“Ukraine”, instead of “The Ukraine”.

I hear a lot of times people saying “The Ukraine” instead of “Ukraine”. They tell me that’s the way they learned it growing up. Even highly educated people in the USA say “The Ukraine”. Though on my English classes at college, where I got my degree in foreign languages, I learned that one-word country names didn’t have the definite article.

So, what is correct “Ukraine” or  “The Ukraine”?

The name “Ukraine” (in Ukrainian it’s pronounced “Ukrayina”) has been used in a variety of ways since the twelfth century.

During Soviet days Ukraine was called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or in short, the Ukrainian SSR. After USSR collapsed, Ukraine became a separate country. It proclaimed its independence on August 24, 1991. It was no longer a republic. The modern country of Ukraine was established. The Ukrainian government advised to drop “the” in the name of Ukraine. In August 1991 President George H.W. Bush assured everybody that the United States of America will recognize Ukraine as an independent country.

The challenge is that for a long period of time Ukrainian immigrant scholars used the definite article “the” before the name of Ukraine. This was simply due to their force of habit, and sometimes weak knowledge of English. They grew up in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and most of them moved to the U.S. when Ukraine was in transition from a republic to an independent country. That’s why many people still think that “The Ukraine” is correct.

I want to emphasize that English grammar has easy to understand rules about articles (definite and indefinite). When you talk about one-word country names, there is no article; e.g. France, Italy or Ukraine. If the name is with political descriptions, one should use definite article “the”; e.g. The People’s Republic of China. With plurals you need to use “the”; e.g. the Philippines. With compass directions do not use “the”; e.g. North Korea.

As you see it is Ukraine, not “The Ukraine”.

Go to Wikipedia, and search “Ukraine” to find more information about this country.

I know that it will be some time before people learn that there is no article “the” in the name “Ukraine”. I hope, though, that some day Ukraine will be recognized by the world as an independent country, not as part of Russia or nonexistent Soviet Union…

Categories: All Things Ukrainian | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on ““Ukraine”, instead of “The Ukraine”.

  1. Tatiana

    thank you for the explanation, I will now have a good explanation for anyone who makes this understandable mistake.

  2. Listening to Solzynitzen’s audiobook, the Gulag Archipelago and always in the background he talks about the scores of Western Ukrainians in the camps. He said that half the prison population was made up of this ethnic group. What role did these men play in the independence of Ukraine?

    Also what does West Bank and East Bank Ukrainian?

    Why is the trident the national symbol of Ukraine?

    Thank you.

    • Trident (in Ukrainian “tryzub” pronounced “treh-zoob”) is the official coat of arms of Ukraine. It is a gold trident on a blue background. Trident as a state emblem dates back to Kyivan Rus’, when it was the coat of arms of the Rurik dynasty.
      There are several theories about trident’s origins and meaning. Most historians believe that it depicts a stylized falcon. According to the Slavic mythology falcon was the Primary god (Pershoboh). As well as in Christianity, a descending falcon, symbolizes the Holy Spirit. This is the most likely explanation, as the symbol appears during the years surrounding the Christianization,
      The oldest examples of trident found by archeologists date back to the 1st century AD. Historians believe that it served as a symbol of power in local tribes that lived on a territory of modern Ukraine.
      It was also depicted on ceramics, weapons, rings, medallions, seals, and manuscripts.
      In 1918, Ukrainian National Republic used trident as the state coat of arms. The UNR leaders wanted to link the newly formed Ukrainian state with the medieval state of Kyivan Rus’.
      On 19 February 1992, after the restoration of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the Supreme Council accepted the trident as the chief element in the state coat of arms.

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