So Why Is it Called “The Ukraine”?


[Editor’s note:  This is my long-promised piece on the history of Ukraine, its ethnicity, culture, and language.  It is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of Ukrainian nationhood.  It is also not a critique of the current hostilities.]

So why do I call it, “The Ukraine?” 

Gail recently expressed her annoyance with me for having to edit “The” out of my posts every time I use the expression and asked me why I continue to use it. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question.  

I do it because Ukrajina is a Polish word that means “borderlands.”  It first appeared in the 16th century and shortly thereafter, the French called it l’Ukraine (“the Ukraine”).  This locution stuck for centuries afterward, even to the present day.  That’s understandable since French was the universal language for the better part of four hundred years, right up until the mid-twentieth century.

Having said that, it was never a “nation” in the true sense of the word, at least not until 1991.  The 1922 creation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic doesn’t really count because it was a Leninist-created province of the USSR.  It was a communist-inspired effort to divide the peoples who made up the majority stock of the Russian (i.e. Great Russian, Malorussian, and Belorussian) people into different ethnicities. 

This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a back story.  It does.  Unfortunately for the recent crop of nationalists, it’s one that’s inseparable from Russian civilization in its entirety.  Not just the Russian nation, as presently constituted, but Russian civilization itself.

Now, I realize that this word (“Russian”) is inadequate for the task which I am about to undertake in that it has been appropriated by the larger polity to the East.  Unfortunately, “Ukrainian” is an even more inadequate term given the relatively recent historicity of that name.  A better word may be Rus’, Rusyn, or Ruthenian but “Ruthenian” is Latinized term for Russian civilization in toto.  Kievan Rus’ is the more accurate term but it has no good ethnic modifier other than “Rusyn” which seems obnoxious to some of the sub-groups within this civilization.  So, until a better word is coined, “Russian” will have to do. 

Recently, one of our commentators sent me this essay:  “The Legacy of Kievan Rus’:  The Memory War between Russia and Ukraine.”   

I recommend you read it first and then read my critique.  Suffice it to say, the author puts the cart before the horse.  It retcons (i.e. “retroactively connects”) the “Ukrainian” nationality itself back to the Kievan Rus’ state founded by the Vikings in the ninth century.  This would be like modern Mexicans interjecting their present identity onto the pre-Columbian Aztec culture without any reference at all to the Spanish conquest. 

For an excellent discourse on the linguistic aspect, please take the time to read this piece by Mark Temnycky (himself a Ukrainian-American):

Since Lenin granted “independence” to the Ukraine in 1922, nationalists in that country have opted in their constitution to drop the definite article (i.e. the).  [Editor Note:  I can’t promise that I’ll always be able to honor the new locution, you know what they say about old dogs.]

Now, this makes sense since, in the Eastern Slavic languages (i.e. Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian), there are no articles at all, whether definite articles (the) or indefinite ones (a/an).   For example, in English one would say, “I am an American,” whereas when translated into Russian it is “ya Amerikanetz,” i.e. “I, American.”  (There is no infinitive verb [is] in these languages, as well.)

All things being equal, it should then be called “Ukraine” for two reasons:  First, because there is no definite article in these languages (as noted), and second, because the people who live there don’t want us to use the definite article when we refer to their country in our own languages (many of which do possess definite and indefinite articles, like English, Italian, Greek, German and a host of other Indo-European languages).

Still, old habits die hard.  Especially for those of us who have heard it called “the Ukraine” for all our lives.

This of course complicates things:  We Greeks screamed bloody murder when the Macedonians wanted to call their country “Macedonia.”  We kept on calling it FYROM (“Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) but when nobody else liked it, we ceded somewhat and demanded that it be called “Northern Macedonia” instead.  And then this “Kyiv” nonsense has sprouted out of seemingly nowhere.  Do we call the capital of Russia Moskva, or Greece’s capital Atheenai?  We mispronounce Paris all the time, don’t we?  (It’s Pa-REE.)  For that matter I still call Myanmar “Burma.”  

Now, having said that; “Ukraine” is an exonym.  That means it is a name given to a people, region, or country by foreigners, not one which originates from the people themselves.  In the case of Ukraine, it comes from the Poles who conquered that region in the sixteenth century and called it Ukrajina.  Before the natives called it Malorossiya.

The prefix |ukro| is an ancient Indo-European word meaning “frontier” and in the middle of the nineteenth century we first see documentary evidence of some of the people calling themselves “Uhrorussians“.  

