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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kiev - a long time gone...

I think it is just great that Hasbro, the makers of Monopoly, are including the capital of Ukraine in their contest to choose the cities for the first World edition of the game.

Unfortunately, they spelled the name wrong. They use the old soviet-era (and imperialist-era) spelling, Kiev, which was officially changed to Kyiv in 1991. Unbelievable. That's a really long time ago.

So how is it that there was no problem embracing name changes for cities like Beijing (Peking), Mumbai (Bombay) and Istanbul (Constantinople) ... yet after nearly 2 decades there's still resistance to accepting that Kiev is now spelled Kyiv?

I mean, it's not rocket surgery. We're talking about changing "e" to "y" and moving the "i" over one space ... not exactly a huge challenge, is it? I dunno, maybe the problem is that it's too easy for the obtuse?

I wonder what it would take ... does someone need to record a hit song and post the lyrics and a YouTube video online before people get it? How about something like ...

It's not spelled Kiev
It's now spelled K-Y-I-V
It's been 17 years
That smart folks have spelled it right
Been a long time changed,
This Ukrainian delight
So do ya want a fight, or will you finally get it right?

(With apologies to composers Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon, and The Four Lads who did the original hit version.)

Maybe that would do the trick. But, only time will tell. (How much more time remains to be seen...)

All kidding aside, tho, in the final analysis it's a minor detail that can be fixed. (I'm sure the good folks at Hasbro will not want any spelling errors in the product they send to market!)

So in the meantime, some of us are smart enough to know that the Kiev in the contest is in fact Kyiv in reality. So go cast your vote. It's an incredible, beautiful city and deserves to be included.

Go here to vote. You can vote daily (for up to 10 cities) until the votes are tallied on Feb. 29.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paulette -
As concerned as I am about Kyiv being spelled 'properly', perhaps if too much of a fuss is made at
this stage about Kyiv rather than Kiev, it may scare the Monopoly
people off the city altogether. I think the main problem is that
Ukraine itself still has not made the effort to use Kyiv, and
certainly has not encouraged world media to do so. There is a
schizophrenic approach - for example, note the extension of
the official Kyiv e-address !!! :
*** Kyiv regional state administration, 1 L.Ukrajinky str., Kyiv ,
E-mail: Irena

Pawlina said...

Thanks, Irena ... you make a valid point.

That of course begs the question that if Ukrainians themselves don't care enough to ensure proper spelling on their own documents, why would anyone else?


Anonymous said...

precisely !! I.

Taras said...

Keep in mind that domains like "kiev" and "ua" were registered sometime in 1996 or 1997, at the dawn of the Internet era in Ukraine.

At that time, "the Ukraine" and "Kiev" held sway among English-speaking visitors to Ukraine. Conversely, Ukrainian visitors to the English-speaking world carried the same tags. I vividly recall how they pronounced "the Ukraine" at the summer 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. (Well, I suspect that 95 percent of Americans hadn’t even heard of any such country.)

If my memory doesn't fail me, The Kyiv Post switched from "Kiev" to "Kyiv" in 1997. But even today one can find frequent occurrences of Russian-based transliteration in The Kyiv Post.

Every time I bump into this usage, I feel neo-Russified and neo-colonized. It’s disgusting. Now, as a post-Soviet Ukrainian, I speak Russian quite often, and it does not bother me at all. What does bother me is having a Russian identity forced on me. If someone comes to my country with no respect for my culture and starts rubbing Russian in my stomach, he or she will never be my friend.

I hate the way Ukraine’s bipolarity induces some Western writers to rip open the scars left by Russification. Intoxicated with all things Russian, some of them capitalize on Ukraine's Russification to create a Western extension of Soviet rule’s cultural product line.

They describe (the) Ukraine as “Borderland” and dismiss Ukrainian as “pointless”. That’s not the way it should be.

And that’s why I strongly recommend watching Borat to everyone interested in upgrading their cross-cultural intelligence.

Anonymous said...

What about Munchen and Moskva?

Taras said...

To the best of my knowledge, neither München nor Moskva carries a bitter and burdensome post-colonial legacy on its shoulders.

