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Why Do So Many Ukrainian Cities Have Different Names?

1. February 2013 by Dasha 0 Comments

Kyiv/Kiev, Kharkiv/Kharkov, Luhansk/Lugansk. If you’re familiar with Ukrainian cities you’ve likely noticed the varied spellings. At times, it can be confusing for foreigners who don’t know which spelling is correct or if Kharkiv and Kharkov are two cities or one. Here’s the deal behind the different names.

Many Ukrainian cities have two spellings: one in Russian and one in Ukrainian. For example, Kharkiv is the Ukrainian spelling of Ukraine’s second-largest city, while Kharkov is the Russian spelling. Other varied spellings include Zaporizhia/Zaporozhye, Vinnytsya/Vinnitsa, Luhansk/Lugansk, Mykolaiv/Nikolayev, and Kyiv/Kiev. Pronunciations also vary.

The reason for the different names is simple. Russia controlled Ukraine for many years, and though many Ukrainians prefer traditional city spellings, most of the world continues to use the Russian names. Officials in Ukraine hope to change that.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian officials requested that foreign entities use Kyiv instead of Kiev. In 2006, the United States Board of Geographic Names announced it would begin spelling Ukraine’s capital city as Kyiv, and the United Nations also adopted the traditional name. Most American media outlets, however, stick with the more familiar Kiev. HotRussianBrides.com also uses the Russian spelling for Kiev, and other cities, though there is some variation.
If you’re not sure which city name to use, ask a Ukrainian woman which name she prefers. Most ladies understand the prevalence of the Russian spellings, and aren’t likely to be offended if you use Kiev in place of Kyiv. However, it never hurts to ask, and she’ll like appreciate the thoughtful gesture.

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