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Eastern European Nationalism

I posted some videos of my trips to several cities in Ukraine in the summer of 2007. These are on a travel log at YouTube, which you can watch below. When I first posted these, I did it for my own reference and enrichment, since I thought virtually no one would watch them. Now though, I’ve had thousands of viewers and many of the comments are arguments from Ukrainian and Polish nationalists over the correct spelling and pronunciation of the cities; which church has the religious monopoly in the region; and which country had its land stolen first.

You can scroll through all 23 videos here:

Just two examples of the responses I have been getting:

I would like to bring your attention the name Kyiv should be used instead of Russified Kiev.

Whenever you arrive to Kyiv Boryspil International, you will never miss four big shining letters KYIV on the top of the airport building. When you drive further towards the city, you will be greeted by the board Kyiv welcomes you on the side of the speedway. You may think these changes occurred after the Orange Revolution. Let me reassure you that this was already the case in earlier nineties and long time before it.

KYIV” spelling is the only official Ukrainian spelling, used by the Ukrainian government, So that makes it OFFICIAL and correct. The fact is that the majority of foreign governments, embassies, and numerous academic and business organizations use “KYIV” not “KIEV.” The US Embassy uses “KYIV.”

The fact the Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada, through many of its Commissions allows only one spelling, Kyiv. Probably, the most important argument is the Constitution of Ukraine, which clearly states that The capital of Ukraine is the City of Kyiv. In fact, it can be argued that those who persistently use Kiev instead of Kyiv could be accused of Russian Nationalism and clinging to Russian communism.

There is also the debate over whether it is Lvov, Lviv or Lwów:

I hope that one day someone will be decide about American and British territories. Maybe you should describe what means expulsion from own home/house and what means suffer in Russian Siberian gulags and in German Auschwitz camp like it was in my family.

Americans should leave own cities and give them to Eskimos and Indians. In New York should live only the Dutch because they established Manhattan. Berlin should be Polish; Paris and London Italian because were established by Romans; Russian Nowgorod by Swedes.

Polish and Hungarian roots go deeper in one region of Ukraine than Ukrainian roots. Kievan Rus conquered these region which belonged to us (Poles and Hungarian) from beginning. Before Christianization of Poland it was Polish tribes lands — western Slavic, not eastern — so not Ukrainian.

If you will decide about Poland again give this ugly German Wrocław/Breslau to Germany, which by the way was destroyed by Russians, and give us our Lwów. Nobody asked Americans and British for Wrocław.

Polish government never acknowledge that Lwów is not a polish city. It is the only one big Polish city which wasn’t destroyed by Germans and Russians communist during WW2. The oldest monument in Lwów is from Polish times, because Ruthenian Lviv was had mainly wooden buildings.

Americans and British had no right to sold us to Russian communist after how we fought for freedom so many allied counties and nobody help to us. People in eastern Europe hate when Americans and other western countries decide about our land. Serbia likes Russians because of Kosovo independence.

My response: In English, there is no “yi” dipthong. Kyiv is the foreign transliteration of the Ukrainian spelling. However, both the Russian and Ukrainian spellings are in the Cyrillic alphabet. Kiev is the English transliteration according to common spelling rules. “Kyiv” simply has not caught on in the West. Very few people recognize it over “Kiev.”

A Google search for Kyiv “yyilds” 4 million web pages, while Kiev yields 40 million.

I can’t pretend to have any expertise in these conflicts that go back over many centuries. I can only give the honest point of view of the “ugly American.”

The American author and satirist Mark Twain wrote: “There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.”

Of course, “hyi” is using hyperbole to prove a point. No nation has come into existence without displacing another nation at some point.

What I write “hyir” is also a satire. If “wyi” take your principle to the logical conclusion, then every ethnic nationality that ever conquered or colonized a “pyis” of land ought to give it up to the prior tenant. Then that nation should give up its claim to the prior one. And all the way back to Adam.

If “thyiz” nations don’t exist today in pure blood we ought to honor them by changing the names of all our “cityiz.”

Chicago ought to be returned to the French and be called: Chicagou. The French then ought to give it up to the Chippeway Indians as Shiggaugo. Then the Crees ought to have it and it should be revert to: Shiggaugo-ong.

And so on.

Many cities in Russia and the former USSR have been renamed to reflect their pre-Revolutionary names, St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Nizhny Novgorod (Gorky), etc. Americans don’t have a problem with changing names of foreign countries as many times as they request. We think it’s strange that we’ve been “America” for over 400 years and only added “The United States of America” in 1776. We are the “New” World, yet Europeans still can’t decide what to call themselves.

Often our spelling and pronunciation of names is different from the nationalist spelling. Wien becomes Vienna; Mumbai becomes Bombay; Rocia becomes Russia; Ookraine becomes Ukraine. But we don’t usually spell foreign place names contrary to our spelling rules or else we simply mispronounce them depending on their spelling.

Unless they are English or Irish — but that’s a different story.

Your comments are welcome!

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