Name of Ukraine

Name of Ukraine
Cyrillic letters in this article are romanized using scientific transliteration.
Map of Eastern Europe by V. Coronelli (1690). Lands with Kiev are shown as VKRAINE ou PAYS DES COSAQUES (Ukraine or the land of Cossacks). On the east to it the name OKRAINA (Borderland) is used for Russian southern border.
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The name "Ukraine" (Ukrainian: Україна Ukrayina [ukraˈjina]) has been used in a variety of ways since the twelfth century. Today, it has the official name of Ukraine, a country in Eastern Europe.



The word ukraina is first recorded in the fifteenth-century Hypatian Codex of the twelfth and thirteenth-century Primary Chronicle, whose 1187 entry on the death of Prince Volodymyr of Pereyaslav says “The Ukraina groaned for him”, ѡ нем же Оукраина много постона (o nem že Ukraina mnogo postona).[1] The term is also mentioned for the years 1189, 1213, 1280, and 1282 for various East Slavic lands (for example, Galician Ukrayina, etc.),[2] possibly referring to different principalities of Kievan Rus' (cf. Skljarenko 1991, Pivtorak 1998) or to different borderlands (Vasmer 1953–1958, Rudnyc’kyj and Sychynskyj 1949).

In the sixteenth century, both Polish and Ukrainian sources used the word Ukraina with specific reference to the large south-eastern Kiev Voivodeship, including the voivodships of Bratslav after 1569 and Chernihiv after 1619.

Seventeenth-century Zaporozhian Cossacks used the term in a more poetic sense, to refer to their 'fatherland'. Western cartographers, including Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan and Johann Baptiste Homman, drew maps of "Ukraine" as the "land of the Cossacks". But the name seems to have been in common use when the Swedish army entered Ukraine in October 1708. The Swedish officers wrote in their diaries that the Desna river was the border between Severia and Ukranien, and further "the city of Baturin, that was the capital of Okranien and Field Marshal Matzeppa's residence" and when Mazepa entered the Swedish headquarters he brought some "distinguished Ukrainian cossacks".[3]

After the decline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the word fell into disuse. The Cossack state became the autonomous Hetmanate owing fealty to Muscovy, and eventually became the Russian imperial guberniya of Little Russia (Malorossija). The name Ukraine stuck to the Cossack territories near Kharkiv, alternatively known as the Sloboda Ukraine.

Ukraina[4] under King Władysław Jagiełło of Poland

During the nineteenth century a cultural and political debate arose among Ukrainians and others about their national status, in both Imperial Russia and Austro-Hungarian Galicia. The 'Russophiles', who saw Moscow and St. Petersburg as the centres of East Slavic culture considered themselves ethnic Little Russians (Malorossy), part of the "Russian" (i.e. East Slavic) people. The 'Old Ruthenians' in Galicia saw themselves as inheritors of the heritage of Kievan Rus’ through the Galician-Volhynian Kingdom. They stuck to the traditional self-appellation Ruthenians (Rusyny, as opposed to Russkije 'Russians', both words being cognates of Rus’).

However, others saw themselves as an independent nation of East Slavs, south of Russia and stretching between Poland and the Caucasus. In the 1830s, Nikolay Kostomarov and his Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Kiev started to use the name Ukrainians (Ukrajinci). 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 Galicia, including Ivan Franko. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Ukrajina superseded Malorossija in popularity and came to be applied to the whole of modern-day Ukraine, minus the Crimea.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the word ukraina finally became a country name by being applied to a specific geographic territory. The Ukrainian People's Republic (later incorporating the West Ukrainian People's Republic), the Ukrainian State under the Hetmanate, and the Bolshevik Party which created the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by 1920 (helping found the Soviet Union in 1922), each named their state Ukraine. In 1991, Ukraine became an independent state.


