyn styles; secondly, the multiformity is the effect of neighborhood other ethnoses and ethnic groups. Thus, the border territories of Polissia, Volyn, Lemkivschyna, Boikivschyna, Hutsulschyna, and Bukovyna manifest variations of the traditional dress formed under the Polish and Romanian influence as well as that of Southern Slavs, Hungarians, peoples of the Caucasus, especially of Circassians.
The conception of traditional dress is related to the region of Central Ukraine just as the present-day standard Ukrainian language that also has formed in the region.
To arrive to its present appearance the Ukrainian traditional dress has passed a long way with some of the elements remaining intact since the times of ancient Slavs. For instance, in this manner was inherited the most widespread garment – a long shirt decorated with embroidered magic ornament with a waistband. Incidentally, embroidery is the major adornment of the traditional costume used primarily to decorate underclothing, that is, male and female shirts, as well as supplementary items such as waistbands. Embroidery always enclosed certain information, It allowed to read where the shirt came from (since each of the regions had its favorite combination of colors), gender (for instance, the sleeves of a female shirt were wide narrowing into a densely embroidered cuff at the wrist in contrast to a male chemise with sleeves often made straight), approximate age of an owner and function of the garment: it could be intended for everyday wear, festive or marriage purpose, etc.
Over their blouse females of the central part of Ukraine wore zapaska, a piece of fabric wrapped around torso, on weekdays, leaving plakhta, a type of shirt made of two widths of woolen cloth, for holidays to be sashed by kraika, a belt of multicolored coarse woolen thread fringed. Since both plakhta and kraika did not meet in front, an apron embroidered to match in color was worn. Besides the colored kraika belts narrow linen towels decorated with red bands were also used being the obligatory item of attire for a bride during wedding. Corset waist or knee long made of fine woolen fabric, velvet or silk was worn over the shirt. Boots of morocco preferably of red color were the favorite woman’s festive footwear. Girls chose to wear shoes of brocade while lapti (bast shoes) and postoly (footwear of one-piece leather) were seen as sign of indigence treated with respected nowhere in Ukraine except northern regions of Polissia and Carpathians, where they were widespread. Colorful bands and glass beads (necklaces) complemented the attire adding festive mood to it. Often side by side with the necklace a circlet of coins was worn on the neck.
The traditional male clothes comprise a shirt, pants or sharovary (baggy trousers), sleeveless jacket (a sort of a bodice), waistband and boots. The white male shirt with the passage of ages has changed its appearance from the one knee-long and worn outside trousers to become a short one with embroidered collar and cuffs at the end of sleeves, and tucked into pants. It had mid-chest cut with loops made of silk cord or ribbon for fastening. Sometimes a male corset resembling a vest was worn girded by a waistband. Historically, it originated from the Cossack pidzhupannyk. Concerning the pants, there were two types of them since times immemorial: the narrow trousers and sharovary. The former are sewn to a belt and buttoned, while the latter is girded with ochkur ( a belt or lace). Each of the types of pants corresponds to a certain type of a shirt: narrow trousers are worn with a long shirt outside, while the tuck-in shirt is matched with sharovary. The indispensable item of the masculine attire was also the waistband made of silk, cotton or wool, multicolored and decorated with tassels. Girded were not only sharovary, but upper garments – zhupan, svyta, and, sometimes, kozhukh too. The basic footwear for men were black boots, however among the inhabitants of mountain regions the so-called morshentsi or khodaky, leather sole with the edge tied up on the leg with a rope or bast fiber or strap, were widespread. In the woody locations lychaky were made of bast, and cherevyky (a very old kind of footwear) were widespread throughout Ukraine.
In winter, both males and females dressed into kozkukh made of curried sheepskin. Several options existed for warmer weather, that is, svyta, a dress made of thick wool material, colorfully dyed, and decorated by embroidery or applique; a lighter keptar of Huzuls; and zhupan of the central part of Ukraine originating during the Cossack period. Now and then, kuntush could be met, which is also dated back to 16th century.