So, if I may be so indelicate, I have an honest question to ask and that is why would the people of a country want to be stamped with the name given to them by their former (and much hated) Polish overlords?  Especially when they view themselves, correctly, as the font of Russian civilization?  This would be like black people proudly calling themselves the N-word. 

Sorry to be so pedantic but we Greeks don’t call ourselves “Greek,” we call ourselves Hellenes when we speak amongst ourselves.  Ditto the Germans, who call themselves Deutsch.  The Japanese call themselves Nihonjin.  In other words, “Greek,” “German,” and “Japanese” are also exonyms, i.e. words that are imposed on a particular people by foreigners.  And usually not for the best of reasons.  Regardless, these nations at least proudly cling to their original nomenclature, come what may.  

For the great majority of Ukrainians, but not the large number of minorities who live there (see map below), Ukraine is an ethnostate, arising from the same racial stock as the Great Russians, Byelorussians, Carpatho-Russians, and even Poles.*  According to the earliest documentary evidence, the area in question was first settled by Slavic tribes sometime in the sixth century.  Kiev, itself, became a settlement around this time and prospered, situated as it was midway between Scandinavia and Constantinople on the Dnieper River.  Interestingly, during this time, the area in question was not an independent Slavic polity but a tributary of the Khazar Khaganate, a semi-nomadic empire of Turkic warriors who converted to rabbinic Judaism in the ninth century.    

However, it did not become a polity until the ninth century when Norsemen from Sweden (aka Varangians) were invited there by the local Slavs to establish order.  The legendary founder of the first state was a Viking warrior named Rurik (Norse:  Hrorikr), who ruled them from 862 to 879.  According to the 12th century Primary Chronicle, the Eastern Slavic tribes of that land were weak and often prey to their enemies, so they invited Rurik and his warriors to be their overlords.  

For centuries, it was believed that the ethnic name Rus’ was derived from Rurik.  This is not the case.  Rurik belonged to a coastal Swedish tribe which was already called Rus’ by some and Roslagen (“Rus-law”*) by others.  This etymology arose in the eighth century.  The proto-Finnic name for Sweden is Ruotsi, which is derived from an Old Norse term for “those who row.”**  In any event, Rus’ was the common name for these ancient Vikings who eventually applied it to their Slavic subjects.  Eventually, both the warrior caste and their subjects were amalgamated into a singular ethnicity that came to be known as Kievan Rus’ (in much the same way that the Teutonic Franks intermarried with native Celts of Gaul).  

*Compare this to the “Danelaw,” which was the eastern part of pre-Norman England where the Danes had carved out an independent kingdom for themselves.

**This is probably the origin of the English word rods (i.e. oars). 

Rurik established a fortification which he called Novgorod (“new city”, a portmanteau of nov- [Latin:  “new”] and -gard [Norse:  “city”]).  This was his capital, not Kiev.  After his death, his son Igor (Norse:  Ingvar) conquered Kiev and made it his capital.  From thence, it became a polity known as Kievan Rus’ –not Ukraine–and served as the base of subsequent conquest for his descendants.  Kiev, itself, was the crown jewel of the expanding Russian state and its grand duke (velykiy knyaz) was considered to be the premier magistrate in all of Rus’.  So, too, was its ecclesiarch, the Metropolitan of Kiev.  

In any event, Kiev lasted as the capital of an independent state until 1240, when the entire region was conquered by the Mongols.  Because of their depredations, their capital migrated to Vladimir-Suzdal and from thence to the newly-created city of Moscow.   In time, the Metropolitan of Kiev moved his seat to Moscow as well.  Therefore the Kievan Rus’ culture existed from 1240 to 1569 as a polity only outside of the confines of modern Ukraine.  As for the Rurikids, they continued to rule all of the Russian city-states for over 600 years, only to be replaced by the Romanov dynasty in 1613.

In 1569, however, the region in question was conquered by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth who tried to impose Catholicism upon the natives.  To finance their crusade, they brought in thousands of Jews who had been recently expelled from Western Europe, whom they employed as arredentors, that is to say, “rent-collectors.”  Because of their literacy and organizational genius, they became tax farmers as well.  In time, they were also given monopolies to distill liquor and own taverns and inns.

In time, both Malorussia and Byelorussia became known as the “Pale of Settlement,” where the burgeoning Jewish population was confined to since they were prevented from migrating to Russia proper (which came to be known as “Holy Russia”).  At any rate, it was during this period that Jews became reviled as predatory middlemen, viewed as oppressors by the Slavic peasants while serving the interests of the hated Poles.  It is unknown to what extent these Jews from Central and Western Europe intermarried with the remnant of the Khazars who had converted to Rabbinic Judaism.  (Needless to say, like all things Ukrainian, this is a controversial topic.)

