What’s in a name? The Calvert Journal to ditch Kiev for Kyiv

What’s in a name? The Calvert Journal to ditch Kiev for Kyiv
Image: Andriy_155 under a CC licence

2 April 2019
Text: Editorial staff

For years, editors at The Calvert Journal have debated the relative merits of using Kiev or Kyiv when referring to the Ukrainian capital. While our style guide mandates the use of Kiev (the spelling most familiar to English speakers), the alternative, Kyiv (a transliteration from the Ukrainian), has been relentlessly gaining in popularity.

We are well aware of the strong views held by our readers on this topic. We see this in the comments under our articles, and an opinion piece we published several years ago (where we reconfirmed our commitment to Kiev) became one of our most read articles ever.

Now, we have decided the time is right to change to Kyiv.

The mundane reason is a search for editorial consistency: we already usually use Lviv (rather than Lvov) and Kharkiv (rather than Kharkov). But, more importantly, The Calvert Journal is committed to providing a platform to voices from the New East that go unheard — and allowing those voices to decide how they are represented, identified, and defined is a key part of our mission.

Without going into exhaustive details, those who advocate Kyiv (the spelling used by the Ukrainian government) usually stress that Ukrainian is the country’s official language and that the Kiev spelling symbolises a history of domination by Russia. In contrast, those in favour of keeping Kiev point out that there are many uncontroversial Anglicised names for cities (think Rome rather than Roma, or Moscow instead of Moskva). There is of course merit in both approaches, but we think the political and cultural changes in Ukraine mean the weight of the argument favours Kyiv.

The Calvert Journal also likes to stay ahead of the curve, and there are many signs Kyiv is on its way to becoming the new norm. Today, you will notice airports using Kyiv on their departure boards, and some media outlets have already made the jump: for example, The Guardian switched earlier this year.

From now on, all writing on The Calvert Journal, including our travel guides, will use transliterations from the Ukrainian. This means that not only will Kiev be Kyiv, but Lvov will be Lviv, Kharkov will be Kharkiv, Odessa will be Odesa, Donbass will be Donbas, and Chernobyl will be Chornobyl.

We remain committed to reflecting the changing reality of the New East, whether this is a bold new fashion brand, an exciting literary trend — or linguistic conventions dictated by political, cultural, and social shifts on the ground.

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