Dance, Art, Holidays and Music Explored
Since Ukraine is geographically located between Europe and Asia, much of its culture exhibits both Eastern and Western influences. Over the years it has been invariably influenced by movements such as those brought about during the Byzantine Empire and the Renaissance. Today, the country is somewhat culturally divided with the western regions bearing a stronger European influence and the eastern regions showing a strong Russian influence.
It is interesting to note that Communist rule in Russia had quite a strong effect on the art and writing of Ukraine. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Soviet authorities began enforcing the socialist realism art style in Ukraine. This style dictated that all artists and writers glorify the Soviet Regime with their talents. However, it wasn’t long before the Soviet Union collapsed and artists and writers again became free to express themselves as they wanted. Unfortunately the collapse of the union also brought about a decrease in government subsidies. Writers chose to emulate the styles used in the 11th and 13th centuries, while artists expanded their horizons trying new techniques, subject matters and styles.
Ukrainian culture is richly embedded in ancient traditions. Even today many historical songs such as the dumy and the playing of the kobza – which was popular during the 16th century – is still enjoyed. However, music has also come a long way since then and Polissia magic pop and Kolomiya rap have gained popularity. The culture scene has also seen a resurgence of Cossack songs and song poetry. There are also a number of cultural festivals such as the Tavriya Games which are most popular.
The Ukrainian people also enjoy their culture in the form of traditional dances and dance games. Many of these originated in rural Cossack villages and some of the oldest dances can be traced back to ancient cults. Traditionally many of these dances were performed only by males or females, but today both sexes sometimes mix and enjoy the dance together. Appreciation for these dances is usually kept alive by Ukrainian dance troupes.
Many people do not know that the tradition of the Easter egg had it’s beginnings in the Ukraine. In times gone by (and still sometimes today) these eggs were drawn on with wax to create patterns. Dye was then added to give the eggs their delightful colors – the dye not affecting the wax coated parts of the egg. Once the whole egg was dyed, the wax was removed leaving only the colorful pattern. The tradition is thousands of years old and predates the arrival of Christianity in the country. While Christian interpretations of this practice abound, many Ukrainians still believe that the egg has immense power and releases the earth from the restraints of winter. Even the designs have meaning and the eggs are usually given as gifts or used as decorations.
Ukrainians celebrate a number of holidays, namely Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, New Years and Ivana Kupala (St John’s Eve). They also hold a festival every autumn to celebrate the end of the harvest. While some of these festivals are celebrated world wide, Ukrainians have their very own way of observing them. Ukrainian culture is very interesting and there is so much to say on the matter that it cannot be discussed fully here. The best way to find out more is to visit the country and learn from the locals.