Ukrainian folk art is rich and colourful. Ukrainians enjoy painting Easter eggs, pysanky, or decorating their clothes with intricate red and black embroidery. Weaving and woodcarving are also important in Ukrainian art.

An important religious art form is the icon, a highly stylized painting of religious figures. Small icons hang on the walls of many Ukrainian houses and apartments. The painting known as the Virgin of Kyiv is one of the most famous icons, and dates from the 12th century.

Ukrainian fine arts were influenced by European artistic styles until the 19th century. Taras Shevchenko (1814-61), a painter, engraver and poet, created a new style with his realistic pictures of Ukrainian life and the Ukrainian landscape. He was also famous for his poetry.

Ukrainians also consider Nikolai Gogol (1809-52), poet Ivan Franko (1856-1916) and poet and dramatist Lesia Ukrainka (1871-1913) to be among their finest writers.

Ukrainians love to sing. Composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff often used their folk songs in their music. Some of these tunes date from the 16th and 17th centuries, when wandering minstrels called kobzars travelled from village to village performing songs and ballads. The minstrels accompanied themselves with an instrument like a lute, called the kobza.

Two other musical instruments that are unique to Ukraine are the trembita, an instrument like an alpen horn, and the tsymbali, a dulcimer.

Ukrainian folk songs include Koliadky and Shchedrivky, songs performed at Christmas and New Years, Hihalky, spring songs, Kupalni, midsummer night songs, and the ritual songs associated with family life such as wedding songs and funeral dirges.

Ukraine has a strong tradition of opera and classical ballet, which were introduced in the 18th century. The Kyiv Ballet is one of the best in the world.

Did you know?

Very little literature was written in Ukrainian until Taras Shevchenko published his poetry and other writings in Ukrainian. Shevchenko was dedicated to liberating Ukraine from the Russians. Because of his activities he was exiled to Central Asia. There is a statue of Shevchenko in Winnipeg and a museum dedicated to him in Toronto.