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Thread: "na" or ""/ Ukraine or "the Ukraine" debate on grammar.

  1. #1
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    12 Aug 08

    "na" or ""/ Ukraine or "the Ukraine" debate on grammar.

    For those who understand this an argument from the Kyiv Post:

    Ukraine in Russian language

    This use of language by Russia to diminish Ukrainian statehood continued after Ukraine gained independence, and in the Russian language as well — specifically in the use of the Russian prepositions “na” (on) and “v” (in).

    During the Soviet era, Russians used the construction “na Ukraine,” roughly translated as “in the Ukraine.” Although it was generally accepted as a norm, this wasn’t technically correct even at that time. Ukraine was the only republic in the Soviet Union that this preposition was used with.

    One reason why the Russian preposition that means “in the” might have stuck to Ukraine lies in the etymology of the word “Ukraine,” which is believed by many scholars to come from the Old Slavic word “okraina,” which means “the borderland.” This translation often prompted the use of the article.

    However, even this is debatable, as different historic schools trace the name “Ukraine” to the same root word, but with a different meaning. It has variously been interpreted to translate as “homeland,” “country,” “land,” “separated piece of land” or “separated part of the tribe.”

    After independence in 1991, Ukraine asked Russia to stop referring to it as “na Ukraine” and instead switch to “v Ukraine,” which means “in Ukraine” as opposed to “in the Ukraine.” Russian officials and media — even the liberal ones — nevertheless continue to use the “na Ukraine” construction.

    Positive changes

    Grod believes that the best way to deal with those who say and write “the Ukraine” is “to correct them and explain why it is both inappropriate and disrespectful to Ukrainians and Ukraine.”

    Old bad habits might be tough to break, but since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union, usage of the article has declined steadily. The Ukrainian government has also expressed their preference for dropping it.

    The Associated Press style guides (which the Kyiv Post follows) and the UK newspaper the Guardian clearly state that the definite article should not be included when referencing Ukraine.

    The issue of whether to place “the” in front of “Ukraine” may appear to be an obscure grammatical point, but it actually carries a lot of meaning, connected to the long and painful history of Ukraine’s struggle for independence.

    I admit I am not expert on the grammar of such things (French was my first language) so wonder what you think Andrey?

  2. #2
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    05 Sep 06
    Linguistically, isn't this mostly about trying to establish "Ukraine" as a standing name instead of having it treated "merely" as a descriptive noun?

    For a simplistic example of the connotation that even works in English, think of a place named "South Lake". Calling it instead "the south lake" confers a mere geographic direction not acknowledging its standing and thus demeaning it.

    Similar connotations apply in German - in a more convoluted way that depending on situation may even confer a purposeful non-acknowledgement of independence, e.g. "in Nordstadt", delimiting a place vs the one you're in, versus "in der Nordstadt" which makes it part of the city you're in -, but explicitly not in French (where name places not that infrequently contain articles).

  3. #3
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    11 Sep 10
    On the use of 'the' when referring to different countries or even features of geography

    Ukraine or the Ukraine: Why do some country names have 'the'? | BBC | Jun 07 2012

    The literal meaning of Ukraine is 'land on the edge' or 'the' land on the edge
    Last edited by Double Edge; 07 Jul 18, at 14:13.

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    "na" or ""/ Ukraine or "the Ukraine" debate on grammar

    I think your line of argument opens questions about the long-term consequences for Russias internal situation. Are sanctions and destabilizing Russias economy more important than dominating in Ukraine? Is it in the U.S. interest to destablize Russia?

  5. #5
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    12 Aug 08
    Hi Sherman and welcome. New forum members are asked to sign in on the new members introduction thread in the WAB Information Center section of the forum.

