Arabs. In the 9th–10th century the Arabs conducted a vigorous trade with Eastern Europe, some evidence of which is provided by discoveries of Arab coins ca 820 in Ukraine. Arab geographers, historians, and travelers of the time (some of whom were of Persian or Jewish origin) gave interesting information about the lands and customs of the eastern Slavs, including Kyiv, and about the Rus’ (Varangian) merchants and conquerors. They include the Persian Ibn Khordādhbih, Ahmad Ibn Fadlān (known only from the adaptations of al-Istakhrī and Ibn Hawqal), Ibn al-Faqīh, al-Balādhurī, the Persian Ibn Rosta, al-Mas‘ūdī, al-Balkhī, al-Istakhrī (known only from transcriptions), and Ibn Hawqal, al-Ya‘qūbī, Ibn Miskwaih, and the Jew Ibn Ya‘qub. Data on Ukraine, particularly on the Crimea, are found in the later Arab writers: Ibn Yahyā and al-Bakrī of the 11th century, al-Idrīsī of the 12th, Abu al-Fidā' of the 13th, and Ibn Battūtah of the 14th.

In the later Kyivan Rus’ era Ukrainians became acquainted with Arab literature through the mediation of the Byzantines and then of the Jews. In the 13th century the Indian story ‘Kalila and Dimna’ (Kalīla wa-Dimna), which reached Greece in the Arabic translation of Ibn al-Muqaffa‘ in the 9th century, was translated from Greek into Old Ukrainian under the title ‘Stephanit and Ikhnilat.' In the 15th century, through Jewish mediation, there appeared in Ukrainian translation the political-moral treatise Tainaia tainykh (Mystery of Mysteries; Arabic: Sirr al-asrār), possibly a translation of Ibn Yahyā, and the logical-philosophical work Rechi Moiseia Iehyptianyna (The Discourses of Moses the Egyptian), by Moses Maimonides of the 12th century, which was a translation of the Arab-Persian philosopher al-Ghazālī of the 11th–12th century (Maqāsid al-falāsifa—The Tendencies of Philosophers). According to some conjectures this could have been the work of the Aristotelian philosopher al-Fārābī of the 9th–10th century.

Ukrainian contacts with Arab Christians of the Eastern rite, particularly with the Antioch and Jerusalem patriarchates, began in the 16th century. In 1586 Joachim V, the patriarch of Antioch, visited Lviv; his voyage is described in a contemporary Arab poem. In the 1640s Metropolitan Jeremiah of Syria visited Ukraine; Paul of Aleppo, the son of the Antioch patriarch Macarius III, who traveled through Ukraine on his way to Moscow in 1654, was hosted by Bohdan Khmelnytsky and wrote in Arabic an account of his trip, which contains an important chapter on Ukraine. S. Tudorsky and Ioanikii Galiatovsky of the Kyivan Mohyla Academy polemicized against the Koran in the 17th century. An Arabic edition of the Gospels published in Aleppo at the beginning of the 18th century was funded by Hetman Ivan Mazepa. Accounts of travels to Palestine and the adjacent Arab countries were written by Macarius and Sylvester of Novhorod-Siverskyi in 1704–7, I. Vyshensky of Chernihiv in 1707–9, Sylvester and Nykodym of Rykhly Saint Nicholas’s Monastery in 1722, and by Vasyl Hryhorovych-Barsky, who spent over 20 years in the Near East. In the mid-19th century, descriptions of travels in Arabic lands begin to appear in the Ukrainian press: for example V. Terletsky (1856), L. Turiansky of Kolomyia (1886), P. Skaliuk (1906). Arab themes can be found in the writings of Hryhorii Skovoroda, Levko Borovykovsky, Semen Hulak-Artemovsky, Panteleimon Kulish, Ivan Franko, Lesia Ukrainka, and Ahatanhel Krymsky (who also translated Arab literature into Ukrainian).

The first lectures on the Arab language and literature in Ukraine were given by B. Dorn at Kharkiv University (1829–32). M. Petrov and V. Nadler, both professors of Kharkiv University, wrote on Arab history. Many works in Arab studies were published by the prominent orientalist Ahatanhel Krymsky and then by Andrii Kovalivsky, T. Kezma, and others. (See Oriental studies.)

In 1925–30 the Ukrainian Eastern Chamber of Commerce in Soviet Ukraine promoted trade with Egypt and Palestine. In the 1960s Ukraine became the principal supplier of sugar to the Arab countries. In 1965–6 the Ukrainian SSR participated in the development of 18 industrial firms in Iraq, 16 in Egypt, 6 in Sudan, and 4 each in Syria and Tunisia. Many Arab students studied in Soviet Ukraine: for example, in 1966–7 there were 205 students from Iraq, 129 from North Yemen, and 108 from Egypt.

Garkavi, A. Skazaniia musul'manskikh pisatelei o slavianakh i russkikh (Saint Petersburg 1870)
Kunik, A.; Rozen, V. Izvestiia al'-Bekri i drugikh avtorov o Rusi i slavianakh (Saint Petersburg 1878)
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Bohdan Struminsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

Encyclopedia of Ukraine