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Kiev vs Kyiv: What's the Difference?

5. October 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

You have probably run across a lot of references to both “Kyiv” and “Kiev” as you read more about the country where your Ukrainian honey lives. To make things more confusing, you will also see English-language references to “Kyyiv” and “Kyiw”. Astute readers will realize pretty quickly that these are all different names for Ukraine’s capital city. But, which is correct, and why the multiple names?


Over the past few decades, there have been a lot of changes in the FSU. And, those changes have extended to the names of places (think Leningrad/St Petersburg) and also the transliteration – that is, the way that Russian words are written using our alphabet -- of the names of other places.


The capitol city of Ukraine was spelled “Kiev” in English traditionally. The name has been used for hundreds of years, both inside and outside Ukraine. The name is a reference to a Slavic leader named Kyi, who legend says was one of the founders of Kiev. 


“Kyiv” is the modern Ukrainian transliteration of the name of the city, which was coined after Ukrainian independence in 1991. It is used in all official and legal documents, as well as official international references to the city. But, many travel sites, journalists outside Ukraine, and other people still use Kiev because it is more recognizable. 


Some Ukrainians strongly prefer the modern spelling, others prefer the traditional one, and still others have no preference. If you notice that Ukrainian sweetheart uses one particular spelling in her messages to you, go ahead and follow her cue. Whichever you call this enchanting Ukrainian city, we’re sure you’ll enjoy exploring it with your Ukrainian girl.