Ukrainian Wikipedia turned 19 years old a few days ago, on January 30. Ukrainian Wikipedia is the sixteenth largest Wikipedia version in the world, surpassing many major world languages such as Arabic, Portuguese, Persian, and Turkish.
Ukrainian Wikipedia is featured from a particularity however, which is the fact that despite that it has more than 1,230,000 articles, Russian Wikipedia is the most popular Wikipedia in the country year round. Ukrainian Wikipedia is also a very vivid community, having nearly 4,000 active users during the time of the writing of the article (February 2023). Also it is the 12th largest Wikipedia by expanded sample of articles, proving the high potential of Ukrainian Wikipedia.
Ukrainian Wikipedia records 60 to 120 million pageviews, depending on the season and the month. The pageviews of Ukrainian Wikipedia are increasing year to year, with the two peaks being recorded during the periods October-December and March-April, and summer having approximately the half pageviews of the winter. According to the Ukrainian Wikipedian Yuriy Perohanych, the decrease of pageviews by 30 to 50% in the summer (and in the weekend during the periods September to May) is happening because a lot of readers of Ukrainian Wikipedia are students who search information about their curriculum in Wikipedia. And as this thing is repeated in Uzbek, or Kazakh (read note below), it seems he’s right.
This article will analyze the pageviews trends of Ukrainian Wikipedia since 2009 with abundant emphasis in the social aspects of this. For the creation of the article, I would like to thank Yuri Perohanych, technician and IT personality in Ukraine, as well founder of Wikimedia Ukraine, a long-standing Ukrainian Wikipedian who has been compiling monthly analyses of Ukrainian Wikipedia’s pageviews years now.
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe and the second largest former Soviet republic. It is a mostly bilingual country where Ukrainian language is spoken throughout the country, particularly however in the west and the central part of the country but also rapidly expanding as a spoken language in the south and the east, where the main spoken language is Russian. Russian is spoken by Russians, many Russified Ukrainians and from significant parts minorities as native or vernacular language (which means that the native language for many is Ukrainian but they speak Russian at home and work).
The areas that were part of Poland until 1945, and particularly Galicia, and Bukovyna, which were never part of Russian Empire or the Soviet Union before 1945 (they used to be parts of Austria-Hungary until 1918), tend to use much more the Ukrainian language. Many also speak Surzhyk which is a language peppered with elements from Ukrainian and Russian. In the cities of southern and eastern Ukraine people tend to speak Russian language more and nearly every Ukrainian knows Ukrainian and Russian in a native or near native level. As of the 2001 census, per an Los Angeles Times article, Ukrainian was the native language of the 68% of the population, Russian 30% and less than 3% for other languages such as Crimean Tatar or Romanian. According to a 2011 poll of Razumkov centre, 53% of the respondents named Ukrainian its native language and Russian the 44%. In order to understand the historical context I will give you a brief introduction on the status of the Ukrainian language in the modern era.
In the 19th century, the Ukrainian language became gradually a written and spoken language, developing from the Ruthenian language that gave three offspring languages: Ukrainian, Belarusian and Rusyn (some consider Rusyn as a separate language). In the Russian Empire Ukrainian (second most spoken language, as it was spoken in 1900 by around 40 million people in present-day Ukraine, Kuban, northern Kazakhstan, Far East and elsewhere) was banned from being taught, however in Austria-Hungary the climate was more free (although Magyarisation policies were applied after 1900 in Hungary, which affected Transcarpathia among others, which is part of Ukraine since 1945) and many writers such as Ivan Franko from Galicia and Olha Kobylianska from Bukovyna (part of Romania in 1918-1940), wrote Ukrainian literature there. Of course, Russian Empire had its own Ukrainian writers, such as Lesya Ukrainka and Taras Shevchenko, national poet of Ukraine. In the 20th century, during the Soviet era, the place of Ukrainian language fluctuated.