During the period of Romantic nationalism it was popular to trace the origin of the country name to an ancient ethnonym. After this pseudo-historical view was discarded, two main versions of the etymology emerged. Naturally, the versions have different implications from a nationalist point of view. They are also based on different possible or certain meanings of the lexeme ukraina as occurring in historical sources (see above) – "borderland" or simply "land", also "in-land" or "home-land", "principality". Old slavic word "kraina" also means "country"; "u-kraina" means "in-country" or "my-country".[5]



The traditional theory (which has been widely supported by historians and linguists in the 19–20th centuries, see e.g. Max Vasmer's etymological dictionary of Russian) is that the modern name of the country is derived from the term "ukraina" in the sense ‘borderland, frontier region, marches’ etc. These meanings can be derived from the Proto-Slavic root *kraj-, meaning ‘edge, border’. Contemporary parallels for this are Russian okraina ‘outskirts’ and kraj ‘border district’.

This would be a semantic parallel to -mark in Denmark, which originally also denoted a border region (in this case of the Holy Roman Empire, cf. Marches).

A 1648 map by Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan called Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulga Ukraina (General illustration of desert planes, 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 Kiev, and thus ukraina came to be synonymous with ‘the voivodship of Kiev’ and later ‘the region around Kiev’. In the nineteenth century, when Ukrainian romanticism and nationalism came into existence this name was adopted as the name of the country.

This version is supported by the fact that in some medieval Latin maps and documents, the word Ukraine is explained or translated as Marginalia. [6][7][8][9][10][11][12] On a map of Russia, 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 also a special map of the Lower Dnieper region by Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan called "Delineatio Generalis Camporum Desertorum vulga Ukraina"[13] (General illustration of desert planes, in common speech Ukraine).

‘region, country’

Some modern Ukrainian scholars such as H.P. Pivtorak believe that the name is derived from ukraina in the sense of ‘region, principality, country’ (an alternative etymology would be to derive this meaning from the previously mentioned one by generalization). 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, Belarusian kraina and Russian and Polish kraj, all meaning ‘country’.

Pivtorak starts from the meaning of kraj as ‘land parcel, territory’ as attested in many Slavic languages and states that it acquired from early on the meaning ‘a tribe's territory’; *ukraj and *ukrajina would then mean "a separated land parcel, a separate part of a tribe's territory". Later, as the Kievan Rus disintegrated in the 12th century, its ukrainas would become independent principalities, hence the new (and earliest actually attested) meaning of ukraina as ‘principality’. Still later, lands that became part of Lithuania (Chernigov and Seversk 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 Ukrayina. At the same time, Pivtorak claims that the words Okraina and Ukraine always had strictly separate meanings,[14][15] which has been countered by other historical sources.[16]

In addition, some have derived the same meaning ‘region, principality, country’ from another meaning of the word *kraj-, namely ‘to cut’—as in Church Slavonic кроити (kroiti), краяти (krajati)—that is, ‘the land someone carved out for themselves’.[14]


"Ukraine" versus "The Ukraine"

In English, the country was formerly often referred to with the definite article, that is, the Ukraine (as in the Netherlands, the Gambia, the Bronx, the Congo, and the Sudan), and occasionally still is. However, usage without the article is now more frequent.[17] This approach has also become established in journalism and diplomacy since the country's independence (for example, within the style guides of The Economist,[18] The Guardian[19] and The Times[20]). The use of the definite article is standard in some other languages such as French (l'Ukraine) or German (die Ukraine), although the latter is generally required for all non-neuter place names.

Conventional name

Ukraine is both the conventional short and long name of the country. This name is stated in the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Before independence in 1991, Ukraine was a republic of the Soviet Union known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Preposition usage in Ukrainian, Russian and other Slavic languages

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, there was an official change in the way of saying "in Ukraine" following the country's independence. Traditional usage is na Ukrajini (with the preposition na, "on"), but recently Ukrainian authorities have begun using v Ukrajini (with the preposition v, "in", which is also used with most other country names). Linguistic prescription in Russian dictates usage of na[21]. Russian-language media in Ukraine are increasingly using the parallel form v Ukraine. However, the media in Russia continue to use the standard na Ukraine. Note that the preposition na is also used for some regions of Russia as well as with Rus, the historical homeland of Eastern Slavs (na Rusi).

