Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Ukrainian uses a Cyrillic alphabet. It shares some vocabulary with the languages of the neighboring Slavic nations, most notably with Belarusian, Polish, Russian and Slovak. Ukrainian traces its origins to the Old East Slavic language of the ancient state of Kievan Rus’. The language has persisted despite the two bans by Imperial Russia and political persecution during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ukrainian has survived mainly due to its broad base among the people of Ukraine, its folklore songs, kobzars, prominent poets like Taras Shevchenko and Lesya Ukrainka.