History of the Ukrainian Language

The Ukrainian language belongs to the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the lingua franca of Ukraine and is written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

The language was known as Ruthenium during the ancient times. The language has built a good reputation for itself among the people of Ukraine and as a result survived despite being banned and discouraged for several periods.

The year 1798 recorded the languageā€™s first literary work when Ivan Kotlyarevsky published Eneyida, his epic poem in Ukrainian.

Until the 18th century, the written and the oral Ukrainian were quite dissimilar from each other and thus there is no proper data on the origin of the language. The written language is quite similar to Russian and Belarusian but has some prominent differences, whereas the spoken Ukrainian shows similarities to the Polish language. It is believed that in earlier times, Belarusian and Ukrainian separated from the old Ruthenium language.

Although the Ukrainian language held the highest position of being the principal local language in Ukrainian SSR during the Soviet era that lasted for seven decades, in practice, the scene was different. Ukrainian invariably had to compete with Russian, while the Soviet leadership always looked down upon the language.

Although formally, all the three languages; Ukrainian, Russian and Uzbek were considered equal, Russian enjoyed a privileged position as it was spoken by most of the Soviet Union community. Ukrainian, on the other hand, was frowned upon and considered inferior to the Russian language. This led to its suppression, the effects of which are still felt today.

After a long period of discrimination and neglect, the Ukrainian language is finally being revived. Despite having about 50 million speakers worldwide and 40 million in Ukraine, it is most commonly spoken only in western Ukrainian. In Kyiv, central and eastern Ukraine, Russian is more prevalent; however, one can see a gradual shift towards Ukrainian and a Russified Ukrainian is spoken by some in the eastern region.

The use of Ukrainian is expected to see a rise because of the migration of the rural populace to the cities. However, there is only a partial use of the Ukrainian vocabulary.

The Ukrainian language has experienced a rebirth and revival after its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and has been acknowledged as the official language of the Ukrainian Republic after being given statehood on August 24.

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