In the 1920s, korenisation policies were applied, making Ukrainian the official language of the government and the education system. According to Wikipedia, the policy of korenisation, or korenizatsiia in Ukrainian, was applied in order to grow communist cadres for every nationality, thus allowing the integration of the local nationalities in the state. However, the artificial famine, Holodomor, and Russification policies resulted in Ukrainian being again partially sidelined in the Soviet Union, especially from mid-1930s to 1956 (Stalinist purges and destalinisation). It continued to be taught in all Ukrainian SSR, however for many years the great majority of schools in the cities were Russian-medium schools, nearly all tertiary education was in Russian, a lot of media and literature was in Russian; and the place of Ukraine as the second largest contributor in the Soviet economy ensured a lot of internal migration from Russia and elsewhere. During the era of Khrushchev, Ukrainian became a mandatory language again in the schools of Ukrainian SSR, however, the lack of protection against Russian language expansion and the fact that the realities of the Soviet Union, as well a connection of During the rule of Petro Shelest, Ukrainian flourished as the Ukrainian SSR government encouraged, it, however under Volodymyr Shcherbytsky’s rule (1972-1989) Russification reached in its climax, only being lightly lessened after 1985. In 1990 nearly 11.5 million Russians lived in Ukrainian SSR.
In 1991, Ukraine became independent, and from 1990 Ukrainian had became again the main official language of Ukraine. The country instituted an Ukrainianisation campaign, although always Russian retained a good role at education and sometimes the government. It was also prominent in the public sphere. Most channels had always a lot of Russian-language programming. During the era of Viktor Yushchenko, the stature of Ukrainian language was increased. However, after the Revolution of Dignity, in 2013-14, it was the time that Ukrainian language was greatly promoted by the government, together with mostly removing Russian language from education and openly discouraging it as a result of the russian annexation of Crimea. Some people switched in the period of 2014 to 2022 into speaking Ukrainian at home.
The turning point was however February 24, 2022, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine resulted in a shift to Ukrainian language even by Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Many Russian speakers switch to Ukrainian, and others try to improve their skills in Ukrainian.
Ukrainian Wikipedia: Readership before the Maidan Revolution
Ukrainian Wikipedia has been always one of the 20 largest Wikipedias in the world for many years. We return now to the year 2009. As we can see here, Ukrainian Wikipedia had a viewership of around 9 to 15% percent, depending on the season, but slightly growing over the years. Back in those years Ukrainian Wikipedia had around 1,600 to 2,000 active users, growing throughout the years.
Despite that Ukrainian Wikipedia, having already 300,000 articles in 2011, usually a normal number to establish a Wikipedia that under average quality standards could become the most popular on its country throughout the year (or a large part of it), Russian had a percentage of pageviews ranging from 60 to 70 percentage. This is attributed to the fact that Russian language, was already the mother language (or the vernacular language) of many millions of Ukrainians. As we can see according to the pageviews analysis of stats.wikimedia.org according to the old system, which includes pageviews from crawlers, bots and other automated systems, Ukrainian garnered 15 to 20 million pageviews in winter and spring of 2010, to grow to more than 30 million pageviews in 2011, 40 to 42 million in early 2012 and growing to 60 million pageviews in early 2013. Ukrainian Wikipedia, as I explained earlier, had much more readership in Fall, Winter and Spring; the greatest shares of pageviews during the periods 2010-13 were recorded in the fourth quarter of the year (e.g. 14.9% in Q4 2011, 18.7% in 2012 and 20.1% in Q4 2013). In summer the share was lower, but nevertheless the share of uk.wiki’s pageviews in the pageviews of Ukraine during the third quarter of the year increased from 9.6% in Q3 2010 to 13.3% in Q3 2013.
However, use that stats before December 2015 on your own discretion, as the quality and reliability of that statistics with the old Wikistats system are not so reliable. They may include crawlers, bots, etc. which inflate the number of pageviews.
According to the census of 2001 around the 30% of Ukrainians had Russian as their native language, however many researches pre -2014 show that in many southern regions, Russian was the spoken language of entire majorities throughout them. During the term of Viktor Yanukovych, the government retained good relations with Russia and established a status of semi-diglossia in the government, as Russian became official language in much of southern Ukraine. Every TV channel had very much Russian language programming on its listings, both imported and in-house productions. It worths note that even Zelensky’s TV series, Servant of the People, was in Russian except for 3 episodes shown in 2019.
