The symphony takes its name from the use of Ukrainian Folk Songs; Ukraine often referred to as Little Russia in Tchaikovsky’s day. Tchaikovsky wrote most of his second symphony while staying with his sister’s family in Kamianka, Ukraine. He finished it in 1872, but made several revisions over the years.
The symphony was well received by the public, and even by “The Five”. “The Five”, also known as “The Mighty Handful” was a group of five nationalistic Russian composers who sought to write pure Russian music. They often criticized Tchaikovsky for being influenced by Western music and looked down on him and others for their classical training and connections in society.
The five was made up of Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin. Tchaikovsky would occasionally work with members of The Five over the years, but the two parties would never quite see eye to eye.