Why Ukraine Dropped The
We would like to address the issue of the article use with the name of the country of Ukraine. As recently as last week a British news resource centered on poultry news referred to the country of Ukraine using the definite article. Nonetheless, The Economist, Wikitravel.org, and FORUM Ukrainian Review – among others – insist on dropping the article.
“Don’t say the Ukraine, because that usage is outdated and implies that Ukraine is a region and not a country,” advises Wikitravel.org. “The use of the definite article in English before the name Ukraine is awkward, incorrect and superfluous,” reckons Andrew Gregorovich in his article for FORUM Ukrainian Review.
Common Errors in English Usage by Paul Brians (2008) lists the Ukraine as a common mistake. The author explains: “When the region formerly known as The Ukraine split off from the old Soviet Union, it declared its preference for dropping the article, and the country is now properly called simply Ukraine”. Reportedly, the White House announced it would discontinue the use of the definite article with the name of Ukraine upon the declaration of the county’s independence in 1991.
Andrew Gregorovich argues that the name Ukraine has been common in English language for some 350 years and originally appeared without the definite article. He explains that the definite article is used with compound names of the countries – the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the USSR, etc. Similar example is the European Union. Ukraine, on the other hand, is a singular country, just like England, Belgium, or Jamaica.
Curiously, the name Ukraine is derivative from the Ukrainian word border. The original name appeared as a term that marks the region near the border. Thus, the borderland or Ukraine stood for a certain region, not an independent, sovereign state. Andrew Gregorovich insists using the definite article with the name of the country of Ukraine indicates “ignorance of Ukraine, or their bias against it”.
World top newspapers – the New York Times, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post – refer to Ukraine without using the definite article. The Economist took effort to answer the question “if it’s true that The Economist proscribes the the in what used to be called the Ukraine. It’s true: we now refer to plain Ukraine”.
It is not uncommon that the is used with Ukraine correctly – when Ukraine poses as an adjective “the Ukraine sports federation” or when an author refers to a specific period in history of the country: “the communist regime Ukraine is nothing like the Ukraine of Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko”.