To complete the general picture of the traditional national costume one should add the headwear and hairstyle. The mail haircuts were limited to u kruzhok (circled), do zakabluka, pid skobku (cut even around the head), and a la Pole. Hat, straw hat (not seen as clothing for poor), cap or kuchma (headgear made of caracultcha) were worn.
Maids walked bareheaded which marked the state of being pure. Having lost virginity, a girl had to cover the head by pokrytka meaning “coverage”. A plait was something a girl took pride in, whose traditional costume also included a wreath of flowers often furnished with ribbons.
Not necessarily a married woman cut her hair, but she always covered her head with a kerchief, namitka or ochipok (a kind of bonnet worn by married woman). The headwear being seen as the principal element of female dress, the manners and ways kerchiefs or namitka were bound are highly intricate and varied
Decorative Arts and CraftsThe Ukrainian applied art is rooted deep in the past. From chronicles and other monuments of Kyivan Rus it is known that crafts already existed then to properly become Ukrainian later. For instance, the oldest types of folk applied arts and crafts are woodcarving (e.g., wood sculpture carving), carpet making, embroidery, pottery and ceramics.
The wood sculpture cutting reached its climax during the heydays of the Cossack state in 17th and 18th centuries when talented Cossack artisans, whose names failed to reach us, created in Ukraine the unique Ukrainian style, the so-called Cossack Baroque. Throughout the entire territory of the Cossack state comparatively small churches were erected distinguished by precision of lines and artistic perfection. Quite a few of them have preserved intact until now. Evidently, it was from the Cossack Baroque style that the skillful and masterly woodcutting spread to folk architecture of the Central, Northern and Southeastern Ukraine. Such elements as odvirok (doorframe), svoloka (ceiling supporting frame) and cornices of wooden structures were decorated by carving and, henceforth, the household goods and things, furniture, chest boxes, plates and dishes, tools, arms and munitions.
A special page in the life of Ukrainian arts and crafts is the woodcarving of the church iconostases and other religious objects. Here, polychromatic or gilded engraving predominates which is based on exigent floriated ornament comprising such skillfully conventionalized folk motifs as a stem of grapevine, sunflower, mallow, roses, etc. Compositions with groups of figures of saints, angels and so on arranged within the Baroque and Rococo ornamental forms and motifs are peculiar to the architectural forms of multi-tier iconostases.
As of today, popular are the objects of home craft of the western regions, especially the Hutsul ornamental hatchets, pistols, guns, powder-flasks, small vessels for liquids, and wooden, predominantly decorative plates and dishes (ware). To embellish their makes the Huzul artisans are using techniques of incrustation and patsiorkuvannia (encrusting with glass beads).
Woodcarving has succeeded to preserve regional diversity of ornaments characteristic to other genres of the Ukrainian decorative arts. Thus, in Halych and Volyn regions geometric forms of ornament dominate being in contrast to floriated ornaments in the central and eastern Ukrainian lands.
Making carpets is another olden Ukrainian trade. Functionally, there are three in use for carpeting: kover, kylym and, kots. The difference between them could lie in the techniques, ornamentation, size, and purpose. At present, they are distinguished only by territorial principle: kover and kylym originate from the central and northern Ukrainian industrial centers, while kots are handmade in the western, mainly Hutsul region. Moreover, variegated, often vegetative ornament prevail in the former, while the latter, that is, Hutsul kots is grey or white or the color of undyed wool, and if the ornament is present, it is geometric.
The most varied and, surely, the oldest in Ukraine is the pottery trade. In general, terracotta, grey, enameled, and black ceramics are singled out differing not only by territorial traditions of coloring and decor, but also in clay deposits. Historically, the centers of pottery emerged in accord to the natural location of deposits of the clay required with the names arising from the nearby settlements and perceived as brand names. As such, for instance, are known pottery of Horodysche and Plakhtian, as well as ‘black-smoke’ pottery from Havarechyna in Lviv oblast.