Anonymous said...

In response to Taras' first comment, the problem is that Ukrainian-speakers in Ukraine too readily convert to Russian instead of insisting on speaking Ukrainian.

Too many still consider Russian a more 'prestigious' language and do not exhibit a sense of patriotism that is equated with speaking the language of one's own country instead of the language of a foreign country.

In that sense Ukrainians are their own worst enemy.

Taras' comment, representative of all too many in Ukraine, that "as a post-Soviet Ukrainian, I speak Russian quite often, and it does not bother me at all" while at the same time objecting vociferously to Russified transliteration ("Every time I bump into this usage, I feel neo-Russified and neo-colonized."), is contradictory. Such behaviour is at odds with the desired goal to revitalize and promote Ukrainian and resist the domination of the Russian language.

What is the rationalization that reduces the cognitive dissonance that this must arouse in Ukrainian speakers in Ukraine?

Myroslava Oleksiuk

Pawlina said...

Taras, I don't get it... you recommend watching Borat???

Isn't it that reputedly tasteless (to put it mildly) American film that degrades and debases Kazakhstanis?

Or did a bit of Ukrainian humour just zing over my head?

Taras said...

I kid you not, Pawlina. I recommend watching Borat as an RPG — as a “walk-in-my-shoes” cross-cultural exercise.

And since you asked, let me rekindle my claim that Borat’s behavior puts him in the same tasteless department as Verka Serduchka.

What makes them different, though, is the fact that Borat employed extreme yet multidirectional action-reaction satire, while Serduchka used to work simplemindedly and singlemindedly for only one cultural-political client: Moscow.

Myroslava, are you a Ukrainian Canadian? If so, have you actually experienced Russification and colonization? Have you experienced the socioeconomic aftermath of Russification and colonization in your everyday life, personal and professional? And finally, in your field research, have you actually observed my behavior to fit it into your stereotype?

I assume you haven't. So please do not read too much rationalization into a role/reality you haven't fully observed or experienced.

Otherwise, one can readily claim that unless a Diaspora Ukrainian repatriates to Ukraine and embraces less-than-prestigious Ukrainian living standards, his or her behavior runs counter to the goal of revitalizing Ukraine and Ukrainian.

Pawlina said...

Well, Taras, to be honest, I just don't think I can bring myself about to watch Boorat ... even as an educational exercise. I go out of my way to avoid that kind of "entertainment" and believe me, sometimes that ends up being very far out of my way!

As for Verka, I wonder if s/he was actually working for Moscow or just for mammon?

And as for your dialogue with Myroslava, I understand both of your positions. Myroslava is an incredibly dedicated diaspora Ukrainian. But of course, as you aptly point out, those born and/or raised in Canada did not directly experience Russification and its insidious consequences on the Ukrainian psyche.

Over here in the comfort and safety of Canada, we can only know it intellectually. From such an (admittedly) impersonal perspective, it's all too easy to lose patience with native Ukrainians still mired in the muck that Russification created and who are just not emerging as quickly (and cleanly) as we would like to see.

OTOH, in our defence, despite the disdain many native Ukrainians have for those of us in the diaspora, we have been working to help you reach this point. And while we didn't experience the realities of Russification as you did, we did experience the constant humiliation of being ignored and dismissed as crackpots in our efforts to convince a skeptical and often hostile world of the evils Moscow has been perpetrating on Ukraine. Now that it's finally possible to reverse the detrimental effects of Russification, we here are anxious to see it done quickly ... albeit perhaps more quickly than is reasonable, from your perspective, to expect.

Nonetheless, I hope that you won't take offense but rather encouragement from such expressions of impatience. The criticism is meant for those who disdain the Ukrainian language and would deliberately subvert and undermine its growth and development. It certainly is not directed at those who are embracing it sincerely, if sometimes (for whatever reason) tentatively.

But, quite frankly, from this distance it can be easy to confuse one for the other. So I hope both of you will take that perspective into account. I also hope that both of you will come to appreciate each other's efforts and realize that we are all on the same side.

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