The Ukrainians are a Slavic people of central-eastern Europe. They are the descendants of several peoples who inhabited the vast area extending from north of the Black Sea to the borders of Russia, Poland, Moldova, Belarus and Slovakia. Ukraine had a very turbulent history, a fact explained by its geographical position. It was the first Scandinavian colonists who founded the state of Kyiv (Kyivan Rus), long before Kniaz Volodymyr of Kyivan Rus accepted Christianity in 988.
The Ukrainian language is an East Slavic languages. In Imperial Russia the Ukrainian language was persecuted at different times in history (see Russification); however, as most people were illiterate, persecutions had little effect. During the Soviet era, the Ukrainian language was at times encouraged and at others repressed. It has been partly supplanted, especially in urban centers, by Russian, the de facto official language of the Soviet Union. The Russian-speaking Ukrainians are called Russo-Ukrainians. Nevertheless, the majority of Ukrainians still speak Ukrainian. Great efforts are made nowadays to re-establish the use of Ukrainian throughout the country, something which seems very difficult for the time being.
Ukraine originally formed part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, later of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, finally gaining its independence in 1991.