I will give a small piece of information about the share of Ukrainian Wikipedia in the pageviews of Ukraine for the years 2010 to 2013:
- 2010: 12.6%
- 2011: 12.4%
- 2012: 14.25%
- 2013: 16.52%
Pageviews trends after Maidan
Ukrainian Wikipedia was affected positively by the political changes in Ukraine already from the first months, as the number of active users increased per month from around 1,950 to 2,700 in the first four months of 2014 and stabilised on the range of 2,200 to 2,400 throughout the rest of the year.
The pageviews of Ukrainian Wikipedia during 2014 and to 2015 ranged from 75 to 90 million in the period of September to May, and during the summer of 2014 the pageviews were nearly 55 million, only to decrease to 47 to 50 in the summer of 2015.
However, use that stats before December 2015 on your own discretion, as the quality and reliability of that statistics with the old Wikistats system are not so reliable. They may include crawlers, bots, etc. which inflate the number of pageviews. From now and on I will analyse post December 2015 statistics which are much more reliable, as WikiStats 2 was unveiled. For this reasons the pageviews with the old system (as of Wikistats) show 47 to 50 million pageviews in the summer of 2015 but Perohanych’s graph only 26 million pageviews in July 2016, as in Ukraine June to August are the months of the school vacations, and students don’t visit Wikipedia to learn about e.g. the writers, the works of literature or the history events taught in their curriculum. The statistics of Wikistats 2 reflect the full reality. The pageviews numbers according to the old system are significantly inflated due to crawlers, bots and other reasons.
Ukrainian Wikipedia had already nearly 600,000 articles in late 2015, and as we can see Ukrainian Wikipedia got a fairly increasing amount of pageviews during 2016, totalling 530 million pageviews during the year. Despite that Ukrainianisation had begun from 2014, with the government gradually removing Russian as official language in the southern regions (this ability was given in 2012, as a law allowed all regional, districtal and municipal authorities where a linguistic minority totalling above 10% of the population, the language of the minority to become co-official; this allowed Russian to become co-official language in the half of Ukraine) and promoting its use on the media, education and the public sphere, Russian Wikipedia was only gradually losing its popularity and the pageviews of Ukrainian Wikipedia continued to be at least 2,5 times lower than of Russian in Ukraine throughout 2016 (nearly 5 times lower in July and August), but growing steady to outpace Russian somewhere in the future.
This can be attributed to the fact that Russian was just discouraged from the Ukrainian government, and as Perohanych tells me during our contact, Ukrainians were able to speak freely the Ukrainian language without fear (another Ukrainian Wikipedian with whom I spoke also confirms it), but Russian was spoken by many millions as a native or vernacular language, was used widely in the media (after the invasion the status of Russian decreased, as it was associated with the enemy for many, but it still used widely) and the public sphere. Also, the majority of the population had grew in a linguistically mixed environment and many knew better Russian than Ukrainian. In Ukraine there are still people whose native language is Ukrainian, but they speak Russian at home and work.
In June 4, 2017 Ukrainian Wikipedia reached 700,000 articles and quality was at normal generally levels. In 2018 they reached 800,000 articles. In 2017 Ukrainian Wikipedia recorded 562 million pageviews and in 2018, 602 million pageviews. July and August, in 2016, recorded 26,1 and 26,6 million pageviews respectively, to grow to 32,7 and 30,3 million pageviews respectively in the same months of 2018, while Ukrainian continued to exceed 60 million pageviews per month throughout Q4 of 2018.
Before I advance in the analysis of the period post 2018, where the growth gradually accelerates, I would like to give you two examples of the pageviews distribution of Ukrainian Wikipedia by country, one from the Oct-Dec and Mar-Apr peak, and the summer vacations period of June to August. In November 2018, we find that Ukraine gave 58 million pageviews in Ukrainian Wikipedia (and 114 million pageviews to Russian), while Germany, Poland and Ukraine returned 800 to 950 thousand pageviews there. While in August 2018, Ukraine gave to Ukrainian Wikipedia 24 million pageviews.
