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    Italy: Rome' historic buildings. Go Now!

    Italy
    Crumbling buildings in Rome (pictured) only add to the atmosphere in a country where old is redefined and western civilization begins. Explore Italy!

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    Ireland
    The Emerald Isle is world famous for its landscapes, foods, beers, and culture. Explore Ireland!

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    With a unique language, foods, architecture, and identity, Armenia is a fascinating country and culture unlike no other in the world. Begin Your Journey!

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    Although linked to Scandinavia, as an island Iceland has a culture all its own, but most visitors come for the natural beauty. Explore Iceland!

Culture & Identity of Ukraine

WARNING: Ukraine is politically unstable, please read this travel warning before going!

Introduction

Ukrainian Culture - Getting to Odesa
Getting to Odesa

The daily way of life in Ukraine varies significantly, from urban to rural areas, from ethnic Russians to ethnic Ukrainians, and most importantly from generation to generation. Growing up under Soviet rule, much of the country's older population prefers a quiet life with great stability, but today's youth seem to live more social and liberal lives as they push for even more changes.

Primarily due to Soviet rule, the people of Ukraine were heavily urbanized. Although the culture of Ukraine remains tied to village life, today nearly 70% of the people live in urban settings. Also due to Soviet rule, industry became a more prominent occupation, heavily based on the coal, metal, and power industries, even today about a quarter of the people work in industries with only about 5% working in agriculture. Today most of the people work in the services industries.

For most people, no matter their occupation, the day begins with a simple breakfast followed by work, which usually begins at about 9:00 am. Public transportation is the most common way for people to get to and from work as the infrastructure in the country is quite impressive (but slow). The work day for many goes until about 5:00 or 6:00 pm, when people hang out with friends or return home to eat and spend time with family. Despite the regular hours and long working shifts, the pay in Ukraine is not great as the GDP per capita is only $7,500 US although wages vary substantially from industry to industry.

For Ukraine's children school is important and the hours are similar to that of most work schedules, but shortened a bit as most schools end at about 2:00 or 3:00 pm. Homework is often given in heavy doses and attending school begins as early three years old and can go until about the age of 21 for university students. Schools have a break during the summer in July and August.

Evening and weekends (Saturday-Sunday) are often spent with friends or family depending on the individual. Many young singles with at least a little disposable income enjoy going out for drinks or hitting the town's best dance club, but in villages this social life is more limited. For families the dynamic can be very different from family to family, but when school's in session homework takes up a lot of time.

Today the youth is leading a charge to change the culture and way of life in Ukraine and these changes are slowly taking hold. There seems to be a great desire for social changes and an open and more transparent economy and political system, which will hopefully lead to higher wages and more discretionary income, which will vastly change the entertainment options and culture.

Identity

Ukrainians identify in multiple ways: in the western part of the country many villagers see themselves as a member of their village or of their ethnic origins (Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian), even altering their clocks to be on Budapest or Bratislava time. In the cities, many young ethnic Ukrainians are more and more strongly identifying as "Ukrainian" and are attempting to define this term in a political sense beyond just citizenship, ethnicity, and culture as they seek the freedom and capitalism of the west. However, many of the older Ukrainians, including those who identify as being Ukrainian, fear rapid change and are content with the present state, defining the Ukrainian identity in ethnic terms, not in political terms (in fact Ukraine wasn't an independent country until the 1990s). In this sense, the Ukrainian identity is based on ethnicity and language above all else, with politics and culture having only a secondary role in the definition.

In the east, many ethnic Russians tend to move towards Russia politically and in the south the Tatars in the Crimean Peninsula seek "justification" for past wrongs (done to them under the Soviet Union). Each of these groups defines itself with a differing identity, and how each defines that identity varies slightly, but generally these minority groups all identity first with their ethnicity and language.

This page was last updated: May, 2014