The endless cycle of rents, taxation, and indebtedness for the native Christian population became intolerable for many of the natives.  Several men simply pulled up stakes and chose to live as semi-nomads themselves, living as freebooters, brigands, and highwaymen, calling themselves “cossacks.”  Their chieftains took the appellation hetman and sometimes they and their armies would engage in pogroms against Jewish villagers for past economic grievances, whether real or imagined.  It was one such hetman named Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who organized a rebellion against the hated Poles in 1648.  Khmelnytsky’s army was led by cossacks but its ranks swelled with ordinary Orthodox Christians, who went on a rampage against their hated Polish overlords and their Jewish agents.  According to most sources, upwards of 40,000 Jews were killed as well as an indeterminate number of Poles and Lithuanians.   

For all practical purposes, it was Khmelnytsky’s rebellion that gave rise to the creation of Malorussia/Ukraine as a polity in its own right (as distinct from their Russian brethren to the North and East).  That said, the concept of Kievan Rus’ had been appropriated by the Grand Duchy of Muscovy some three hundred years earlier.  Khmelnytsky, conscious that his new nation occupied a dangerous frontier between the great powers of Poland, Russia, and Turkey, and fearing that it would be subject to reprisals from the Poles and Lithuanians, signed a treaty with the Romanov dynasty in 1654, thereby uniting his state with the Russian nation.

Some three decades later, Patriarch Dionysius IV of Constantinople, recognizing the new borders of the expanded Russian state (and as per canonical protocols), transferred the Archdiocese of Kiev to the Patriarchate of Moscow.   And so, the history of Ukraine came full circle, becoming reintegrated into the broader Russian civilization.  Indeed, it remained an integral part of the Russian Empire and the people referred to themselves as Russians for the most part and later as Ukro-Russians, that is to say, “Russians of the Border (or Frontier).”  

As already mentioned above, the popular, folkloric name for Ukraine during the time of the Mongol overlordship was Malorossiya or “Little Russia” (i.e. Russia-Minor).  This, too, is an (admittedly less obnoxious) exonym as well.  Ironically, this exonym is at least three hundred years older than Ukrajina.  The earliest known mention of the word Malorossiya first appeared in a document signed in 1335 by Duke Boleslaw-Jerzy II, the ruler of Galicia-Volhynia, who signed his decrees thusly:  “Dux totius Russiae minoris,” i.e. “Duke of all Russia Minor.”  (In any event, we can see that the word  Russiae was already in use.)

So where am I going with this?  

Basically here:  to speak about “Ukrainian history” in the pre-Polish period is as oxymoronic as speaking about “English history” in the pre-Saxon period; or “French history” before the conquest of Gaul by the Franks.  This is not only historically illiterate, it’s comical.  You might as well call St Patrick an Englishman simply because he was born in what is now England.  (I once saw a newspaper article that called the original St Nicholas “a Turk.”  You had to ply me off the ceiling.)  

Now, I’m under no illusions that the present-day Ukrainian populace is going to embrace Mother Russia and strew rose petals in front of Russian tanks.  But it’s hard to say for sure if there is any unanimity in that poor land one way or the other.  From what we know, in the eastern part of the Ukraine at least, where Russian consciousness is high, it is probable that these people will gladly reintegrate into the Russian civilizational state that is being formed, whether politically (as “Novorossiya”), or as independent, pro-Russian buffer-states (i.e. the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics).

As for those in the West, I imagine that when all is said and done, they will continue to use the name Ukraine for their polity.  I’m not at all sure what the central portion of present-day Ukraine will be called.  

One thing is for sure, the civilizational fault-line between the secular/humanist West and the Orthodox East runs right through the Ukraine, along the contours of the Dnieper River if I had to guess.  And, as I’ve said before, the ethnic, linguistic, and religious divisions within the country –to say nothing of its poverty and corruption–make it hard to envision it coming back together again.  Indeed, the abominable behavior of many of the ultra-nationalists in the Ukraine toward the Hungarian and Moldavian minorities in the West and the Russophones in the Crimea and the Donbass, argues against a peaceful future for that nation as presently constituted.  Crimea for one, Kherson, and the Donbass region are not going to be reintegrated into a future Ukrainian state, at least not one ruled by Kiev.  As for the Hungarian and Moldovan minorities, they will likewise ensure that the Transnistria region that abuts Hungary and Romania become even more strongly integrated with Russia proper.   

Perhaps now would be a good time to heed the prophecy of St Lawrence of Chernigov (d. 1950):, and to pray for a quick end to this war.  


