Russian or Ukrainian: Which language do Ukrainians choose?

Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine. There were a lot of rumours about giving Russian language the status of the second official language in Ukraine, but this didn’t happen.

However, it’s hard for someone who comes to Ukraine for the first time to understand what language do we speak. For example, style and speed of pronunciation and the number of slang words is different between within the USA, but we have a completely different situation in Ukraine.

Ukrainian is the preferred language in the centre and western regions, whereas Russian is the preferred one in eastern and southern regions. This phenomenon can be explained by historical reasons.

Western territory was under the authority of the Polish Commonwealth in the 16 th till 17 th centuries. Main languages were Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian. It embossed the language and cultural development in these territories. Eastern Ukraine was totally populated by Russians after the “Holodomor” (the extermination by hunger).

You can hear Ukrainian and Russian (they are similar to each other) in almost equal proportions in Kiev. Don’t be surprised if you hear people speaking different languages and still understanding each other – it’s typical in the capital of Ukraine.

Books, newspapers and magazines are published in both languages. Also, there are no specific restrictions on TV: most channels broadcast news in Ukrainian, and entertaining shows in Russian. It’s interesting that the average of Ukrainian doesn’t even remember the language of the broadcast after they have watched a TV show or the news. Radio programmes only have the restriction that the percentage of played songs in Ukrainian has to be 35%.

There are people who know both languages and prefer using Russian in ordinary life. The majority, which is 60% of citizens, considers Ukrainian as their native language. For 15% of the people Russian is their first language, 22% – use both, Ukrainian and Russian.

Olexiy Kurinniy, professor of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”, created a detailed info-graphic that shows how many Ukrainians use Ukrainian as native language. As you can see, Ukrainian dominates only in Western regions.


Percentage of people who use it in everyday life:

Orange – Ukrainian
Blue – Russian
Light-blue – Both languages
Green – Another language

Ukrainian language is  one of the most beautiful languages. Kristina Danilova from Kiev created social video about it.

According to the video the young foreigners say that the Ukrainian language is wonderful and exciting. But Christina asks the following question in Russian:”Why don’t we speak it?”. It clearly reveals the situation.

Don’t be surprised if you hear people speaking different (but very similar) languages and understanding each other very well – this means that you are in Ukraine! Welcome!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2022: Ukrainian Language School Kyiv|Foto Credits