Psalter (psaltyr). A collection of 150 lyrical poems and hymns (Psalms) that constitutes an important book of the Old Testament. The Psalms are widely used in the liturgies of the Christian churches, including the Ukrainian church. They were first translated into Church Slavonic by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius and were disseminated through Ukraine after the adoption of Christianity (see Christanization of Ukraine). The earliest renditions of the Psalter were particularly notable for their ambiguous passages and outcries against the Jewish faith. By the 11th century the Psalter was being used in fortune-telling, with expository passages commonly accompanying each Psalm (in a ‘speculative’ or hadatelnyi tone) advising people how to act in various situations. The Psalter was a popular work and one of the first items to be published in Ukrainian and Belarusian by Frantsisk Skoryna (1517), Ivan Fedorovych (Fedorov) (1570), and others.
For centuries the Psalter was used as a school text. It was also used for reading over the dead or infirm. It has been a common source of quotation in Ukrainian literature from as early as the 11th century up to modern times.
In the 20th century, new translations of the Psalms have been attempted by several authors, including Ivan Puliui (1903, using Hebrew sources), Oleksander Bachynsky (1903), Yaroslav Levytsky (1925), M. Kobryn (1936), Ivan Ohiienko (1962), and Ivan Khomenko (1963).
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]