Fired without access for air under special technology, the ‘black-smoke’ pottery, , has emerged as alternative to the traditional antique ceramics, centering on the territory of Ukraine and present–day countries of Europe, and competed in Ukraine of 18th to 19th centuries with glazed ceramics.
The black earthenware is made of special clay on potter’s wheel. After drying, ornaments are burnished or ‘drawn’ on the articles using slip originating from the same deposit. Firing results in burnished surface having silvery tint, with the rest of it colored black.
As a rule, traditional earthenware is ornamented and decorated by enameling or fliandruvahhia, a specific system of ornamenting, with characteristic for Ukrainian pottery combination of green and brown glosts. Painted dishes, plates, tykva (pitcher), kumanets, blyzniata (jugs for holding wine), and dzbanky (bowls), and imaginative figures of goats, rams, and stags with flowerpots on their back bear vegetative or plotline ornamentation.
Peculiar for the Ukrainian folk pottery is making tiles for stoves and, from time to time, insertions for buildings in the form of relief and adorned with designs circle and rectangular ornamented slabs that create decorative friezes on the walls, etc. Tiles could be relief with green or brown glaze, or drawn; one may encounter tiles with blue enamel or even of two or tree colors on a white background. In old buildings, it is common to see tiled stoves as pieces of art intact but still in working order. They have practical use and serve as a style detail of the room.
Decorative painting as a vivid chapter went down in history of the Ukrainian culture. This type of folk art originated from mural painting spread widely since time immemorial in the Ukrainian villages. One of the centers that for ages were famous in Ukraine with the original art of painting is the village of Petrykivka in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast.
This original Petrykivka ornament evolved as far as 17th century from the distinctive decorative art of Zaporizhia with the fundamentals of the village interior and exterior decorative setting, household and domestic tools design passed from generation to generation, and local features of painting preserved. Here, until the end of the 19th century for the mural painting chalk, soot and color clays as well as self-made plant paints dissolved in yolk, milk and natural cherry-tree resin were utilized. The pattern was indented with a brush while petty details were shaped using homemade cat’s fur hair-pencils and guelder-rose clusters with fingertips. The characteristic feature of the Petrykivka folk artists’ creations was the use of vegetative and floral ornamentation distinguished by ease and expressiveness of the composition. Starting with the 20th century Petrykivka became the center of making maliovka, drawings executed with inexpensive aniline dyes on thin paper.
Another unique phenomenon in the decorative art of Ukraine is painting of pysanka, the decorated Easter eggs. The Ukrainian pysanka springs from ancient beliefs of this people, and if at the time of paganism the eggs were painted to mark the Holiday of Spring, they were decorated to commemorate the Velykden, the Holiday of Christ’s Resurrection, under the Christianity. With the Slavs, an egg was the origin of everything typifying the Universe. They believed in the world created in similarity to a large egg: the shell representing the skies, membrane as the clouds, the white as water, and the yolk as the earth. As the symbol of origin of a new life, an egg has a ring of symbolism of the Sun. Worshipped by ancestors of the Ukrainians, they believed it to be the surety of nature and life revival.
Depending on the region, differences exist concerning decor composition, color spectrum and division of a pysanka surface. Numerous crosses and intersections symbolize fertility, while rings and right lines were associated with male and female conceptions and medley of color reflected the surrounding.
Quite a few nations of the world have preserved until now the custom of using eggs for Easter commemorations, however, they are making predominantly dyed eggs, that is, single colored boiled ones. In contrast, pysanka painting in Ukraine scaled the heights of development becoming a separate form of art, and pysanka itself one of the cultural symbols of the country.

Ukraine CookerySince times immemorial, Ukraine had been glorious with its lavish cuisine with its borsch and pampushky (buns), varenyky (small casings of pastry with various fillings) and sausages, pot roasts and drinks made of fruits and honey known in far away places. Certain foods, for instance, borsch, have age-old histories and the majority of dishes characterized by complex choice of ingredients and variety of heat application in preparing food such as boiling, frying, braising and baking. The technologic cycle of this kind makes for aroma, richness and unique gustatory properties of the Ukrainian cookery.
