The name "Ukraine" (Ukrainian: Україна Ukrayina [ukrɑˈjinɑ], Вкраїна Vkrayina [u̯krɑˈjinɑ]) was first used to define part of the territory of Kievan Rus' in the 12th century. The name has been used in a variety of ways since the twelfth century, referring to numerous lands on the border between Polish and Kievan Rus' territories. In English, the traditional use was "the Ukraine", which is nowadays less common and officially deprecated by the Ukrainian government and many English language media publications.[1][2][3]

Ukraine (Україна) is the official full name of the country, as stated in the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence and Constitution; there is no official alternative long name. From 1922 until 1991, "Ukraine" (also "the Ukraine") was the name of the territory of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Украї́нська Радя́нська Соціалісти́чна Респу́бліка, Ukrayins'ka Radyans'ka Sotsialistychna Respublika) within the Soviet Union (annexed by Germany as Reichskommissariat Ukraine during 1941–1944). During 1917–1921, there were the short-lived Ukrainian People's Republic and Ukrainian State, detached from the Southwestern Krai of the Russian Empire in the Russian Revolution.


The oldest recorded mention of the word ukraina dates back to the year 1187. In connection with the death of the Volodymyr Hlibovych, the ruler of Principality of Pereyaslavl which was Kyïv's southern shield against the Wild Fields, the Hypatian Codex says "oukraina groaned for him", ѡ нем же оукраина много постона (o nem že oukraina mnogo postona).[4] In the following decades and centuries this term was applied to fortified borderlands of different principalities of Rus' without a specific geographic fixation: Halych-Volhynia, Pskov, Ryazan etc.[5]:183[6]

Ukraina[7] under King Władysław Jagiełło of Poland as "Ukraine".

After the south-western lands of former Rus' were subordinated to the Polish Crown in 1569, the territory from eastern Podillia to Zaporizhia got the unofficial name Ukraina due to its border function to the nomadic Tatar world in the south.[8] The Polish chronicler Samuel Grądzki who wrote about the Khmelnytsky Uprising in 1660 explained the word Ukraina as the land located at the edge of the Polish kingdom.[9] Thus, in the course of the 16th–18th centuries Ukraine became a concrete regional name among other historic regions such as Podillia, Severia, or Volhynia. It was used for the middle Dnieper territory controlled by the Cossacks.[5]:184[6] The people of Ukraina were called Ukrainians (українці, ukrajinci, or українники, ukrajinnyky).[10] Later, the term Ukraine was used for the Hetmanate lands on both sides of the Dnieper although it didn't become the official name of the state.[6]

From the 18th century on, the term Ukraine becomes equally well known in the Russian Empire as the official term Little Russia.[5]:183–184 With the growth of national self-consciousness the significance of the term rose and it was perceived not only as a geographic but also as an ethnic name. In the 1830s, Nikolay Kostomarov and his Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Kyïv started to use the name Ukrainians. Their work was suppressed by Russian authorities, and associates including Taras Shevchenko were sent into internal exile, but the idea gained acceptance. It was also taken up by Volodymyr Antonovych and the Khlopomany ('peasant-lovers'), former Polish gentry in Eastern Ukraine, and later by the 'Ukrainophiles' in Halychyna, including Ivan Franko. The evolution of the meaning became particularly obvious at the end of the 19th century.[5]:186 The term is also mentioned by the Russian scientist and traveler of Ukrainian origin Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay (1846–1888). At the turn of the 20th century the term Ukraine became independent and self-sufficient, pushing aside regional self-definitions[5]:186 In the course of the political struggle between the Little Russian and the Ukrainian identitites, it challenged the traditional term Little Russia (Малороссия, Malorossiya) and ultimately defeated it in the 1920s during the Bolshevik policy of Korenization and Ukrainization.[11][12][page needed]


Mainstream interpretation as 'borderland'

Excerpt from Peresopnytsia Gospel (Matthew 19:1) (1556) where the word "ukrainy" (оукраины) corresponds to "coasts" (KJV Bible) or "region"(NIV Bible).

The mainstream view interprets the name "ukraina" in the sense 'borderland, frontier region, marches' etc. These meanings can be derived from the Proto-Slavic noun *krajь, meaning 'edge, border'.

