Languages of Ukraine

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Languages of Ukraine
Languages spoken at home in Ukraine, 2009 polling
  1. Russian
  2. English
  3. German
  4. French
  5. Spanish
  6. Italian / Arabic
SignedUkrainian Sign Language
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Cyrillic layout in Windows Vista
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The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, an East Slavic language, which is the native language of 67.5% of Ukraine's population. Russian is the native language of 29.6% of Ukraine's population and the rest (2.9%) are native speakers of other languages. Ethnologue lists 40 minority languages and dialects; nearly all are native to the former Soviet Union. According to a survey conducted in 2006-2007 by Gallup, formerly the American Institute of Public Opinion, 83% of the respondents preferred to conduct the Gallup interview in Russian.[1]

According to Article 10 of the Constitution of Ukraine the state has an obligation to ensure the comprehensive development and functioning of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of social life throughout Ukraine while guaranteeing the free development, use and protection of the Russian language and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine.

Language and daily life[edit]

In an 11–23 December 2015 study by the Razumkov Centre taken in all regions of Ukraine other than Russian-annexed Crimea, and separatist controlled Donetsk, and Luhansk, a majority considered Ukrainian their native language (60%), followed by Russian (15%), while 22% used both languages equally. Two percent had another native language. For the preferred language of work, an equal amount chose either Ukrainian or Russian (37%) and 21% communicated bilingually. The study polled 10,071 individuals and held a 1% margin of error.[2][3]

Past polling[edit]

In an October 2009 poll by FOM-Ukraine of 1,000 respondents, 52% stated they use Russian as their "Language of communication"; while 41% of the respondents state they use Ukrainian and 8% stated they use a mixture of both.[4]

A March 2010 poll[5] by Research & Branding Group showed that 65% considered Ukrainian as their native language and 33% Russian. This poll also showed the standard of knowledge of the Russian language (free conversational language, writing and reading) in current Ukraine is higher (76%) than the standard of knowledge of the Ukrainian language (69%). More respondents preferred to speak Ukrainian (46%) than Russian (38%) with 16% preferring to speak both in equal manner.

A poll held November 2009 revealed that 54.7% of the population of Ukraine believed the language issue in Ukraine was irrelevant, that each person could speak the language they preferred and that a lot more important problems existed in the country; 14.7% of those polled stated that the language issue was an urgent problem that could not be postponed and that calls for immediate resolution; another 28.3% believed that, while the language issue needed to be resolved, this could be postponed.[6]

An August 2011 poll by Razumkov Centre showed that 53.3% of the respondents use the Ukrainian language in everyday life, while 44.5% use Russian.[7]

In a May 2012 poll by RATING, 50% of respondents considered Ukrainian their native language, 29% Russian, 20% consider both Ukrainian and Russian their mother tongue and 1% considered a different language their native language.[8]

Current languages[edit]

The following table gives the languages with their number of speakers according to the 2001 Ukrainian Census:[9]

Language Number of speakers Percent of total
Ukrainian 32,577,468 67.53%
Russian 14,273,670 29.59%
Crimean Tatar 231,382 0.48%
Moldavian 185,032 0.38%
Hungarian 161,618 0.34%
Romanian 142,671 0.30%
Bulgarian 134,396 0.28%
Belarusian 56,249 0.12%
Armenian 51,847 0.11%
Gagauz 23,765 0.05%
Romani 22,603 0.05%
Polish 19,195 0.04%
German 4,206 0.01%
Greek 6,029 0.01%
Hebrew 3,307 0.01%
Slovak 2,768 0.01%
Karaim 96 0.00%
Other 143,163 0.30%
Not indicated 201,437 0.42%
Total 48,240,902 100%

Not included the table above are Rusyn with 6,725 speakers as of 2001,[10] Ukrainian Sign Language (54,000 in 2008), Eastern Yiddish (11,500 in 2007), Urum (95,000 in 2000, often included under Tatar), and Krymchak (200 as of 2007). The varieties of Romani represented are Vlax, Carpathian and Balkan.[11] There are also speakers of the Gammalsvenska dialect of Swedish (at least 10 fluent and perhaps 150 with some knowledge as of 2014).

Regional languages[edit]

As a result of legislation entitled the 'Bill on the principles of the state language policy", which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in August 2012, languages spoken by at least 10% of an oblast's population were made possible to be elevated to the status of 'regional language'. Whilst Ukrainian remained the country's only 'official' language nationwide, other languages, dependent on their adoption by oblast authorities, became accepted mediums of communication in education, local government offices, courts and official correspondence.[12] In October 2014 the Constitutional Court of Ukraine started reviewing the constitutionality of the law,[13] and on 28 February 2018 it ruled the law unconstitutional.[13]

Historical facts[edit]

According to the Russian census 1897 on the territory of the nine Russian guberniyas in modern Ukraine yielded the following results:

Language composition
List of mentioned regions




Language Policy[edit]

In 2016, a New rule came into force requiring Ukraine's radio stations to play a quota of Ukrainian-language songs each day. The law also requires TV and radio broadcasters to ensure 60% of programs such as news and analysis are in Ukrainian.[14]

In September 2017, Ukraine instituted a similar policy on languages in public education. The law required the school used Ukrainian, the national language, in all classes that did not require a second language.[15] The exception from this being language classes that would be taught using "English or other official languages of the European Union."[16] The new spelling version was adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in May 2019.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Russian Language Enjoying a Boost in Post-Soviet States(in English)
  2. ^ "Українці стали частіше розмовляти українською". Українська правда. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  3. ^ "КОНСОЛІДАЦІЯ УКРАЇНСЬКОГО СУСПІЛЬСТВА : ШЛЯХИ, ВИКЛИКИ, ПЕРСПЕКТИВИ : Інформаційно-аналітичні матеріали" (PDF). Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  4. ^ "ФОМ > Мнения и взгляды населения Украины в сентябре - октябре 2009 года". Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Маркетинговые, социологические и политические исследования - R&B Group". Retrieved 8 October 2017.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Poll: more than half of Ukrainians did not consider language issue pressing, Kyiv Post (November 25, 2009)
  7. ^ "Опитування: більшість українців спілкуються вдома українською мовою". Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  8. ^ The language question, the results of recent research in 2012, RATING (25 May 2012)
  9. ^ "Table 19A050501 02. Distribution of the population of Ukraine's regions by native language (0,1)". Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Чисельність осіб окремих етнографічних груп украінського етносу та їх рідна мова". (in Ukrainian). Database of State Statistics Committee of Ukraine. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  11. ^ Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2019). "Ukraine – Languages". Ethnologue (22nd ed.). SIL International.
  12. ^ "Russian becomes regional language in three more regions in Ukraine".
  13. ^ a b Constitutional Court declares unconstitutional language law of Kivalov-Kolesnichenko, Ukrinform (28 February 2018)
  14. ^ "Ukraine imposes language quotas for radio playlists". BBC News. 8 November 2016.
  15. ^ Genin, Aaron (March 28, 2019). "Upcoming Elections and Ukrainian "Ultra-nationalism"". The California Review. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  16. ^ "New education law becomes effective in Ukraine". September 28, 2017. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  17. ^ "Міністерство освіти і науки України - Український правопис (2019)".