National Symbols of Ukraine – History and Facts

painting of ukrainian trident symbol

Each country has its own symbols – special signs used to distinguish it from all the other states. Traditionally, symbols are tightly bound to country`s history and culture. National symbols of Ukraine are not an exception as they reflect specifics of the state and its people. Let`s consider meanings of the three Ukrainian state symbols: flag, emblem and anthem.

Ukrainian Symbols: Trident – the Emblem

ukrainian emblem on ukrainian flag
So what is the Ukrainian national symbol and how is it called? It is “tryzub” (“trident”) – a golden trident on a blue shield. In the times of Kyiv Rus, the trident was the symbol of Rurik dynasty. The archaeologists have found tridents on coins, stamps, crockery, brickwork and wall paintings of that period. For example, Kyiv Rus prince Volodymyr (980—1015) minted coins with the trident on one side and portrait of the ruler on the other one. From the times of Kyiv Rus dissolution (the XII century) and to the XX century, trident symbol was not in active use. In that period, tridents were sometimes seen in heraldry signs of cities, on family crests and in books. Some hetmans of Zaporozhian Sich, particularly Bogdan Khmelnytsky and Ivan Mazepa, used crosses and anchors styled as tridents on their crests.

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The first mentioning of trident as the official national symbol of Ukraine dates back to 1918 – the times of the Ukrainian People`s Republic. The Central Council of Ukraine declared that trident embodied the princes` rule and succession of Ukrainian state traditions. This decision was also influenced by the growing popularity of trident caused by the fact that it had been printed on the new banknote – karbovanets, issued in 1917. However, in 1918, the Central Council of Ukraine was superseded by the Bolsheviks. In the Soviet era, Ukrainian trident was officially discredited as a symbol of national liberation movement. Ukraine was assigned a traditional Soviet emblem of star, hammer and sickle.
Only in February 1992, after dissolution of the Soviet Union, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine approved trident as the official emblem of the independent Ukraine. As for the meaning of Ukrainian “tryzub” symbol, there are many different versions and opinions. Some of the most popular versions say that it has encrypted word “воля” (“freedom”) and that it symbolizes the Christian Trinity.

Ukrainian Symbols: Yellow and Blue Flag

girl in field holding ukrainian flag
Let`s proceed to the next state symbol of Ukraine – the Ukrainian flag. The national flag of Ukraine consists of two equally sized horizontal strips of yellow and blue colors. Golden and blue colors were used on the emblem of Halych Principality in the XIV century. They were also used on the emblems of numerous Rus lands, princes and cities of the Middle Ages.
From the XVI century, the Zaporozhian Cossacks started to use these colors in their ensigns. Usually, there ensigns were blue sheets of cloths with golden figure of a knight embroidered on them. The first usage of the modern blue and yellow flag of Ukraine was officially recorded in Lviv in 1848, when the people of Galicia hang that flag on Lviv City Council as a national symbol. After this case, the yellow and blue flag started to gain popularity among Ukrainians. After the 1905 revolution, people of Dnieper Ukraine also began to use it. In 1917—1921, the yellow and blue flag served as an official symbol of the Ukrainian People`s Republic and Ukrainian State.
hand holding ukrainian flag over field of wheat
In the Soviet era, yellow and blue flag could be used only secretly, because the USSR government prohibited it as a sign of nationalism. The usage of that flag during the Soviet period was considered as a crime and carried a prison sentence.
After the USSR dissolved, the presidium of Verkhovna Rada gave yellow and blue flag the status of Ukrainian national symbol. It happened on September 18, 1991. Nowadays, Ukrainians annually celebrate the Day of National Flag on August, 23. The meaning of the flag`s colors is quite simple: blue color symbolizes the sky, and yellow color embodies ears of wheat on fertile lands of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Symbols: Anthem

The state anthem of Ukraine is the third main symbol of the country. The Ukrainian anthem is called “Ще не вмерла України і Слава, і Воля” (“Ukraine's glory has not yet perished, nor its freedom”). The lyrics of the anthem were written in 1862 by Pavlo Chubynsky – Ukrainian ethnografist, folklorist and poet. The poem was published for the first time in “Meta” Lviv magazine in 1863. The poem quickly became popular in the Western Ukraine, and soon it was read by Mykhailo Verbytsky – Ukrainian priest and composer. Inspired by the beautiful lyrics, Mykhailo set it to music. In 1917—1920, Chubynsky`s poem was the official hymn of the Ukrainian People`s Republic and the West Ukrainian People`s Republic.

When later the Soviet government decided to assign a special anthem for each Soviet country, “Ukraine's glory has not yet perished, nor its freedom” was declined as a separatist song. The USSR government needed a text that would reflect the fact that Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union and that would mention the Communist party. Such text was offered by Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna. His lyrics “Живи, Україно, прекрасна і сильна” (“Live, Ukraine, the beautiful and mighty”), accompanied by music composed by Anton Lebedynets, served as the state anthem of Ukraine from 1949 to 1991. The official music version of the modern anthem was approved by Verkhovna Rada on January 15, 1992 when Ukraine had already become an independent country. The Ukrainian anthem became extremely popular during the revolutions of 2004 and 2013.
Translation of the Ukrainian anthem:
Ukraine's glory has not yet perished, nor its freedom.
Upon us, fellow compatriots, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish, like dew in the morning sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.
Souls and bodies we'll lay down, all for our freedom,
And we will show that we, brothers, are of the Cossack nation!
As we can see, the national symbols of Ukraine embody the historical roots of the country and the true spirit of Ukrainian people.
Photo source: All photos belong to their rightful owners.

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