This suggests that it was being used as a semantic parallel to -mark in Denmark, which originally also denoted a border region (in this case of the Holy Roman Empire, cf. Marches). The Arabic name of Egypt, Miṣr, similarly denotes a border region.

A 1648 map by Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan called Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulgo Ukraina (General illustration of desert plains, in common speech Ukraine)

In the sixteenth century, the only specific ukraina mentioned very often in Polish and Ruthenian texts was the south-eastern borderland around Kyïv, and thus ukraina came to be synonymous with the Kyïv Voivodeship and later the region around Kyïv.[citation needed] Later this name was adopted as the name of the country.[citation needed]

The etymology of the word Ukraine is seen this way in all mainstream etymological dictionaries, see e.g. Max Vasmer's etymological dictionary of Russian); see also Orest Subtelny,[13] Paul Magocsi,[14] Omeljan Pritsak,[15] Mykhailo Hrushevskyi,[16] Ivan Ohiyenko,[17] Petro Tolochko[18] and others. It is supported by the Encyclopedia of Ukraine[19] and the Etymological dictionary of the Ukrainian language.[20]

On a map, published in Amsterdam in 1645, the sparsely inhabited region to the north of the Azov sea is called Okraina and is characterized to the proximity to the Dikoia pole (Wild Fields), a posing a constant threat of raids of Turkic nomads (Crimean Tatars and the Nogai Horde). There is, however, also a specialised map published in 1648 of the Lower Dnieper region by Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan called "Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulga Ukraina" (General illustration of desert plains, in common speech Ukraine), attesting to the fact that the term Ukraina was also in use.[21]

Alternative interpretation as 'region, country'

Some Ukrainian scholars, beginning in the 1930s, have interpreted the term ukraina in the sense of 'region, principality, country'.[22]

Many medieval occurrences of the word can be interpreted as having that meaning. In this sense, the word can be associated with contemporary Ukrainian krajina and Belarusian kraina, meaning 'country' (see Translations, 'region of land').

Pivtorak (2001) argues that there is a difference between the two terms ukraina україна "territory" and окраїна okraina "borderland". Both are derived from kraj "division, border, land parcel, territory" but with a difference in preposition, u (у) meaning "in" vs. o (о) meaning "about, around"; *ukraj and *ukrajina would then mean "a separated land parcel, a separate part of a tribe's territory". Lands that became part of Lithuania (Chernihiv and Siversk Principalities, Kiev Principality, Pereyaslav Principality and the most part of the Volyn Principality) were sometimes called Lithuanian Ukraina, while lands that became part of Poland (Halych Principality and part of the Volyn Principality) were called Polish Ukraina. Pivtorak argues that Ukraine had been used as a term for their own territory by the Ukrainian Cossacks of the Zaporozhian Sich since the 16th century, and that the conflation with okraina "borderlands" was a creation of tsarist Russia.[23] which has been countered[clarification needed] by other historical sources of Russia.[24]

English definite article

Ukraine is one of the few English country names traditionally used with the definite article, alongside The Gambia (also The Bahamas and the Netherlands, where the article is necessitated by the plural form). Use of the article was standard before Ukrainian independence, but has been deprecated since the 1990s.[1][2][3][25] For example, The Associated Press dropped the article "the" on 3 December 1991.[3] Use of the definite article was seen as suggesting a non-sovereign territory, much like "the Lebanon" referred to the region before its independence, or as one might refer to "the Midwest".[26] [27][28]

In 1993 the Ukrainian government explicitly requested that the article be dropped,[29] and use of "Ukraine" without the definite article has since become commonplace in journalism and diplomacy (other examples are the style guides of The Guardian[30] and The Times[31]).

Preposition usage in Slavic

Plaque on the wall of the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ukraine. Note the preposition na in Slovak, and the preposition v in Ukrainian.

