Ukraine has been developing its own original culture since very early times of its history. There were periods when Ukrainian culture experienced considerable influences of other cultures, notably those of Byzantium and of the Vikings (in the medieval times of Kyivan Rus), but basically it preserved its general original quality. The Old Ukrainian language was used as Latin of Eastern Europe for a period of time.
Though oral literature existed in the very early periods of Ukraine's history, written elite literature began to develop from the end of the 10th century, after the adoption of Christianity which gave a big boost for the development of culture in general. The churches of Kyiv - and their number - caused admiration of foreign travellers visiting the city in the 11th and 12th centuries. The eleventh-century Grand Duke Yarsolav the Wise founded a library which became one of the biggest in Europe, and promoted the institution of schools, including those for girls. In later centuries, literacy was widely spread in Ukraine.
In spite of a turbulent and dramatic history, Ukraine has preserved a cultural constant from the early times of its existence. Book printing began in Ukraine in the 16th century and the first establishment of higher learning - the first not only in Ukraine but in the whole of Eastern Europe - Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, sprang up in the early 17th century.
Notwithstanding its colonial status, Ukraine had a wide spectrum of art and literature which entered a phase of stepped-up development in the 18th century. Poetic and prose works written by Taras Shevchenko, the most revered cultural figure of Ukraine, Ivan Kotlyarevsky, Lesya Ukrayinka, Ivan Franko, Mykhaylo Kotsyubynsky and other authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, were a worthy contribution to world literature.
Folk music, and later symphonic and opera music were and are among Ukraine's cultural strengths.