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Transliteration is usually a bit of a strange thing, yet it’s especially complicated in Ukraine, where roughly one-sixth of people is ethnic Russian, speaking Russian, and yet another sixth are ethnic Ukrainian, but speak Russian too. It’s become especially difficult recently, as many in the protesters inside the capital are Ukrainian-speaking, taking for the streets last November when President Viktor Yanukovych – a Russian-speaker from Ukraine’s east – averted from E.U. membership toward an agreement with Russia’s Eurasian Union.
Given previous Russian domination, both during the Soviet period and before, it’s a given that language has developed into a big problem in the country. One obvious example of this can be the Western practice of discussing the united states as "the Ukraine" rather than "Ukraine." You can find myriad reasons that is wrong and offensive, but probably the most convincing would be that the word Ukraine comes from the previous Slavic word "Ukraina," which roughly meant "borderland." Many Ukrainians believe that the "the" implies they’re simply a part of Russia – "little Russia," as they are sometimes known as by their neighbors – and never a genuine country. The Western habit of using "the Ukraine" to consult the country – even by those sympathetic for the protesters, like Senator John McCain- is viewed as ignorant at best.
On top, the Kiev/Kyiv debate seems similar, although it is way less heated. The official language of the united states is Ukrainian. The city, within the predominantly Ukrainian-speaking west of the country, had its name standardized to Kyiv in Roman letters by the Ukrainian government way back in 1995, just 4 years after they formally asked the globe to please stop saying ‘the Ukraine.’ The globe listened, to a extent – the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) approved the spelling ‘Kyiv’ in 2006 following a request from the Ukrainian government (and subsequent endorsement by the State Department).
It’s not that easy, however. For one thing, through the years there is a number of different spellings in the English names for the city; Wikipedia lists a minimum of nine. Last 1995, Andrew Gregorovich of the FORUM Ukrainian Review argued that as "Kiev" scaled like an old Ukrainian-language name for the location, knowning that Kyiv and other potential Roman transliterations – including Kyjiv and Kyyiv – were confusing for English speakers, Kiev was simply fine. The BGN still allows Kiev to use, arguing that ‘Kyiv’ is simply "an exception towards the BGN-approved romanization system which is applied to Ukrainian geographic names in Ukrainian Cyrillic script."
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