The preposition na continues to be used with Ukraine (and with Rus') in other Slavic languages, including Polish, Czech and Slovak. This is a usage typically found with lands that have not always been considered distinct political entities (for example, Polish also uses na with its names for Hungary and Lithuania, but also the regions of Masovia, Masuria or Podlachia).

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, in some languages [ai] (for example, German Ukraine [uˈkʀainə]) and in others [ei] (for example, English Ukraine /ˈjuːkreɪn/)
  • 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. This version of pronunciation is sometimes represented orthographically with a dieresis, or tréma (for example, Dutch Oekraïne 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. This treatment is sometimes heard or seen in German and French, although it may not be regarded as standard in those languages.

See also


  1. ^ PSRL , published online at Izbornyk, 1187.
  2. ^ PSRL, published online at Izbornyk, 1189, И еха и Смоленьска в борзѣ и приѣхавшю же емоу ко Оукраинѣ Галичькои [галицкои] (I exa i Smolen’ska v borzě i priěxavšju že emu ko Ukraině Galičkoi [galickoi]), 1213, и всю Оукраиноу (i vsju Ukrainu), 1280, города на Въкраини [оукраинѣ] (goroda na Vъkraini [ukraině]), 1282, село на Въкраиници [вокраиници] именемь Воинь, (selo na Vъkrainici [vokrainici] Imenem’ Voin’).
  3. ^ Peter Englund (ed): Minnet av Poltava. Ögonvittnesskildringar från Karl XII:s ryska fälttåg. Atlantis 1998.
  4. ^ The term Ukraina, or Kresy, meaning outskirts or borderlands, was first used to define the Polish eastern frontier. The borderlands referred to the eastern frontiers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
  6. ^ Старинные карты России из фондов Государственного Исторического Музея. Из собрания А. Д. Черткова. — Москва, ГИМ, отдел картографии, 2000 год.
  7. ^ Постников А. В. Карты земель российских: очерк истории географического изучения и картографирования нашего отечества. — Москва, «Наш Дом — L’Age d’Homme», 1996.
  8. ^ Рыбаков Б. А. Русские карты Московии XV- начала XVI века. — Москва, Наука, 1974.
  9. ^ Чекин Л. С. Картография христианского Средневековья VIII—XIII вв. — Москва,аи Восточная литература, 1999.
  10. ^ Rerum moscoviticarum commentarii. Basiliae, 1556.
  11. ^ Katalog dawnych map Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej w kolekcji Emeryka Hutten Czapskiego i w innych zbiorach. — Wroclaw, Warszawa, Krako’w, Gdan’sk: Wyd. Polskiej Akademii Nauk. Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania. Ossolineum. 1978. N.1. Mapy XV—XVI wieku.
  12. ^ Аннинский С. А. Известия венгерских миссионеров XIII—XIV веков о татарах в Восточной Европе. //Исторический Архив. Институт Истории АН СССР. Изд-во АН СССР. Москва-Ленинград, 1940.
  13. ^ General illustration of desert planes, in common speech Ukraine
  14. ^ a b Григорій Півторак. Походження українців, росіян, білорусів та їхніх мов.
  15. ^ Олександр Палій. Стаття для періодичного видання «Обозреватель»
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Ukraine". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-01-07. 
  18. ^ "The Economist Style Guide". Retrieved 2011-01-07. [dead link]
  19. ^ "The Guardian Style Guide: Section 'U'". London. 2008-12-19.,5817,184820,00.html. Retrieved 2011-01-07. 
  20. ^ "The Times Style Guide: Section 'U'". London. 2005-12-16.,,2941-581,00.html. Retrieved 2011-01-07. [dead link]
  21. ^


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