Why is it the Ukraine and not just Ukraine?

ukraine

 

Because every language has its rules. Even English, otherwise an exceptionally simple and uncomplicated language grammar-wise, but one possessing an exquisitely rich vocabulary, has rules. Those rules are not arbitrary but are rooted in custom, culture, history, the very logic of the language, and common sense.

An ukraine merely means a frontier in Russian. That’s it. And at a certain time, a number of ukraines, existed. A definite article is used to differentiate merely a frontier from a particular one.

English and other Germanic and Romance languages use articles, but Russian, or for that matter, Latin, do not. So, Russian speakers don’t have to deal with the dilemma of choosing “a frontier” over “the frontier,” to them, it’s always just “frontier”, or ukraine.

In English (or German) you don’t put an article in front of a country’s name. So it’s Serbia, Germany, Denmark, India, Spain, France (or in German, it will be Serbien, Deutschland, Dänemark, Indien, Frankreich) but we do put a definite article in front of political entities made up of several units, like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Arab League, and we also put a definite article in front of geographical areas – the Appalachians, the Philippines, the Alps, the Caucasus, the Maldives (you won’t say I am going to Maldives but instead you’d say I am going to the Maldives).

The Ukraine falls into the same category because it’s not a country but a geographical area within Russia, so that’s why it’s the Ukraine. And yes, in German unlike proper countries the term is also preceded by a definite article (die Ukraine. And I know it sounds even better when you say it out aloud the way it would be read it in English, but that’s only in the infinitive. In the Ukraine become “in der Ukraine” in German because unlike English it has grammatical cases).

Now, for hundreds of years, speakers of English were writing “the Ukraine” and because in the course of the early 20th century  Bolsheviks and Communists had transformed that part of Russia’s territory into an artificial statelet, now under Zionist and American patronage (America is a captive nation as well, but let’s not get into this for the time being) everyone is being told to drop the article, in order to make the geographical concept in question sound more like a real country, say Honduras. There is absolutely no reason to do that.

Check out what’s the most authoritative prewar Encyclopedia, the Encyclopaedia Britannica from the year 1911 had to say about that ancient land.

((Illustration above, an excerpt and the entire entry on the Ukraine from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911, the most authoritative prewar edition of the encyclopedia, page 596, volume 27)).

The case is closed, at least in the terms of convention and grammar, and yes it’s the Ukraine. The rest is politics, not grammar.

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The London Magazine; Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Том 5, 1736, dispatches from the Russian Court, here clearly the Ukraine is in Russia and the term pertains to the territory that is freed from the Turkish yoke or is the “frontier” between Christian Russia and Turkey.

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