For an idea of how heterogenous the modern state of Ukraine is, please take a look at this map:

*One of the most ridiculous aspects of modern Ukrainian historiography as told by the ultra-nationalists is the belief that the modern Ukrainian populace is not Slavic but of pure Aryan descent, while the Russians to the East, whom they derisively call Moskals, are a mongrel race of Slavs, Tatars, and Mongols.  Having said that, it is true that the present-day Russian language has diverged more from its original Kievan Rus’ norms than the Ukrainian language itself.  (Although in the latter case, there is a heavy linguistic Polish and German influence.)


  1. Instructive analysis, George.
    Thank you.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Thank you, Brendan. I was trying to be as dispassionate as possible.

    • Katherine says

      Yes, Excellent work, George! What about the descendants of the Pontic Greeks who were settled around the Black Sea in the reign of Catherine the Great? I watched interviews with some who had fled back to Greece after the Russian invasion. They say the Ukrainians were planning an assault on the Donbass and Crimea and then were going to attack Russia, with the full support of the West. They also spoke of unrelenting harassment by the Ukies because of their Greek heritage.

  2. Two points, George,

    First, my reasoning for using “the Ukraine” is quite simple. That is the way we have historically referred to that part of the world in English for generations past. Dropping the “the” is thus a form of NewSpeak. But additionally, when I learned Russian formally, it was the rule in standard Russian to use the preposition “na” or “on” for the Ukraine as opposed to “v” or “in” for most nations. This difference is of long historical usage. Sometime in the 1990’s, after Ukraine became a nation, the Ukrainians asked the world to drop the “the” and for Russians to switch from “na Ukrainye” to “v Ukrainye”, the first means on the Ukraine (i.e., on the Frontier), the second means “in Ukraine” or “in (the) Frontier”.

    Now, if Ukrainians wish to change the Ukrainian language, I have no objection. But if they want to change the Russian and/or English language, then there should be some substantial reason offered. Political nationalism is not a substantial reason, IMHO. The change begs the question, “Should the Ukraine be a separate nation from Russia?”.

    In any case, I”m no fan of NewSpeak. I consistently had points taken off in undergraduate school, proudly, for insisting on using the hypothetical masculine singular instead of “he/she”, “(s)he” or “he or she” or alternating in the same essay. Standard English used the masculine singular in such instances and politics was too Orwellian a reason to change, IMHO. Moreover, the politics responsible I considered odious, which is the case in the circumstance of the Ukraine as well.

    Second, I’m not sure you’re right regarding the relative divergence of Russian and Ukrainian from the Old Slavonic dialect of Kievan Rus’. Originally, both Russian and Ukrainian were Eastern Slavic languages. Ukraine has preserved more of the old orthography (which in Russia changed around the time of the Revolution). However, Russian has remained a more purely Eastern Slavic language in terms of vocabulary. Ukrainian is heavily influenced by Polish and thus Russian and Ukrainian have about a 50 percent mutual intelligibility but Polish and Ukrainian is closer to 70 percent.

    • Katherine says

      I was taught that The Ukraine was so called because it was an area not on the borderland but because it marked the beginning of the border. In Russian “y”(oo) means beyond and “krai” means border. So Ykraina means beyond the border. I question I have is how mixed up are the ethnic polities today? Surely, it takes no more than a generation for the melting pot to do its job?

      • “Krai” means territory. “Granitsa” means border. “U” can mean “by” but also signifies movement “away”, thus “uyti” means “to go away”. “Ukraina” means, literally, something like “frontier land” or “territory afar”. “Beyond the border” is “za granitsei”, which is actually part of the name of our church, sometimes translated as “abroad”.

        • Katherine says

          Interesting. I have been told that I speak Russian in an “old way.” Maybe that’s why I seem to have slightly different understanding of words. Try using the word gay in an old way.

          • “Try using the word gay in an old way.”
            – “Mr. Joseph Cecil Gay.”
            – Flintstones 1961 theme song (Gay Old Time). Sounds awkward in 2022.
            – My sense is that “gay” was not a common word even in 1961, so it was easy for it to lose its original meaning.

            Then there is “Dick”, as in “Dick Nixon”, which is also probably pretty rare in its original meaning today. Just having a name like “Dick” would probably be embarrassing for teenagers today, but at a business conference would be fine.

          • It’s all in the same ballpark. I just try to be thorough.

        • Wiktionary gives this Old East Slavic origin:

          See also: Украина, Украіна, Украйна and Україна

          1 Old East Slavic
          1.1 Etymology
          1.2 Noun

          Old East Slavic
          From оу (u, “beside, at”) +‎ краи (krai, “border, edge”) +‎ -ина (-ina).

