Ukrainian is the state language of Ukraine, the national language of Ukrainians. It belongs to the Slavic languages (the Eastern-Slavic group), being a part of the Indo-European language family, and is currently emerging from a long period of decline. The total number of the Ukrainian speaking population is estimated to around 39 million people. Ukrainian language is also spoken in Russia, Poland, Canada, Slovakia, Byelorussia, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Transdniestria (Moldova).
Language fighting for survival
Historically, Ukrainian originates from Old Russian language. Until the 20th century, the language was even called "Little Russian", or Rusyn language in Poland and Slovakia.*
The vocabulary of the language is based on words with common Slavic origin, but it also contains a great number of words formed during the period of its own historical development. Ukrainian includes a number of borrowed words that originally come from German, Polish and other languages. This was mainly due to political reasons, as Ukraine has undergone various levels of influence from Poland, Lithuania, Austro-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany and, of course, Russia.
The official approach to the use of Ukrainian in modern Ukraine has gone from complete neglect and even suppression and bans to popularization (mainly in the 19th and at the beginning of 20th century), and there has even been "ukrainization" (e.g. after the communist putsch in Russia, and now today once again) – seemingly as a result of current needs, trends, and development.
Face of the nation
The complicated face and nature of the Ukrainian lands and nation are very strongly reflected in the complicated face and nature of Ukrainian language while the language itself has become one of the strongest symbols of Ukrainian statehood.
Since 1991, independent Ukraine has made Ukrainian the only official state language and implemented government policies to broaden the use of Ukrainian (often replacing Russian). Lately, this has been viewed as controversial, predominantly in the eastern parts of the country, where a strong enclave of Russians opposes the policy and demands equality of the Ukrainian and Russian languages.
The Ukrainian alphabet is based on the Cyrillic alphabet and has 33 letters.
А Б В Г Ґ Д Е Є Ж З И І Ї Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ь Ю Я
а б в г ґ д е є ж з и і ї й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ь ю я
*There are many disputes over the classification of Rusyn. While it has its own ISO code, is spoken by the minority of Rusyns in Eastern Europe (mainly Slovakia and Serbia), and is even one of the official languages of the Vojvodina autonomy, it is also considered only a dialect of Ukrainian – interestingly enough, by Ukraine itself.