Voice Over Sydney: Ukrainian Language

Voice Over Sydney: Ukrainian belongs to the East Slavic group of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. Its closest relatives are Belarusian and Russian. According to Ethnologue, there are 31 million speakers of Ukrainian in Ukraine with another 8 or more million in Russia and in the former republics of the Soviet Union, as well as in Eastern Europe, U.S., Canada, and Latin America. The total number of speakers of Ukrainian is estimated to be at around 40 million people.

Voice Over Sydney: Old East Slavic

Prior to the 14th century, ancestors of the modern Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians spoke varieties of Old East Slavic — a language that was common to all three. Linguists think that it split into what are now Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian at the end of the 14th century.
Before the 18th century, the precursor of the modern literary Ukrainian language was a spoken language that existing side-by-side with a literary language based on Church Slavonic, a language that was quite different from the spoken one. The Ukraine Mapend of the18th century saw the publication of the first literary works written in a language based on spoken Ukrainian.

Voice Over Sydney: Old East Slavic

After the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century by Prussia, Habsburg Austria, and Russia, Western Ukraine (Galicia) was taken over by Austria, while the rest of Ukraine was gradually incorporated into the Russian Empire. The Tsarist government of Russia did not encourage the development of Ukrainian as a separate language. Ukraine was referred to as Little Russia, and the language was called Little Russian. Publications in Ukrainian were forbidden. Widespread use of Ukrainian as a written language and in education dates only from after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in 1922.

Voice Over Sydney: Ukrainian Prominence

Approximately 83% of its 47.5 million inhabitants speak Ukrainian as their first language. During the seventy years of Soviet rule, the Ukrainian was the primary spoken language in the USSR. However, it always had to compete with Russian, and the attitudes of the Soviet leadership towards its use ranged from a grudging tolerance to suppression. But today, Ukrainian is the official language of the Republic of Ukraine. Approximately 83% of its 47.5 million inhabitants speak Ukrainian as their first language. In northern and central Ukraine, Russian is the language of the urban population, while in rural areas Ukrainian is much more common. In the south and the east of Ukraine, Russian is prevalent even in rural areas, and in Crimea, Ukrainian is almost absent. In Kiev, both Russian and Ukrainian are spoken today, a shift from the recent past when the city was primarily Russian-speaking.

Since 1991, Ukraine has been working on elevating the status of Ukrainian. The educational system has been transformed from partly to predominantly Ukrainian. There are, however, still many obstacles to limiting the use of Russian in government administration and commerce.