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News & Politics News & Politics

Why Did "The Ukraine" Become Just "Ukraine"?

Posted by on Mar. 4, 2014 at 5:34 AM
  • 14 Replies

Matt Soniak



Until a few decades ago, Ukraine was almost always referred to as the Ukraine. Then people started dropping the definite article, and now you almost never see it. What gives?

The the has stirred up a lot of strong resentment in Ukraine. The feeling is that the definite article’s heavy use during the era of the Soviet Union by Russians and Westerners alike belittled, intentionally or not, Ukrainians, and demoted Ukraine from a country unto itself to a mere Soviet holding, a border region of the U.S.S.R.

Most historians and linguists agree that the name Ukraine comes from the Slavic ukraina, meaning “borderlands.” Since many countries whose names derive from a geographical feature or factor have a definite article—“the Philippines” referring to the Philippine islands, “the Netherlands” meaning “the lowlands”—the Ukraine makes sense in terms of “the borderlands.”

There’s a little bit of uncertainty about the etymology of Ukraine, though. A few modern Ukrainian historians trace it to the same root word, but with a different meaning, variously “homeland,” “country,”  “land,” “separated piece of land” or “separated part of the tribe,” depending on which historian you’re asking and which sources they’re looking at. The “borderlands” etymology appears to have the most historical support, but if that meaning doesn’t hold up, then the logic for the definite article likewise falls apart.

Since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union, use of the article has declined steadily, in part because of the Ukrainian government expressing their preference for dropping it. In the Google ngram searches below, you can see the Ukraine fall and Ukrainerise (sharply) right around the country’s declaration of independence in 1991, both in reference to the country, and (more so) to things in it.

Today, the Ukraine is considered antiquated and insulting, and using it in well-informed company is a bad idea.


http://mentalfloss.com/article/32098/why-did-ukraine-become-just-ukraine

by on Mar. 4, 2014 at 5:34 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Analeigh2012
by Silver Member on Mar. 4, 2014 at 6:02 AM
1 mom liked this

Interesting.  I often wondered what happened to the "the".

Clairwil
by Platinum Member on Mar. 4, 2014 at 6:06 AM
1 mom liked this

Thank you.   Informative.

grandmab125
by Platinum Member on Mar. 4, 2014 at 12:08 PM

 Me too.

Quoting Analeigh2012:

Interesting.  I often wondered what happened to the "the".

 

mcdun
by Humboldt California on Mar. 4, 2014 at 3:50 PM

I've actually never heard of it reffered to as "the" Ukraine and I dated someone from Ukraine when I was in college.

mcdun
by Humboldt California on Mar. 4, 2014 at 3:52 PM

That makes sense about "the" Philippians because even Filipinos use "THE" 

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 4, 2014 at 3:52 PM

As the graph indicates, it has been referred to as "the Ukraine" in America and the West, until the breakup of the Soviet Union - which happened, face it, more than 20 years ago.

And I'm sure it had already been changing inside Ukraine.

Quoting mcdun:

I've actually never heard of it reffered to as "the" Ukraine and I dated someone from Ukraine when I was in college.


mcdun
by Humboldt California on Mar. 4, 2014 at 3:56 PM

WOW it's been 22 years, damn! I remember going to Russia before the fall of the USSR, I now feel like an ancient. 

Quoting SallyMJ:

As the graph indicates, it has been referred to as "the Ukraine" in America and the West, until the breakup of the Soviet Union - which happened, face it, more than 20 years ago.

And I'm sure it had already been changing inside Ukraine.

Quoting mcdun:

I've actually never heard of it reffered to as "the" Ukraine and I dated someone from Ukraine when I was in college.


I  bet  you  make  your  daddy  proud

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 4, 2014 at 3:57 PM

And I visited Poland before the Wall fell.

Quoting mcdun:

WOW it's been 22 years, damn! I remember going to Russia before the fall of the USSR, I now feel like an ancient. 

Quoting SallyMJ:

As the graph indicates, it has been referred to as "the Ukraine" in America and the West, until the breakup of the Soviet Union - which happened, face it, more than 20 years ago.

And I'm sure it had already been changing inside Ukraine.

Quoting mcdun:

I've actually never heard of it reffered to as "the" Ukraine and I dated someone from Ukraine when I was in college.


mcdun
by Humboldt California on Mar. 4, 2014 at 4:01 PM

I was just a child when we went to the "Russian Riviera" but it was different, I think I was too young to know why it was different. 

Quoting SallyMJ:

And I visited Poland before the Wall fell.

Quoting mcdun:

WOW it's been 22 years, damn! I remember going to Russia before the fall of the USSR, I now feel like an ancient. 

Quoting SallyMJ:

As the graph indicates, it has been referred to as "the Ukraine" in America and the West, until the breakup of the Soviet Union - which happened, face it, more than 20 years ago.

And I'm sure it had already been changing inside Ukraine.

Quoting mcdun:

I've actually never heard of it reffered to as "the" Ukraine and I dated someone from Ukraine when I was in college.


I  bet  you  make  your  daddy  proud

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 4, 2014 at 4:01 PM

How did you find it different?

Quoting mcdun:

I was just a child when we went to the "Russian Riviera" but it was different, I think I was too young to know why it was different. 

Quoting SallyMJ:

And I visited Poland before the Wall fell.

Quoting mcdun:

WOW it's been 22 years, damn! I remember going to Russia before the fall of the USSR, I now feel like an ancient. 

Quoting SallyMJ:

As the graph indicates, it has been referred to as "the Ukraine" in America and the West, until the breakup of the Soviet Union - which happened, face it, more than 20 years ago.

And I'm sure it had already been changing inside Ukraine.

Quoting mcdun:

I've actually never heard of it reffered to as "the" Ukraine and I dated someone from Ukraine when I was in college.


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