In the Ukrainian language both na Ukrajini (with the preposition na - "on") and v Ukrajini (with the preposition v - "in") have been used.[citation needed] Linguistic prescription in Russian dictates usage of na.[32] Similar to the definite article issue in English usage, use of na rather than v has been seen as suggesting non-sovereignty. While v expresses "in" with a connotation of "into, in the interior", na expresses "in" with the connotation of "on, onto" a boundary (Pivtorak cites в місті "in the city" vs. на селі "in the village", viewed as "outside the city"). Pivtorak notes that both Ukrainian literature and folk song uses both propositions with the name Ukraina (на Україні and в Україні), but that only в Україні should be used to refer to the sovereign state established in 1991.[23] The insistence on v appears to be a modern sensibility, as even authors foundational to Ukrainian national identity used both prepositions interchangeably, e.g. T. Shevchenko within the single poem В казематі (1847).[33]

The preposition na continues to be used with Ukraine in other West Slavic (Polish, Czech, Slovak). While South Slavic (Serbo-Croatian, Slovene) uses v exclusively.

Phonetics and orthography

Among the western European languages, there is inter-language variation (and even sometimes intra-language variation) in the phonetic vowel quality of the ai of Ukraine, and its written expression. It is variously:

  • Treated as a diphthong (for example, English Ukraine /juːˈkrn/)
  • Treated as a pure vowel (for example, French Ukraine [ykʁɛn])
  • Transformed in other ways (for example, Spanish Ucrania [uˈkɾanja])
  • Treated as two juxtaposed vowel sounds, with some phonetic degree of an approximant [j] between that may or may not be recognized phonemically: German Ukraine [ukʀaˈiːnə] (although the realisation with the diphthong [aɪ̯] is also possible: [uˈkʀaɪ̯nə]). This pronunciation is represented orthographically with a dieresis, or tréma, in Dutch Oekraïne [ukrɑˈiːnə] or Ukraïne, an often-seen Latin-alphabet transliteration of Україна that is an alternative to Ukrayina. This version most closely resembles the vowel quality of the Ukrainian version of the word.

