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    The smallest country in the world offers the heart of Catholicism and among the world's finest art collections, including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms (ceiling pictured). Go to Vatican City!

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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Ukraine

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

Ethnicity

The people of Ukraine are primarily ethnically Ukrainian, but there's a significant Russian minority consisting of nearly a quarter of the population. The Ukrainians are Slavs, very similar ethnically to the Russians and Belarusians. There are also ethnic people from nearly all neighboring countries (including Belarus, Poland, Romania, Moldova, etc.) and there is a return of many Tatars, who historically lived in the Crimean Peninsula, but were deported during Soviet times (primarily to Central Asia) and only recently began returning.

Language

Ukrainian is the only official national language in Ukraine, but this was not the case under Soviet rule, which demanded the people speak Russian in order to secure good jobs and connections. For this reason, nearly everyone today still speaks Russian, while many of the ethnic Russians don't learn Ukrainian, making Russian the de facto language of communication. This is slowly changing as much of the young generation is learning western European languages over Russian, in particular English. In the western part of Ukraine many young people today don't speak Russian, while in some areas (Odesa, Crimea) Russian is still the dominant language. Ukrainian is an eastern Slavic language, most closely related to Russian and Belarusian.

Religion

There is no official religion in Ukraine, but the most common religion is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which includes both Ukrainian and Russian Orthodoxy. There are also many atheists, which was the religion of choice in the Soviet Union, along with a few very small religious minorities, most notably Muslims.

Orthodoxy is a Christian religion that claims to be the most loyal to the Christian faith and religion as it was described by Jesus and the Gospels in the New Testament. Christianity, including Orthodoxy, was founded after the death of Jesus in about 30-33 AD; various branches of Orthodoxy were officially recognized by governments long before Catholicism was recognized in the Roman Empire.

Orthodoxy and Catholicism have many of the same beliefs; both believe that there is a single God who created everything and a savior, the son of God, Jesus Christ who is the forgiver of sins. However, Orthodoxy is decentralized so each bishop oversees their local country or region, giving each orthodox country a different leader. In this way, no bishop has more power than any other, meaning the tenants and interpretations of the faith remain relatively unchanged. These beliefs are based on the teachings of the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, in particular the life and teachings of Jesus, which is found in the gospels (in the New Testament).

This page was last updated: May, 2014