Peace Corps Ukraine: Kyiv vs Kiev


Hello Hello!! My parents recently booked their trip to come and visit me and my dad sent me all the confirmation emails. I noticed in my inbox that I didn't recognize my city on the itinerary.

Before I came to Ukraine I called it's capital Kiev (k EE - EH v). I didn't know why people called it Kyiv (K EE V). In the Ukrainian language the city is spelled as follows Київ and in Russian language the city is spelled Киев. These two options come from the transliteration of each word in either Russian or Ukrainian. So, it is actually pretty simple. Saying Kiev is calling a Ukrainian city a Russian name.

It makes sense that people are so used to calling it Kiev and even calling Ukraine "the Ukraine" (Also SUPER DON"T do that. it is SUUUUUPER offensive to Ukrainian people) ( I'll write more on that another time) because for so long we in the western world knew Ukraine as a region of the USSR whose language was Russian. It is what we grew up knowing and using as the proper name for it. But now things are different. After the fall of the Soviet Union there was a big push to take the soviet names of cities and revert the towns back to their original Ukrainian name. They also destroyed all the Lenin statues. Check out a 99% invisible podcast about that here. People have also become pretty creative with their removals of Lenins. Watch about that here.

Since I've been in Ukraine, I've become oddly protective of it as an independent nation. The 3rd goal of the Peace Corps is " To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served." It is part of my job to communicate to people back in America, and who ever else has managed to find their way here ( haaay!) to my blog about this amazing country that I am serving in.

Ukraine is a country at war. You can brush up on the escalating conflict here. or here. A lot of people forget that, but Russia is still actively invading Ukraine (and some other places but that is a whole different can of worms). By calling Kyiv, Kiev, once you know the difference is supporting the Russian view that Ukraine is not an independent nation and should become a part of Russia again.

There is the argument that the spelling "Kiev" reflects the original Old East Slavic spelling of the city. But the most important thing for me when making the argument to use the Ukrainian spelling is that the Ukrainian government has expressed their interest in popularizing and using the spelling Kyiv.

When you respect the people of Ukraine and respect their country as an independent nation it just makes sense to use their language to refer to it's cities.

Ukraine is a vibrant, beautiful county and I am so thankful to be serving here. I am glad that part of my job is helping to education Americans about Ukraine and their culture!

** I also asked all the participants of my English Club on their stance on the matter and they unanimously agreed that they prefer Kyiv. ***

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