Ukrainian people are heavily influenced by Christianity, which is the dominant religion in the country. Gender roles also tend to be more traditional, and grandparents play a greater role in raising children than in the West. The culture of Ukraine has been also influenced by its eastern and western neighbors, which is reflected in its architecture, music and art.
The history of Ukrainian literature dates back to the 11th century, following the Christianization of the Kievan Rus’. The writings of the time were mainly liturgical and were written in Old Church Slavonic. Ukrainian literature develops in the 14th century, and was advanced significantly in the 16th century with the introduction of print and with the beginning of the Cossack era. The Cossacks established an independent society and popularized a new kind of epic poems, which marked a high point of Ukrainian oral literature. These advances were then set back in the 17th and early 18th centuries, when publishing in the Ukrainian language was outlawed and prohibited. Nonetheless, by the late 18th century modern literary Ukrainian finally emerged.
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, Okean Elzy and Ruslana. 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 its various forms, that 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, Viy, and Okean Elzy.
Sports such as football and arm wrestling have been popular in Ukraine since the 19th century, when strongman Ukrainian wrestler Ivan Piddubny was a real legend throughout Europe. Legends of the 20th century include such names as pole vault champion Sergey Bubka (35 world records), and footballers like Oleg Blohin, twice European Footballer of the Year. Ukrainian gymnasts like Larisa Latynina and Iryna Deryugina both took a haul of Olympic medals in their time. Latynia won 9 gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze medals! Altogether Ukrainian sportsmen have won over 400 Olympic medals so far.
Today Ukraine gives the international sports scene such names as boxers Vitaly and Vladimir Klichko, track and field athlete Zhanna Pintusevich, tennis player Andriy Medvedev, swimmer Yana Klochkova, gymnast Anna Bezsonova, and footballer Andriy Shevchenko, who is considered something of a national hero in Ukraine.
The traditional Ukrainian diet includes chicken, pork, beef, fish and mushrooms. Ukrainians also tend to eat a lot of potatoes, grains, fresh and pickled vegetables. Popular traditional dishes include varenyky (boiled dumpling with mushrooms, potatoes, sauerkraut, cottage cheese or cherries), borscht (soup made of beets, cabbage and mushrooms or meat) and holubtsy (stuffed cabbage rolls filled with rice, carrots and meat). Ukrainian specialties also include Chicken Kiev and Kiev Cake. Ukrainians drink stewed fruit, juices, milk, buttermilk (they make cottage cheese from this), mineral water, tea and coffee, beer, wine and horilka.