Growth continues: Newer developments since 2019
Ukrainian Wikipedia has continued to grow significantly in pageviews, and since 2019 Ukrainian Wikipedia has begun to grow even faster in terms of pageviews. In April 19, 2019, Ukrainian reached the 900,000th article as well, with the number of registered users with at least one edit per month having gradually increased to 2,600 to 3,200 per month, with the lowest numbers being recorded in summer. The registered users with at least one edit increased from 16.9 thousand in 2018 to 19.1 thousand in 2019.
In 2019 as we can see the pageviews of Ukrainian Wikipedia increased to 707 million, with this growth being attributed to the promotion of Ukrainian language from the state, and because of the growing interest to the language apart from growing quality and quantity. The pageviews number has continued to increase and the number of pageviews during the summer decreased to 37 mllion in August, more than 10% increase in comparison with the previous year. The pageviews in November peaked at 74.3 million with 64 million coming from Ukraine.
In 2020 Ukrainian Wikipedia reached 1,000,000 articles, in March 23, 2020. The beginnings of the 2020s have been a period of continuous successes and growths for Ukrainian Wikipedia; at first, Ukrainian Wikipedia went to 110.3 million pageviews in May 2020, of whom 99,948,000 were from Ukraine. The very fast, but temporary, growth is attributed to the fact that the Covid lockdowns imposed in Ukraine and the most of the world resulted in much of the population sitting at home, thus increasing the pageviews of many Wikipedias, particularly those of national languages (for example, Albanian surged to 10.3 million pageviews).
After there was a rapid decrease of the pageviews to 50 million in June, and in the next two months the pageviews returned to the levels of 2019, a decrease that I personally attribute to the socioeconomic consequences of the Covid pandemic (you can observe it particularly in countries such as India), only to grow in 90,2 million pageviews in November, of which around 80 million from Ukraine. In the Soviet countries, the peak months of the pageviews in the local Wikipedias are in November, March and April as schoolchildren use Wikipedia a lot for their studies, and decrease a lot in the summer (except Russian, whose pageviews trends are much more stable through the year, and this is attributed to the trust to Russian-language content throughout the USSR).
In 2021 we see that previous year’s trends continue, with the pageviews during the summer months (July-August) increasing to the range of 46 to 48 million, as a result of the increasing demand to the Ukrainian language content in Ukraine at general. The significantly fewer pageviews in April and May 2021 compared to the same months of 2020 are attributed to the fact that no lockdowns were in place, only to grow in 98,8 million pageviews in November. Generally 2021 was a year of transition and fewer growth, however it was the first year where the ratio of the pageviews of Russian Wikipedia to the Ukrainian was fewer than 3:1 throughout the year.
In February 24, 2022, Russia ordered its troops to begin a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, an event that has resulted in major changes in Ukrainian society such as the surge on the interest to speak Ukrainian both at home and in public, as well in the further decline of Russian language. Many Ukrainians wanted to no longer associate themselves with the language of Russia. This event will be our driver to understand the pageviews trends in 2022 and today.
At first, editing activity suffered a decline. Many Ukrainian Wikipedians left for western Ukraine or other countries such as Poland. The invasion has resulted in a shift to Ukrainian language that has been fairly been reflected on the pageviews trends of Ukrainian Wikipedia as the pageviews during the summer totaled 63.4 million in July and 64.9 million in August, nearly the levels of late 2018. The turn to Ukrainian language has been really pronounced this year, as the ratio of pageviews of Russian to Ukrainian was lower than 2:1 even in the summer. In September, Ukrainian reached a new record high of 96.9 million pageviews and reached 109.9 million pageviews in October. We can attribute the rapid growth in comparison to 2021 to the fact that the support to Ukrainian language has increased a lot among the population, while the Russian bombings in critical infrastructure of Ukraine since October is the basic reason why Ukrainian Wikipedia had low growth during the Fall, instead of reaching around to 120 million pageviews in October and around 125 to 130 million in November.