          оукраина (ukraina) f

          boundary, outskirts, borderland

          It gives this meaning for the Preposition “oy” in Old Church Slavonic:

          оу • (u)

          1. from
          2. (with genitive) at
          3. (with genitive) in

          It gives this etymology for Україна in the Ukrainian language:


          Alternative forms
          Укра́йна (Ukrájna) (poetic)
          Вкраї́на (Vkrajína) (sometimes after vowels)

          From Old Ukrainian оукраина (ukraina), from Old East Slavic оукраина (ukraina).

          Proper noun
          Украї́на • (Ukrajína) f inan (genitive Украї́ни, uncountable, related adjective украї́нський)

          Ukraine (a country in Eastern Europe)
          в Украї́ні, на Вкраї́ні ― v Ukrajíni, na Vkrajíni ― in Ukraine

  3. PS:

    I should say though, apart from the reservations I expressed in my comment above, this is a masterful roundup of the whole “Ukrainian Question” by George. A light sorely needs to be shined upon exactly what we are talking about given the competing nationalisms.

  4. This is a brilliant article, George. I’m sure that we all appreciate the time and effort that went into preparing it for our education. One hopes that you will find other venues to publish it for the increased understanding of the history of “the” Ukraine, so much needed in this time of war. We Americans in particular need to deepen our knowledge for proper discernment of the situation.

  5. George, thanks for this excellent, and condensed history of (the) Ukraine!

  6. You say quite rightly that the Japanese call themselves nihonjin. (There are no capital letters in Japanese writing.) It can also be read nipponjin, but seldom is. My father’s generation, especially those like him who fought in the Pacific Theater of WWII used to call them “Nips”. That pejorative quickly fell into disuse after victory was won and the wartime rage abated stateside.

    Both readings are transliterations of the Japanese which reads 日本人. Literally that means “sun” (or “day”) “origin” (or “root” or “base”) “person”. One can see how Japan is referred to as the “land of the rising sun”.

    One other way that the Japanese refer to themselves is “hōjin” (The “o” has two beats.) It’s written 邦人 (hōjin) and refers to a fellow citizen of Japan in the same way that the Jews in the Bible refer to themselves as countrymen. This stands in juxtaposition to 異邦人 (ihōjin), the word used for “stranger”, “foreigner” or as we are accustomed, “Gentile”.

    The Japanese are proud to call themselves “Japanese” when speaking in an English context, but they seldom use that word in conversations between themselves. Another thing to know is that the Japanese language has no articles, i.e., “a/an” or “the”, in a way similar to the Slavic languages that you note. “Japanese” during the war was truncated to “Japs”, the more familiar pejorative which I also often heard at home but which also rightly has fallen into disuse. The etymology of “Japanese” is found in the early Chinese pronunciation of the name for the island nation as “jih pun“. Marco Polo carried that pronunciation back to Europe.

    With no capital letters and no articles, Japanese is a somewhat impoverished language, but that poverty is made up for with the thousands of characters called 漢字 (kanji) that were imported from China early on. And oh the sometimes comical onomatopoeia!

    • Gail Sheppard says

      How do you people know this?! Seriously. 🙂

      • I’m not sure that I understand your question, Gail.

        My father was an English major in college, a junior officer in the Navy, and a veteran of the war. Like many sailors, he was not known for mincing words about anything, if you know what I mean. Talk about a colorful vocabulary!

        Once I had graduated from college I took a teaching job in Japan and lived there for a total of fifteen years. I was young at the time so I was able to pick up the language pretty quickly. I later felt a calling to ministry and went to seminary in Kyoto, where all of the lectures were in Japanese. The most difficult thing for me was officiating at the daily office, which was written in literary Japanese, a language that is no longer spoken or written anywhere. In English terms, think of a mixture between Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. The Anglican Church in Japan has since converted to a colloquial Book of Common Prayer with horizontal typeface.

        The service books for the Orthodox Church in Japan, however, are still those from the time of St. Nicholas of Japan (1836-1912), the Russian archbishop who was, for all intents and purposes, the apostle to the Japanese. He was a consular chaplain and missionary to Japan for the fifty years from 1861 until his repose. (Wikipedia helped a bit with that one!) My wife, who is no stranger to Japanese literature, finds the language of the services to be clunky, not just because it’s archaic.

