The Ukrainian language is the official language of the state of Ukraine. Ukrainian is an East Slavic language largely believed to have evolved from the Old East Slavic language which used to be spoken in the medieval state of Kievan Rus’. Modern Ukrainian is written using a variant of the Cyrillic script.

A new law was passed in 2012 that allowed local languages that were spoken by at least 10% of the local population of an area to be declared as that area’s official languages. As a result, Russian – the second most widely spoken language in Ukraine – became the official language in a number of cities and regions in the southern and eastern parts of the country. After the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, however, the Parliament voted against the regional language law and made Ukrainian into the only official language to be spoken at all levels of government and administration in the country. This law was not signed, however. Even during the Soviet era, there had been government efforts undertaken with the aim of protecting the Ukrainian language. The population of Ukrainian speakers had drastically declined during this period, and by the mid-1980s, the use of the Ukrainian language was greatly threatened. After independence, however, the country’s government launched a number of programs and laws to ensure that the image and usage of Ukrainian be restored in Ukraine. As a result, Ukrainian became the sole official language of the country, and the medium of instruction in schools all over the nation.

Ukrainian is spoken by about 67.5% of the population as their native language, as per the 2001 census. The next most popular language spoken in Ukraine is Russian, which boasts about 29.6% native speakers, and which is spoken as a second language by most Ukrainian speakers. In central Ukraine, both Ukrainian and Russian are equally spoken in the cities, whereas in central and western Ukraine, Ukrainian enjoys the most popularity and is regarded as the dominant language used by the urban population, especially in western Ukraine. In the capital of the country, Kiev, there are more Russian than Ukrainian speakers. In the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, Russian is the most popular language in the cities while Ukraine is more popular in the rural areas.

There are 40 minority languages and dialects spoken in Ukraine, with the vast majority of these languages being native languages of the former Soviet Union. The use, protection, and free development of these languages in the country is guaranteed by the Ukrainian Constitution. These languages include Rusyn, Romanian, Belarusian, Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Eastern Yiddish, Polish, Armenian, and others.


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