The historical development of Ukraine defined in many ways the direction of the country's cultural development which is characterized by its continuous and close interaction with its neighboring cultures.
The core of Ukrainian culture is folk culture that throughout different periods of Ukrainians turbulent history has been subjected to both eastern and western influences. It has been shaped by cultural trends and traditions of the ruling nationals, but nevertheless, maintained its unique rich spirit. Gradually on this folk basis, the Ukrainian national culture, elite literature, art and music were developed.
The traditions of Kyivan Rus, a center of Christianity in the Eastern Slavic world, were preserved and cherished through ages not only providing the basis for further cultural renaissances of the 16th—17th and 19th centuries but also introduced a great number of religious motives into the culture and traditions of Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian culture of the 14th—16th centuries, which did not manifest itself like the European Renaissance culture of the west, can be considered in a way as a connecting link between Kyivan Rus religion-oriented culture and national-awakening Cossack culture with its chivalrous, freedom-fighting spirit reflected in that period music and literature genres. The 17th—18th Cossack period constitutes a great cultural pillar in Ukrainian life. For centuries broad masses of population were the keepers and carriers of the Cossack cultural traditions in music, poetry, dances, decorative and applied arts.
Cultural life of the 19th century in Ukraine was defined by the process of the literary Ukrainian language introduction and its further establishment in print works. The main themes of democracy, social change, and traditional values became frequent in the literary works of the Ukrainian writers of the period. With the advent of the cultural symbol of Ukraine poet Taras Shevchenko, the almost-forgotten themes of freedom fighting spirit of Ukrainians, pride and past glory had returned to the literary as well as the national discourse.
In the 20th century, the political constituent had a tremendous impact on the Ukrainian culture that had developed depending on the frequent political system changes. The Soviet period with the unification of the Ukrainian lands on the one hand, and surges of cultural emigration and extermination of the cultural elite on the other hand provided for conflicting cultural developments and lack of the unified cultural stream. The Declaration of Independence marked the new turn of the cultural and spiritual renaissance removing the obstacles for the national Ukrainian culture development.