Ukrainians are part of the Eastern Slavic group of peoples, primarily living in what is today called Ukraine. Citizens of Ukraine may or may not be Ukrainian ethnic Slavs. The oldest recorded names used for the population in today's Ukraine are Rusyny, Rusychi, and Rusy (from Rus’), which were transcribed in Latin as Russi, Rutheni, and Ruteni (Ruthenians).
Ukrainians are one of the largest European Slav groups with a population of more than 50 million people worldwide. Ukraine has a 2022 population of 43,213,695, most of whom live in Ukraine where they make up over three-quarters of the civic population. The largest Ukrainian community outside of Ukraine is in Russia, about 3 million Russian citizens consider themselves Ukrainians, while millions of others (primarily in southern Russia and Siberia) have some ancestry from Ukraine.
There are also almost 2 million Ukrainians in North America (1,000,000 in Canada and 890,000 in the United States). Large numbers of Ukrainians live in Brazil (950,000 - 1,000,000), Kazakhstan (about 500,000), Moldova (450,000), Poland (300,000), Belarus (250, 000), Argentina (305,000), and Slovakia (55,000). There are also Ukrainian diasporas in Germany, Portugal (65,000), UK, Romania, Latvia and former Yugoslavia. The overwhelming majority of these expatriates were born before Ukraine became independent in 1992.
Numerous nomadic tribes inhabited territories in antiquity in what is today Ukraine. They included Persian-speaking Scythians and Sarmatians, and also Greeks from the Black Sea colonies; Germanic-speaking Goths and Varangians as well as Turkic-speaking Khazars, Pechenegs and Cumans. Ukrainian origins are predominantly Slavic while non-Slavic nomads who mostly lived in the steppes of what is today southern Ukraine are said to have had little influence on the ancestors of modern Ukrainians.
Gothic historian Jordanes and 6th century Byzantine authors named two groups that lived in the areas south and west of today's Ukraine: Sclavins (western Slavs) and Anti. The name Antiis of Persian origin and means people living on the borderland. A state of the Anti is said to have existed from the end of 4th to early 7th century. In the 4th century the Anti fought against the Goths. In 375, the Gothic king Vinitar, facing the Antis, at first experienced defeat but later captured the 'king' of Anti, Bozh, whom he executed together with his sons and 70 'nobles'. The Goths did not manage to subdue the Anti, since in the same year the Gothic union fell from the attacks of the Huns. From the 6th century the Anti fought Byzantium and in the 6-7 century colonised the Balkan peninsula. From the end of 6th century they fought against the Eurasian Avars. The Anti consisted of several East Slavic tribes, such as:
- Dulebes (that later likely became Volhynians and Buzhans)
- White Croats (mountaineers from Ukraine - Lemkos are direct offshoot descendants of White Croats)
which lived on the territory of today's Ukraine. It is argued by modern Ukrainian nationalists these tribes merged to form the group known today as Ukrainians. The language today called 'Ukrainian' as spoken in Ukraine is an East Slavic language and belongs to the same sub-division of Slavs as Russian.
Slavic tribes have inhabited the lands in modern-day Ukraine since ancient times, and by the 5th century became dominant there and founded the settlement of Kiev, later becoming the capital of a powerful state known as Kievan Rus'. Kniaz Vladimir I of Kiev adopted Christianity in 988 and proceeded to baptise the whole Kievan Rus.
Among the native west Ukrainian, or more correctly Ruthenian, population of the Carpathians, there are several distinct groups, namely the Hutsuls, Lemkos and Boyko, each with peculiar area of settlement, dialect, dress, anthropological type and folk traditions. There are a number of theories as to the origins of these groups, some even connecting Boyky with the Celtic tribe of Boii and Hutsuls with Oghuz Turks (or Uz) people of Turkic stock.
It is argued that the oldest known population - Scythians and Sarmatians were of Iranian stock inhabiting today's Ukraine in 7 BC — 3 AD Absence of sounds g (marking use of h) and f (often spelled as khv in the Ukrainian dialect) in today's Ukraine along with some folk traditions (as greeting with bread and salt, houses with straw-roof, (popular through history self-designing terms Roxolany, Roxolana and Savromaty among Ukrainians) is attributed to the ancient Scythian language and culture.
Several other minor non-Slavic ethnic groups undoubtedly partially contributed to formation of the central Ukrainian type. These include a row of Turkic tribes, such as Chorni Klobuky, Berendei and Torks, who were settled along the river Ros and Rusava and eventually all being absorbed into Ukraine. Many Turkic place names in Ukraine as Karabachyn, Torets, Torky, Berdychiv (lit. "of Berendychi" i.e. Berendei) remain in these areas. Likewise, a number of Circassians (the oldest indigenous people of north-west Caucasus) merged with and played some role in formation of today's population mix; the city of Cherkasy traces its name and origin to a Circassian settlement. Some Turkic and Circassian elements can be traced in the Ukrainian dialect, last names, culture etc.<ref>
In small parts of Western Ukraine, ancient Dacian influences can be traced. From the middle of the first century (the peak period of Dacian society) until early in the 3rd century, the left bank of the upper Dniester was populated by the Dacian tribe of Costoboci Transmontani (mentioned in the Geography of Ptolomeus). They were the carriers of Lipica culture. This is evidenced by findings of ceramic pottery, burning burials, houses analogical to those of Dacians in Romania. The Costoboci were the most northern-ost branch of Thracodacians and bordered with the carriers of Przeworsk culture to the north-west (i.e. Przeworsk settlement in Pidberiztsi near Lviv); the Zarubintsy culture to the north who were all succeeded by Chernyakhov culture. It is with the Costoboci that the campaign of the Romans against the Dacians in the 2nd century is mentioned in different written sources. After the beginning of 3rd century Dacian archeological elements in Upper Dniester disappear.
Roman chronicles of the 1st century report that in the Carpathians there was the Dacian tribe of Karpi. Karp-At meant mountains of Karpi. From the possible Dacian meaning "mountains" may derive the name of people karpi—those who live in the mountains. The area of the Dacians covered small parts of western Ukraine, and besides the Costoboci, the northern Dacians belonged to the Anarti and Teurisci. Mountain-dwellers called the Hutsuls inhabited the areas of the old land of the Dacians and are often stated as being of Dacian stock. Archeologists have also discovered several Celtic settlements in Zakarpattia Oblast of western Ukraine.
There were numerous cases of Jewish conversion to the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic faith in medieval and early modern eras, whether forced (during the Deluge or Koliyivshchyna) or voluntary. Several Cossack surnames are traced to such converts (see Jewish Cossacks).
Though non-Slavic elements did have some impact on the Ukrainians, as mentioned above, they are predominantly Slavs.
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