  7. Constantine Walton says

    Quick note: I still say Peking, Bombay, Burma, Siam, Calcutta, oh and the big one…the City of Constantine.
    I haven’t finished the article yet, just wanted to add that in support of your use of the ukraine. I had an Iranian teacher at DLI ask me once why do Americans pronounce Iran as “I ran” and not “Eeraan” as it is pronounced in Farsi. My 19 year old self replied “when Iranians no longer say “Aamrika” and instead pronounce it as we do, then maybe we’ll change.

    And it’s not an old dog thing…I think it’s a maverick spirit. Now back to finishing the article..

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Good point!

    • I still want to say Persia and Persians,
      but nobody nowadays would know what I was talking about…

      • Katherine says

        I live in an area with a large Iranian immigrant population. They insist on calling themselves Persians and the language they speak is not Farsi, it is Persian. Wonderful people, BTW.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Good point. I now have permission (or at least feel no embarrassment) in continuing to use English as normally understood. (I abhor the suffix -person and I will continue to use the word man generically. As for pronouns, I will use he to denote both genders.) As for biological sex, I will continue to use the word sex to denote whether I am talking about a male or female and not gender.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Constantine, since we’re on the subject, I was told that Iran and Ireland (Eriu/Erin in Gaelic) come from the word “Aryan.” (As does Armenia.) Is this your understanding as well?

      • Iran comes from the word Aryan. Scholars today think that the Aryans were an Indo-European group who invaded India about 4000 years ago from Central Asia through Iran. They originated in Central Asia, migrated to Iran, and then conquered India. The word Aryan is also related to the word ari-stocrat, since English and Iranian are both Indo-European languages. Thus features can be found culturally and linguistically across Indian, Iranian, Spanish, and other Indo-European languages and heritages.

        In the 19th century, many scholars had a theory that Indo European civilization originated in India and then swept northward and then westward into Europe (eg. Ireland). This was a basis for Hitler’s “Aryan” theory about the Germans. However, nowadays the common theory among scholars is that the Aryans originated in Central Asia and moved into India, where they took over the Indus Valley civilization. The current theory makes more sense to me, in part because the Indus Valley civilization was based on agriculture and cities, whereas the Aryans who came from India were nomadic.

      • On Iran you are correct,
        but Erin comes from an ancient Gaelic goddess.

      • I have read this in a few places too, although Eire is sometimes said to come from the name of a Celtic goddess.

    • Antiochene Son says

      Why not “Persia”?

      (The native Farsi name “Iran” was only adopted in the West in the 1930s, at the request of the Persian government. Similarly “The Ivory Coast” became “Cote d’Ivoire” sometime in the past couple of decades.)

  8. In common English, traditionally people have referred to “The Ukraine” when speaking geographically, but “Ukraine” when speaking of the state or political entity. By analogy, the Cape Verde Islands is geographical, whereas Cape Verde is the official name in Africa.

    “The” is used often in geographical names: The French Riviera, The Piedmont, The Midwest, The South, The Donbass, The Galopagos. But states are proper names that don’t as a rule use “The”, like France, Germany, Armenia. The exceptions to this rule include nonspecific common nouns like the “United Kingdom” or the “United States of America.”

    The distinction between geography and the state comes up occasionally, because the land of Ukraine has existed at times when and where the state of Ukraine did not. Centuries ago the Ottoman Empire occupied “the region of the Ukraine” when there was no state called “Ukraine” at that point.

    Many in the OCA have ancestors from Lemkovyna in southern Poland and Slovakia. Scholars are divided on whether Lemko people are separate from Ukrainians. If you consider Lemkos “Ukrainian”, you might reasonably consider Lemkovyna to be part of the “Ukraine” as a region. However, most of Lemkovyna was never part of any state called “Ukraine” that I am aware of.

    In my opinion, using “The” or not using “The” should not be considered really a big deal because generally the geography and state of Ukraine overlap.

    As a side note, this kind of debate comes up in Russian language too. People debate whether to say “Na Ukraine” or “V Ukraine”. “Na” means “On” and is used for geographical regions, like “Na Uralah” (On the Urals), whereas “V” means “In” and is used for states, like “V Gretsii” (In Greece). I imagine that Russian language materials printed before WWI would only say “Na Ukraine”, because there was no Ukrainian state historically at that point.

    An analogy: In Russian, one typically says “Na Rusi” (On Rus), but “V Rossii” (In Russia). Rus is the medieval region that includes places like Novgorod and Kyiv/Kiev Rus.

    • Speaking as a Lemko, the Lemkos are not Ukrainians. Not by a long shot. But then again, there is no such thing as an ethnic Ukrainian. It’s a made up identity just like all the rest of the modern nonsense.

      If it had not been for Polish tyranny we would have had our own country, but that’s water under the bridge.

