Friday, March 21, 2014


I've been noticing that some English language news sources have been spelling "Kiev" as "Kyiv." (e.g. this and this). I understand that "Kyiv" is a more direct transliteration to how it is spelled in Ukrainian (Київ). But I thought the rule was that if a city has a standard English spelling, news sources go with that standard rather than a spelling that is more faithful to how the locals would spell it. So, for example, English language sources spell the capital of Italy "Rome" and not "Roma" (and for that matter "Italy" not "Italia"). Munich is "Munich" and not "München." Uzbekistan is "Uzbekistan" and not "O'zbekiston." "Jerusalem" is "Jerusalem" and not "Yerushalayim" or "al-Quds." There are tons of other examples, so I'm going to stop here. But I bet no one can find an American news source that referred to the Egyptian capital as "al-Qaahira" (or Egypt as "Misr") in all of the reports that came out of the Arabic Spring revolution and last summer's counter-revolution.

Why is Kiev different? Is it an implicit anti-Russian/pro-Ukrainian statement to use "Kyiv" because the English standard seems to have originated as a transliteration of the Russian spelling (Киев)?

UPDATE (3/23/2014): See the discussion in the comments. NTodd gave a link to this article, which includes the following:
The city, in the predominantly Ukrainian-speaking west of the country, had its name standardized to Kyiv in Roman letters by the Ukrainian government way back in 1995, just four years after they formally asked the world to please stop saying 'the Ukraine.' The world listened, to an extent — the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) approved the spelling 'Kyiv' in 2006 after a request by the Ukrainian government (and subsequent endorsement by the State Department).
Which is pretty convincing to me. As I indicated at the end of my follow up post from earlier today, I think that requests to change the English-language spelling made by the governing authorities should be taken seriously. So maybe it's "Kyiv" from now on for this blog.