    The internal situation is none too happy anyway at present over there. There is an upcoming 'election' (so called) for Moscow City Council in which alot of young(ish) independents wanted to stand. They refused to accept these peoples applications on the normal basis that many of the signatures of those supporting their candidacy were not acceptable and could not count (to stand for election you have to get so many signatures from people that want you to stand). The refused independents candidates then called for protests as did Navalny and subsequently got arrested for calling for protests. During his current incarceration Navalny had to be hospitalised for an alleged "allergic reaction", although his Doctor says he suffers from allergies. Some of his supporters gathered outside the hospital and were arrested for this. The protests continued though. This is last Saturday:

    Another protest is due today. This girl became famous for reading the Constitution to the police where freedom of assembly is a guaranteed right;

    It is not as if Moscow City Council has much power and yet over 1300 people were arrested last weekend - including one guy who broke his leg before the protest but is alleged to have been present and injured two police as they tried to arrest him. Some people see this current wave of protests as the most significant since the 2011 Bolotnaya Sq protests about the evident fake election that preceded. There are 'issue protests' quite alot of the time in Muscovy - the truck drivers about a new toll system, against rubbish dumps in Arkhangelsk ( but this is about who can stand in municipal elections - it is a directly political challenge and perhaps for that reason pretty draconian measures are being used to suppress it.

    It could be asked why make such a fuss about an election to Moscow City Council which has limited jurisdictional power and doubtless could be pressured anyway. According to most Moscow watchers there is a kind of power struggle going on behind the scenes. This is because Putin, now 66, is in the second of his second terms as 'President'. The Muscovite Constitution dictates that a President can only serve two consecutive terms. As his second second term ends in 2024 he will then be 69 and he could not be President again until six years later - which would make him 75. At the end of his first second term in 2008 he did the 'swap' or 'castle move' with Medvedev and 'swapped back' in 2012. The length of a Presidential term was then increased from 4 to 6yrs but the question remains what happens in 2024? It is not considered likely that a 'swap' move will be tried again as if he had trusted Medvedev the first time Putin could have retired in 2008.

    Some in the siloviki (the KGB old guard) it is said favour just getting rid of the pretense of democracy altogether; a title such 'Father of the Nation' should be created allowing an effective presidential power for life to act. Those who see this route as possible point to Kazakhstan where 'President' Nazarbayev stepped down earlier this year yet remains in charge of his Nur Otan party and Chairman of the Security Council. An election was organised and predictably won by his chosen successor. So that is seen as one way out. It was thought that the current Mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, could be made a deputy Prime Minister to groom him for such a succession role but he is of course getting quite alot of criticism from the 'old guard' over these protests at presents as they seek to discredit him as a possible successor. So in effect they are struggling over what happens in 2024 and whilst some would allow independent candidates in unimportant city council elections to keep a pretense of democracy others fear the first stone that falls may start the fall of the mountain.

    As for the would be democrats and their discontented allies that take to the streets they moan most about the economy and the corruption - Navalny being famous for his videos exposing Government corruption. When Putin first got elected there was a tacit deal that people do not oppose him politically and he will economic benefits and in this he was for a while in part at least successful due largely to the high price of oil at that time though they did make some economic moves to stimulate the economy. It is not because of sanctions that the oil price fell but because of the 2008 economic crash so with the income substantially reduced he promised them Empire and illegally 'liberated' Crimea and invaded Donbass, thereby incurring sanctions in return for loss making territory. The promise of 'empire' is fast vanishing and purse of the Lady on the Moscow omnibus is light while corruption in elections and illegal wealth continue unabated so naturally some want a change and they look at Ukraine where two free elections were held this year. If they can in Kyiv why can't we?

    But in truth this criminal Chekist mafia have been in power for nearly 20yrs now and they are tired and out of ideas or even excuses for their legitimacy. They have become a second Brezhnev stagnation, no motive but to hang on and cause trouble elsewhere - unconnected with the Muscovite people, remote in gold and ivory towers caring only for their offshore billions of stolen money. 'The new aristocracy' of Muscovy Putin called the new Chekists, it may be they will suffer the same fate which they themselves dealt to the old aristocracy.

    I do not think we need to 'destablize' (sic) Muscovy though certainly if it is possible to help the reformers it should be done. The best way to help them though - as they have asked - is for senior politicians in the West to denounce the brutal suppression of protests.

    Like any tyranny nobody can say how long it will be before it falls apart from within. I believe the collapse of the USSR surprised many at the time. I know some old Soviet dissidents did not expect Gorbachev to be overthrown. What are the signs to look for? It is hard to know what is a real sign in an opaque system. But 2024 is a problem and how they attempt to solve it will probably dictate the near future of Muscovite political infighting.

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