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Is it Kyiv or Kiev? Orthography meets geopolitics.

Many of us have been using a spelling and pronunciation that more closely resembles the way the city is spelled in Russian. Much like calling the country “the Ukraine,” which a Ukrainian translator quickly disavowed me of, referring to the capital as “Kiev” harkens back to the days of the Soviet Union. Especially given recent developments, it’s more culturally and geopolitically astute to use the Ukrainian-derived transliteration, “Kyiv.”

While Ukrainians have been pushing for this change since the country’s independence in the 90s, the aggressive online campaign #KyivNotKiev, launched in 2018, helped pave the way for most major American English-language publications to stop using “Kiev” in 2019.

For what it’s worth, German news organizations still seem to spell it “Kiew,” but admittedly, the alternative spelling “Kyjiw” will take some getting used to.

To learn more about the art of translating place names, check out the article from Multilingual Magazine that inspired my post.


Ukrainian Social Media Campaign

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