In November 2022 Ukrainian Wikipedia had 84 million pageviews and Russian 90 million pageviews in Ukraine; this is the lowest difference ever recorded. We can even realistically assume that in some areas of Western Ukraine Ukrainian is the most popular Wikipedia already; although Perohanych disagrees on this approach.
In January 2023 we see that Ukrainian Wikipedia garnered around to 90 million pageviews according to the graph. Here I deliberately give you the pageviews stats per day for 2022. As we can see, Ukrainian Wikipedia has fewer pageviews in June to August and in a period beginning from the last Friday before Christmas Day that ends around in January 25. In late December and most of January 2022, Ukrainian Wikipedia had a number of pageviews ranging from 1.8 to 2.4 million per day; that numbers are around those of summer 2022.
It is expected that Ukrainian Wikipedia will outpace the pageviews of Russian in March 2023 for the first time in history. Ukrainian Wikipedia is expected to record around 95 to 100 million pageviews in February and March is estimated to bring around to 115 million pageviews, according to an extrapolation of the present day statistics. We give a link showing the statistics of pageviews for February to April 2022 per day. By the present day estimation, we can realistically assume that Ukrainian Wikipedia will have around to 4.5 million pageviews in weekdays and something more than 3 million in the weekends.
By the trend that has been given for January 2022 and the summer, we can expect that Ukrainian will have around to 80 million pageviews in the summer months.
Ukrainian Wikipedia is expected to surpass, under normal circumstances, the number of 130 million pageviews during Q4 2023 and 140 million pageviews, somewhere around to March or April 2024. By then, Ukrainian will hold the position of most popular Wikipedia in Ukraine in certain months, such as the period October to December, and February to May, in order to expand year round by 2026.
In January 2023 Ukrainian had 72 million pageviews and Russian 100 million. In the previous year Russian had 133 million pageviews in the same month and Ukrainian 63 million. The rapid collapse of the lead of Russian Wikipedia is the basic reason behind my assumption that Ukrainian Wikipedia will be most popular year round in Ukraine by 2026.
Also, in January Ukraine gave 72 million pageviews to Ukrainian Wikipedia, with Poland giving nearly 4 million from more than 1 million, in January 2022. The growth is attributed to the massive arrival of Ukrainian refugees in Poland, although Russian has also earned many millions of more pageviews in Poland and elsewhere exactly due to the same reason. In general, Ukrainian Wikipedia’s percentage on the pageviews of Ukraine increased from 24% to 36% from 2016 to 2023.
Ukrainian Wikipedia is a Wikipedia with a still great potential, even possible to make its place in the top 10 somewhere in the future. More and more people are visiting its articles, and it becomes a significant part of the growth of the status and role of the Ukrainian language in Ukraine, both Ukrainian and Russian speakers. Despite the difficulties caused by the invasion of Russia in Ukraine, the community has persisted and even going into a new phase of rejuvenation, as the number of new articles written through the year increased from 66 thousand in 2021 to 90 thousand in 2022, as well the number of contributors.
I would like to thank Yuri Perohanych, a Ukrainian Wikipedian, technician and IT personality from Kyiv for the help that he offered for the compilation of the article. He provided very important information about the pageviews trends and the linguistic realities of Ukraine as well.
Ideally (in my opinion) the war should end by a return of all occupied territories in the previous status, the return of Donbass to Ukraine in the position of an autonomous republic with the rights of Russian speakers respected. For Crimea, the same model can be applied, although I also support the idea of an internationally sanctioned referendum for its status (from a strategic point of view, the first option is preferred, in order to give additional security to Ukraine, a balance of power in Azov Sea). I hope that Ukraine will return to its potential and Russia will be democratised someday in the future. Russians worth a better future. The vast majority of Ukrainians desire that Ukraine recover the lost territories, including Crimea. I hope that Ukraine will regain its occupied territories. The war is a horrible experience, and we all hope that Ukrainians (and any other nation) will never endure such an experience again.
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