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Україна « Ukrajína » (Ukrainian) / Украина « Ukraina » (Russian)
Ukraine is a region along the south of the North Slavic dialect continuum, generally lying north of the Black Sea, and originally named so as a borderland or marchland (from край « kraĭ », “border”) with respect to Muscovite Russia. The main city is Kiev (Киев « Kiev » / Київ « Kijív »).
This region gave its name to a dialect, a population, a territory within the Russian empire, and finally, a state and country. The dialect, Ukrainian, is a component of North Slavic, and largely mutually intelligible with Russian and Belarusian (the other main members of conventional East Slavic). The population is typically treated as a unified ethnic group, whether speaking Ukrainian, Russian, or another dialect, and whether living in or outside of the region. The formal organization of the territory within the Russian empire (including the Soviet Union), increased in size several times through Russian conquests, led to an independent state of Ukraine in 1991, within the borders of the previous Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. While some of that territory has since been lost by Ukraine as a state (Crimea and parts of the Donbass), the lost territories are still conventionally assigned to Ukraine as a country. Residents of Ukraine the country tend to speak Ukrainian in the west and north, and Russian in the east and south, but urban residents are much more likely to speak Russian, including in Kiev.
The expression ‘the Ukraine’ resulted largely from its original meaning of “marchland”. After Ukraine’s independence, some asserted that ‘the Ukraine’ was no longer appropriate in English, based on the idea that the definite article (‘the’) was appropriate to a province but not to an independent country, but this rule has no basis in actual usage. In any case, East Slavic does not have a definite article, so the native name of Ukraine would not have changed at all upon independence.
While the Ukrainian and Russian dialects are very close to each other, there are differences between the standards and between their versions of the Cyrillic script, which have led to differences in the standard transliteration. Because much of Ukraine the country is Russian-speaking, it is fallacious to transliterate all names associated with the country as if they were Ukrainian. Things named in Russian should be transliterated so: ‘Lugansk’, not ‘Luhansk’ (Луганск « Lugansk »); ‘Kharkov’, not ‘Kharkiv’ (Харьков « Xarĵkov »); ‘Slavyansk’, not ‘Sloviansk’ (Славянск « Slavjansk »); ‘Debaltsevo’, not ‘Debaltseve’ (Дебальцево « Debalĵcevo »); ‘Yanukovich’, not ‘Yanukovych’ (Виктор Федорович Янукович « Viktor Fedorovič Janukovič »), and even ‘Kiev’, not ‘Kyyiv’ (Киев « Kiev »).
For the modern state of Ukraine:
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