Of the meat products consumed, pork stands first in the list followed by beef and poultry. Meat is prepared in many ways but roasted and stewed preferred. Popular are such dishes as roast meat home style; Ukrainian mince meat balls; garlic and fat larded boiled pork cold; kruchenyky (vegetable, mushroom or cereal stuff wrapped in a layer of meat); zavyvantsi (meat rolls); stuffed domestic fowl, etc. The meat food prepared in portion pots (casserole) is especially tasty.
Meat is often a source to prepare the first course of a meal with borsch rightly placed at the head. There are up to thirty variants of its formulation (for instance, borsch of Poltava, Volyn, Chernihiv, Galyts, Lviv, rural or Dnipro style, etc.). Fish occupy a prominent place in Ukrainian sustenance, which favorite dishes are the following: sour cream baked crucian; pike stewed with horseradish; carp baked in cream with onions; zander broiled with mushrooms and crawfish; fish kruchenyky; carp stuffed with mushrooms and boiled buckwheat; and others.
Pastries are invariably part of the Ukrainian menu; these are varenyky (stuffed pasta); halushky (pieces of boiled dough); mlyny (pancakes), battercakes, blintz, babka (baked pudding), etc.
Various kashas (groats) are popular, including millet gruel, boiled buckwheat, squash, as well as porridge made of buckwheat flour consumed with milk, sour cream, or sunflower oil and fried onions, hominy, etc.
Among beverages peculiar for the Ukrainian cuisine milk drinks, especially baked milk and riazhanka (fermented baked milk) are popular. Uzvar, a drink made by boiling various fruits, is also one of the most liked and appreciated.
Represented well in the Ukrainian cookery are sweet desserts, which preparation requires the use of fruits, honey, poppy-seeds, nuts, and so on.
The inevitable part of festive meal is alcoholic beverages – horilka (vodka), brandy, wine, fortified liqueurs that Ukrainians know numerous formulas for ages. From the wide variety of Ukrainian horilka the kind of the one prepared of honey plus pepper stands apart, since it combines rival tastes of pepper pungency, sweetness of honey and aroma of native-grasses embodying diversity and unpredictability of life itself.
Ukrainian Borsch with Pampushky
Ingredients: 500 g meat, 4 potatoes, 200 g fresh cabbage, 40 г bell pepper, 1 beet, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 40 g lard, 2 onions, 1 carrot, half-root parsnip, 1 tea-spoon wheat flour and as much sugar, 20 g pork fat, 2 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons of sour cream, spice as desirable.
Way of Cooking: Make meat broth. Chop the meat and strain the liquid. Put chopped potatoes into the boiling broth followed in a while by shredded cabbage and bell pepper, and stew for 20 minutes. Simmer beet with tomato paste, fry carrot, onion, and roots, adding them all to the broth to boil until ready. Stiffen borsch with fried flour, salt and sugar; in five minutes put in black pepper, bay leaf, and pork fat pestled with garlic and the green of parsley. Bring to boil, take off the fire and let it draw for 15 to 20 minutes. As a rule, the borsch is served with sour cream.
Ingredients for pampushky: 2.5 cup of wheat flour, ? cup of water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 12 g yeast.
Ingredients for garlic condiment: 2-tablespoon sunflower oil, 10-clove garlic, ? cup of water or kvas (fermented beverage made from rye bread crust).
Cooking pampushky: dissolve yeast in lukewarm water, add ? of the flour mix thoroughly, and let the dough to froth. Add on the rest of flour and oil, sugar and salt dissolved in little water, mix and leave for two hours for fermentation. From the dough thus prepared forms 30 g balls leaving them on an oven plate for 15 minutes, and then bake for 7 to 8 minutes. For condiment, cloves meshed with salt mix with oil and cool boiled water.