    • As a Lemko, my people who were Russophiles, and were persecuted in WW1 for being so, were not Ukrainian. They were adamant about that. Now some modification needs to be made. There are Lemkos who are Ukrainophiles and consider themselves to be Ukrainian we call them the Lemkiv people. The Russophile Lemkos are usually Eastern Orthodox Christian returning to their pre Brest-Litvosk roots, where as the Lemkivs have remained the post Brest-Litvosk Eastern Rite Greek Catholics. After WW1, Galicia was divided between Poland and the USSR (Ukraine),,,,those in Poland were mostly the Eastern Orthodox Christians,,,,and those in USSR (Ukraine) Eastern Rite Greek Catholics,,,,,,Also, those Lemkos who immigrated before 1920 used the term Rusyn in a derogatory manner to describe those Eastern Rite Greek Catholics from the Czech and Slovak lands. Tamte Rusynii, was their phrase of ridicule. For more perspectives google Thalerhoff prison camp WW1,, this is where the Russophile Lemkos were incarcerated and where many died. Every year the Lemko Assn of the USA, has a memorial service to remember this tragedy .

      • It’s nice to hear from you, Dan and RJ. About half of the people at my OCA parish in the Mid-Atlantic Appalachian coal region are Lemkos in heritage, with another half being Mid and Western Ukrainian. There were also some in the parish with heritage from Belarus and Russia proper (called by them “High Russian”). I think that this is a historic common mix for many OCA parishes founded before WWII. I have partiality to Lemkos for this reason and I like that they are not spiteful about their nationalism. This is also true of non-Lemkos who formed the OCA and came from Ukraine before WWII, perhaps because they chose to join a “Russian” Church despite coming from Ukraine.

        You mentioned Polish tyranny as responsible for depriving the Lemkos of a country. Certainly this is a true statement, since Poland repressed Ukrainian nationalism before WWII and often has considered Lemkos to be “Ukrainian.”

        Further, there was Operation Vistula, which deported the Lemko population. But the issue of Operation Vistula demands careful analysis. It would best if Lemkos were in their homeland instead of being in exile in Western and Northern Poland. However, the leading reason for the mass deportation was because of the UPA fighting Poland after WWII. The Poles’ idea was that by scattering and resettling them among northern Poles, the UPA would not be able to continue resistance from the wooded mountains. How representative of Lemkovyna and the Ukrainian parts of southeast Poland was the UPA, and how strong were anti-Fascist partisans in Lemkovyna?

        It’s a significant issue related to Operation Vistula, because when Ukrainians recently asked Poland for recognition or compensation over Operation Vistula, Polish officials replied by contrasting it with the UPA’s massacre of 100,000 Poles. Poland, Belarus, the Czechs, and the Slovaks all had significant antiFascist Partisan groups. Among them, the Slovak state was one of the puppet Axis countries, and there was also at least a small pro-Soviet partisan movement in West Ukraine. But I’m really not aware of how much support there was for anti-Fascist forces in Lemkovyna or West Ukraine as a percent of the population.

        The reasoning or motive for West Ukrainians to collaborate with the Germans is partly understandable, since they considered other nationalities and states to be hostile- Poles, Soviets, Russians, Jews. And Poland had detained very many Ukrainian nationalists in “Sanacia” (purge?) camps before WWII. But beyond this understandable hostility, didn’t the UPA also have a repressive xenophobic ideology and carry over ideas and symbols from the Germans? Besides the UPA there was also the OUN and the SS Galizien. Further, it’s hard to avoid seeing the killing of 100,000 Poles in WWII as something separate from the Germans’ WWII extermination campaign of minorities.

        Nowadays, fortunately Lemkos can resettle in southern Poland, but there still seems to be many of them missing. I’m inclined to think that the Poles did not have to deport so many Lemko villages to accomplish their pacification goal. It seems that they could have discerned which villages were friendly and let them stay, but probably they did not want to go through the trouble of performing discernment.

        • There is going to be a panahida commemorating and rembering the 75th anniversary of the victims of Operation Vistula on May 22nd at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Yonkers, N.Y. and sponsored by the Yonkers Carpatho-Russian Center ( the old Lemko Hall) and the Lemko Assn. of the USA, Bogdan Horbal the president of the Lemko Assn. will be saying a few words. If it were not for the Galicians/Lemkos, the Metropolia of America (OCA) wouod not be what it is today, at one time these people comorised up to 85% of their membership. The most significant parish in New England was Three Saints in Ansonia, CT. I have studied the Galician/Lemko community of Connecticut in depth.

