Ukrainian vs. Russian: Basic Differences

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Difference between Ukrainian and Russian

Slavic populations living in Eastern Europe are descended from the Indo-European ethnic and linguistic branch. They are classified into 3 groups: the West Slavic including Czechs, Poles, Serbs, Slovaks, the East Slavic comprising Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians and the South Slavic including Bulgarians, Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Slovenes. As Germanic populations started to migrate westward in the 5th and 6th century, Slavic populations migrated from Asia and settled in Central and Eastern Europe. From the moment of the great slave migration, records of their presence in Europe began to appear in Byzantine and Roman tales of the time.



Ukrainian is an East Slavic language using a Cyrillic alphabet and sharing vocabulary with fellow Slavic languages such as Russian, Polish and Slovak. Throughout its turbulent history the Ukrainian people have tried to preserve their linguistic and ethnic identity resisting the coercive means of empires it formed a part of. Russian is the most widely spoken East Slavic language if we take into account the number of people in Russia and outside it using it on a daily basis. This was probably also the reason for which it was declared one of the six official languages of the United Nations.


Ukrainian culture is a mixture of Christian principles and Cossack customs highly valued and preserved over the centuries. Traditional dances, for example, derive from old Cossack specific styles. They usual involve both men and women moving to the rhythm of the music in colorful traditional costumes. Popular dances are the kalyna and the hopak. Zaporozhian Cossacks had a distinctive influence in shaping Ukrainian identity in areas as folk music, dance, architecture, food and customs. To honor Cossack contribution the Ukrainian Great Coat of Arms features a Zaporozhian Cossack. Russian culture is world renowned for its multiple fields of excellence such as ballet, literature, classical music, architecture, art and cinema. Keeping this in mind one can say global heritage has received a considerable input from the Russian people. Russian culture is a result of a mixture of influences: from pagan tribe customs to Christian beliefs, from Turkish to Scandinavian contributions.

Form of Government

Russia is a constitutional federation of 83 member states with equal representation rights. The country has a President which can be elected for six years and well representation of the 3 state powers: legislative, executive and judiciary. Ukraine is a republic with a head of state elected for a 5 year term relying on the separation of state powers in the state into legislative, executive and judiciary.


  • Ukrainian and Russian share the same East Slavic language pool and due to this their vocabularies are quite similar.
  • Ukrainian culture has a clear Cossack and Christian influences, while Russian culture is a result of native pagan as well as Christian roots mixed with Turkish and Scandinavian influences.
  • The form of government of the Ukrainian state is the republic, while Russia is a federation. Both have presidents elected for more than 5 years and rely on the separation of state powers into legislative, executive and judiciary.

Where did the cossacks originate?
  • Ukrainian
  • Russian

Discuss It: comments 1

  • Guest
  • James Keith Houston wrote on December 2020

My Mom had traced one branch of Family to the Prince of Kiev, a marriage of Slavic and Viking cultures. Also had a Scottish relative named Barclay, who married a Baltic German woman, and had risen to position of Field Marshall and Boyar title.

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