Varenyky with Curds
The dish prepared of flour and fillings is deemed on a par with borsch as the most characteristic in the Ukrainian cookery. The name originates from the Ukrainian verb to boil. The single piece of the dish looks like a small envelope that wraps different kind of fillings, that is, potato, cabbage, mushrooms, kidney beans, salted or sweetened cheese, sweet fruits or berries. The dish prepared is served with either sour cream or oil-fried onion. Varenyky with curds are the most popular dish that Ukrainian folklore frequently mentiones.
Ingredients for the dough: three cups of wheat flour, ? cup of milk or water, 1 egg, ?-teaspoon salt. For the filling: 800 g cottage cheese (curds). ? cup sugar, 2 eggs, and salt.
Cooking: a portion of flour is scalded with boiling water or milk (approx. 1/3 of all the liquid) and, after it mixing thoroughly, add the remaining tepid liquid with salt and egg (better egg yolk), the rest of flour, and make dough leaving it to raise for 40 minutes. Mix the grained cheese with salt sugar and eggs. Cheese is placed on the dough rolled out in small round disks; the edges tweaked together, the varenyky are immersed into the boiling, slightly salted water one by one to boil for 5to 7 minutes. When ready, varenyky are buttered for sour cream to be served separately.
Holubtsi, Meat-Stuffed Cabbage Ukrainian-style
Stuffed cabbage holubtsi is Ukrainian prevailing second course dish that combines meat, rice and vegetables. The name is of old and originates from the word holub meaning dove.
Ingredients: with 1 kg beef – 1.2 kg fresh cabbage, 4 tablespoons rice, 2 onions, 3 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper to the liking. For the sauce: ? cup sour cream, 2.5 cups meat broth, and 1-tablespoon wheat flour and butter each.
Cooking: a head cabbage of average size, the upper leaves peeled off, washed and stem cut out, is immersed into boiling water to cook from 15 to 20 minutes until half-done. After the cabbage is taken out, cooled and stripped to separate leaves, the thick stems are either cut out or chopped off with a vegetable chopper. The meat is grinded in mincing machine, added semi-boiled rice, fried onion, pepper and salt, mixed thoroughly, and then placed on the cabbage leaves prepared. Each leaf is stuffed with the filling mixture, the sides of the leaf turned in to cover the filling and a little rectangular bundle is formed. Holubtsi are placed into a stew- or saucepan, filled up with sour cream sauce and cooked in an oven until done.
Preparing the sauce: the flour is fried on butter before changing color; add sour cream, dissolved with hot beef tea and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. After that, salt the sauce, strain, bring to boil and flavour by adding butter.
Kutia, whole-wheat grains kasha seasoned with crushed poppy seeds or jam
Christmas kutia is believed to be the most distinctive festive food of the Ukrainian cuisine. It is consumed thrice a year, that is, on the Christmas Eve (the Holy Night), Schedry Vechir (the night on the New Year’s Day eve) and Vodokhresch (the Baptizing), with grains at the heart of it.
Ingredients: 500 g wheat grain, 1 cup of poppy seeds, ? cup of sugar or 2 tablespoons honey
Cooking: Sort out the wheat grains, wash and pour out into boiling water. When simmering, drain off in colander, wash with cold water, put into a saucepan, pour water, bring to boil, and cook on slow fire under the lid ready. Put the wheat thus prepared in a cool place. Meanwhile, wash 1 cup of poppy seeds, scald with boiling water, pour the water out, wash in cold water, and again scald after draining cold water out. After another washing with cold water, crush in a stone cup until the seeds are pulverized turning white and add ? cup of sugar or two tablespoons of honey, mix with the wheat pouring in a little of cool boiled water. In place of poppy seeds one may add a cup of berries or fruits from jam without liquid part but somewhat dissolved with sweetened boiled water.
Uzvar, compote of dried fruits and berries
Ingredients: 125 g dried fruits, 75 g sugar, 50 g honey, producing 1 liter of the drink.
Cooking: have the dried fruits – apples, cherries, plums and raisins, ready by sorting and cutting, if needed, wash out thrice with tepid water and boil under the lid until ready. After adding sugar and honey bring to boil and cool.