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Going back home, how often have you returned not to native Kyiv but “Soviet” Kiev? This is how international air companies often transliterate our capital’s name. You can also find Kiev on hundreds of road signs, thousands of notice boards, and millions of web publications. Even the respectable media use “Kiev” in their articles.

For some, the way the city’s name is written does not seem an important problem. However, the latinized spelling “Kiev” was actually used only during the Soviet times; nowadays, this form is an exonym and does not comply with Ukrainian spelling and valid law. The Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine has been working on changing the spelling of Ukraine’s capital in Latin for some time.

How Did Incorrect Spelling Emerge?

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The incorrect rendering of Ukraine’s capital in other languages, with examples including Kiev, Kiew, Kijow, was caused by the use of an intermediate language and got a foothold in many countries as an exonym. In the meantime, there has been a tendency towards spelling the capital of Ukraine based on the Ukrainian language: Kyiv.

What About International Law?

Resolutions of UN Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names recommend that countries cut back on using exonyms (traditional names) and prioritise national official names in publications, documents, and on maps, and that they use latinization systems adopted and recommended by the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names (as submitted by the particular country) in transliterating foreign toponyms (from languages not based on the Latin alphabet).

For international use of Ukrainian geographical names, the Ukrainian Romanization system is used, as recommended by Resolution X/9 “Romanization of Ukrainian geographical names” of the X UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names (New York, 2012).

At that Conference, “Toponymic Guidelines for Map and other Editors. Ukraine (for international use)” were also approved, setting out the spelling rules for Ukrainian geographical names and their rendering in Latin, and information about the administrative and territorial division of Ukraine (in Ukrainian and Latin), which is available on the website of the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN).

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What About Ukrainian Law?

According to the State Service of Ukraine for Geodesy, Cartography & Cadastre (StateGeoCadastre), names of Ukrainian geographical objects are rendered by letters of the Latin or other alphabet from the name of the geographical object in correct Ukrainian under article 6 of the Law of Ukraine “On Geographical Names”; the table of transliteration of the Ukrainian alphabet by means of the Latin alphabet, approved by decree №55 by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated 27 January 2010 “On Regulation of Transliteration of the Ukrainian Alphabet into the Latin Alphabet”; and the Spelling Rules for Ukrainian Geographical Names on Maps and in Other Publications, approved by order №282 by the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine dated 29 July 2014 and registered with the Ministry of Justice under №957/2014 on 13 August 2014.

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What Are We Doing?

In order to resolve the spelling problem, in July 2018 Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine convened representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, StateGeoCadastre, the State Aviation Service of Ukraine, and the State Service of Ukraine for Transport Safety for a meeting. The participants discussed the grounds for incorrectness of the “Kiev” spelling, ways of engaging Ukraine’s diplomatic missions to deal with the problem, and the carrying out of an information campaign.

For Ukrainian airports’ names to be in conformity with decree №55 by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated 27 January 2010 “On Regulation of Transliteration of the Ukrainian Alphabet into the Latin Alphabet”, the State Aviation Service requested the Chief Executive Officer of the International Air Transport Organisation (IATA) to amend its airport codes database. After the appropriate measures on checking airports’ data are taken, changes will be published in IATA’s monthly newsletter.

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For the purpose of ensuring the correct use of Ukrainian geographical names by the international community, StateGeoCadastre takes measures to distribute information on standardised names of Ukrainian geographical objects on a constant basis. At StateGeoCadastre’s request, in 2016–2017 mistakes in spelling of Ukrainian cities in Latin were corrected in the UNGEGN World Geographical Names database, and respective changes made due to the renaming of the cities of Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovohrad, and Dzerzhynsk. The name of Ukraine’s capital in the database is “Kyiv”. In 2017, StateGeoCadastre published information from the State Register of Geographical Names on standardised names of Ukrainian geographical objects in Ukrainian and Latin. Maps of Ukraine and its regions, as well as plans of Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa, with geographical names in Latin, are published.

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Why Is This Important?

Distribution of information about standardised Ukrainian geographical names among the international community will promote their use in other language, dispensing with any other intermediary language. Therefore, using “Kyiv” instead of “Kiev” will help our country step out of Russia’s shadow in yet another field.

Ex-deputy minister of information policy of Ukraine. Founder of the Institute for Postinformation Society. Founder of OSINT Academy. Infowars practician.

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