In Ukrainian itself, there is a "euphony rule" sometimes used in poetry and music which changes the letter У (U) to В (V) at the beginning of a word when the preceding word ends with a vowel or a diphthong. When applied to the name Україна (Ukrajina), this can produce the form Вкраїна (Vkrajina), as in song lyric Най Вкраїна вся радіє (Naj Vkrajina vsja radije, “Let all Ukraine rejoice!”).[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b Ukraine or the Ukraine: Why do some country names have 'the'?, BBC News (7 June 2012)
  2. ^ a b Why Ukraine Isn't 'The Ukraine,' And Why That Matters Now, Business Insider (9 December 2013)
  3. ^ a b c The "the" is gone, The Ukrainian Weekly (8 December 1991)
  4. ^ PSRL , published online at Izbornyk, 1187.
  5. ^ a b c d e Пономарьов А. П. Етнічність та етнічна історія України: Курс лекцій.—К.: Либідь, 1996.— 272 с.: іл. І8ВМ 5-325-00615-0.
  6. ^ a b c Е. С. Острась. ЗВІДКИ ПІШЛА НАЗВА УКРАЇНА //ВІСНИК ДОНЕЦЬКОГО УНІВЕРСИТЕТУ, СЕР. Б: ГУМАНІТАРНІ НАУКИ, ВИП.1, 2008 Archived 2013-11-01 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ The term Ukraina, or Kresy, meaning outskirts or borderlands, was first used to define the Polish eastern frontier of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
  8. ^ Украина // Энциклопедический словарь Брокгауза и Ефрона: В 86 томах (82 т. и 4 доп.). — СПб., 1890—1907.
  9. ^ [1]«Margo enim polonice kray; inde Ukrajna, quasi provincia ad fines regni posita».
  10. ^ Русина О. В. Україна під татарами і Литвою. — Київ: Видавничий дім «Альтернативи», 1998. — С. 278.
  11. ^ Миллер А. И. Дуализм идентичностей на Украине Archived 2013-07-30 at the Wayback Machine // Отечественные записки. — № 34 (1) 2007. С. 84-96
  12. ^ Martin T. The Affirmative Action Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2001
  13. ^ Orest Subtelny. Ukraine: A History. University of Toronto Press, 1988
  14. ^ A History of Ukraine. University of Toronto Press, 1996 ISBN 0-8020-0830-5
  15. ^ From Kyïvan Rus' to modern Ukraine: Formation of the Ukrainian nation (with Mykhailo Hrushevski and John Stephen Reshetar). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ukrainian Studies Fund, Harvard University, 1984.
  16. ^ Грушевський М. Історія України-Руси. Том II. Розділ V. Стор. 4
  17. ^ Історія української літературної мови. Київ — 2001 (Перше видання Вінніпег — 1949)
  18. ^ Толочко П. П. «От Руси к Украине» («Від Русі до України». 1997
  19. ^ Енциклопедія українознавства. У 10-х томах. / Головний редактор Володимир Кубійович. — Париж; Нью-Йорк: Молоде життя, 1954—1989.
  20. ^ Етимологічний словник української мови: У 7 т. / Редкол. О. С. Мельничук (голов. ред.) та ін. — К.: Наук. думка, 1983 — Т. 6: У — Я / Уклад.: Г. П. Півторак та ін. — 2012. — 568 с. ISBN 978-966-00-0197-8.
  21. ^ General illustration of desert planes, in common speech Ukraine
  22. ^ Шелухін, С. Україна — назва нашої землі з найдавніших часів. Прага, 1936. Андрусяк, М. Назва «Україна»: «країна» чи «окраїна». Прага, 1941; Історія козаччини, кн. 1—3. Мюнхен. Ф. Шевченко: термін "Україна", "Вкраїна" має передусім значення "край", "країна", а не "окраїна": том 1, с. 189 в Історія Української РСР: У 8 т., 10 кн. — К., 1979.
  23. ^ a b Російські шовіністи стали пояснювати назву нашого краю Україна як «окраїна Росії», тобто вклали в це слово принизливий і невластивий йому зміст. ("Russian chauvinists began to explain the name of our region Ukraine as "the outskirts [okraina] of Russia", that is, they put in this word humiliating and unconnected content.") З історією виникнення назви Україна тісно пов'язане правило вживання прийменників на і в при позначенні місця або простору. Григорій Півторак. Походження українців, росіян, білорусів та їхніх мов (2001), «Україна» — це не «окраїна».
  24. ^ As an example can serve С. М. Середонин. Наказ кн. М. И. Воротынскому и роспись полкам 1572 года, "Записки имп. Русского археологического общества", т. VIII, вып. 1 и 2, полая серия. "Труды отделения русской и славянской археологии", кн. первая, 1895, СПб., 1896; см. предисловие, стр. 49 - 53, публикация, стр. 54 - 62. http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/Dokumenty/Russ/XVI/1560-1580/Schlacht_Molodi/frametext.htm
  25. ^ "Ukraine". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
  26. ^ "'Ukraine' or 'the Ukraine'? It's more controversial than you think". Washington Post. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  27. ^ Trump discusses Ukraine and Syria with European politicians via video link, The Guardian (11 September 2015)
  28. ^ Let's Call Ukraine By Its Proper Name, Forbes (17 February 2016)
  29. ^ Граудина, Л. К.; Ицкович, В. А.; Катлинская, Л. П (2001). Грамматическая правильность русской речи [Grammatically Correct Russian Speech] (in Russian). Москва. p. 69. В 1993 году по требованию Правительства Украины нормативными следовало признать варианты в Украину (и соответственно из Украины). Тем самым, по мнению Правительства Украины, разрывалась не устраивающая его этимологическая связь конструкций на Украину и на окраину. Украина как бы получала лингвистическое подтверждение своего статуса суверенного государства, поскольку названия государств, а не регионов оформляются в русской традиции с помощью предлогов в (во) и из...
  30. ^ "The Guardian Style Guide: Section 'U'". London. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  31. ^ "The Times: Online Style Guide - U". timesonline.co.uk. London. 16 December 2005. Archived from the original on 11 April 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  32. ^ "Горячие вопросы". Gramota.ru. Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  33. ^ Мені однаково, чи буду / Я жить в Україні, чи ні. / [...] / На нашій славній Україні, / На нашій – не своїй землі ("It is the same to me, if I will / live in [v] Ukraine or not. / [...] / In [na] our glorious Ukraine / in [na] our, not their land") ([poetyka.uazone.nethttp://poetyka.uazone.net/kobzar/meni_odnakovo.html poetyka.uazone.net])
  34. ^ See for example, Rudnyc'kyj, J. B., Матеріали до українсько -канадійської фольклористики й діялектології / Ukrainian-Canadian Folklore and Dialectological Texts, Winnipeg, 1956


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