  9. Joseph Lipper says

    The United States of America also expanded over time, first gaining independence from England in 1776, and perhaps ending with the annexation of Hawaii in 1898. Yet with present civil unrest, perhaps we will see the U.S. borders change again. Here’s a map showing the territorial expansion of the U.S.:

    There is obviously no specific ethnic identity needed for being a citizen of the U.S. Rather, the Heritage Foundation takes an ideological approach, seeing citizenship as a “commitment to the principles of our government, and… a capacity to exercise the habits of mind and character that will preserve our political way of life”.

    Yet it is this very “ideological” approach to citizenship that seems to be tearing the United States of America apart.

    The land of the U.S. was previously settled by Natives who had a completely different approach to things. Here’s a map of how Native lands changed while the borders of the U.S. expanded:

    Who knows? We might live to see the borderlands of the United States of America change again in our lifetime.

  10. George Michalopulos says

    Here is a lecture about the history of “The Ukraine”:

  11. If I’m not mistaken “Little Russia” was first used by the Greeks who called the region “Mikra Rosia.”

    You are very correct in recalling that most people in what is now Ukraine within the Russian Empire referred to themselves as “Russian.” This is largely forgotten, and is kind of an open secret in the heritage of the OCA (I’ll explain below). Most people do not understand that Ukrainian nationalism was a movement with an intricate past that spread later in history.

    The “Russian Metropolia,” which later became the OCA, and to a slightly lesser extent ROCOR, were both set up by a large number of immigrants from what’s now Ukraine. Probably over half of the pre-1970 OCA parishioners were actually from what’s now Ukraine. There were also a lot of people from what’s now Belarus. There were fewer people from what’s now the Russian Federation or “Great Russians” as they were commonly called. The thing is, back then most of the people in Ukraine considered themselves to be Russian or a type of Russian. Even Carpatho-Rusyns used to call themselves Carpatho-Russian. This was before the proliferation of Ukrainian nationalism during the Soviet Period. Most people don’t realize that about half, or maybe even the majority, of Russian Americans who immigrated before WWII were from what’s now Ukraine.

    The “Ukrainianists” (which was a common term for Ukrainian nationalists), were a separate group, primarily from the far western reaches of Ukraine: the portion of Galiciya in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and later the Second Polish Republic between the World Wars. Most Ukrainianists were Uniates. However, after WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution Ukrainianism spread among some of the Orthodox, but primarily in the western regions. This group/movement had a complex history of schisms.

    Many people from these same regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where Ukrainian nationalism was popular were Russophiles, and did not subscribe to Ukrainianism. They competed with it, and were suppressed by the Austro-Hungarian government that feared their sympathies for the Russian Empire. Both the Austro-Hungarian government and Uniate clergy promoted Ukrainianism. It then was further developed by Ukrainian nationalists within the Second Polish Republic.

    Recommended reading:
    1. Galician Russophilia:
    The general orientation/identification of most of the immigrants from what is now Ukraine:
    2. St. Maxim Sandovich:
    3. More on St. Maxim Sandovich:
    4. On the mass killing of Russophiles by Austria-Hungary:–zabytyje-stranicy-russkogo-genocida
    5. Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists:

    One note I would like to add on your point about “Poland conquering” the region: After the Kievan Rus Period which was ended by the Mongol Invasion, Lithuania moved in and annexed/conquered approximately what is now Ukraine and Belarus. The Rus of those territories became vassals. After 1385 there was a major shift in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They pivoted toward Poland. Over time, the aristocracy and gentry of the Rus within Lithuania, as well as the Lithuanian elites, became Polonized. This is what caused the rupture among the Rus. Up until a certain point, competitions between the Muscovites and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were on the same level as competitions between the Rus principalities to the east. But there were always connections between the Rus in Lithuania and as well as the Muscovites. The historical factor of Polonization is critical to understanding how Uniatism happened and how Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalism emerged. Eventually Poland and Lithuania merged in 1569, but with clear Polish hegemony.

    • As a follow up to my own comment, I hope to do a piece on this topic soon on my blog, accessible when you click on my name.

      Very little is known about Ukrainian history, and more precisely, the history of Ukrainian nationalism. Before speaking on the topic or chanting OUN slogans, as everyone imbibing the Current Thing is these days, people should be acquainted with its historical development. Ukraine as it exists today did not exist in 1917, and arguably, neither did it in 1991.

      But the religious dimension is most imperative. Orthodoxy is at stake.

  12. George Michalopulos says

    I really gotta hand it to the Establishment: they went after the Freedom Convoy by calling them Nazis but in less than 2 months they got New Yorkers shouting enthusiastically for real Nazis.

    Golly they’re good!