When President trump on Tuesday welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the White house, he made a sad mistake. “It is a great honour to be together with Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, — said trump to reporters in the oval office. — Is the country where we receive a large participation.” While trump has used the word “Ukraine” has the definite article “the Ukraine”.
Trump was right — the United States really has long been closely connected with Ukraine. The definite article with the name of the country they use is also very long. The mistake is understandable, but many Ukrainians, it caused irritation because of the awkward geopolitical implications.
Some countries include the definite article in its name. Usually this happens when it referred to a geographical entity or a political organization. For example, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Philippines — all these countries in English are pronounced with the definite article, although it is often not considered part of the official name of the country. As reported in the CIA Factbook CIA World Fact Book, only the Bahamas and the Gambia officially include “the” in its name.
The Constitution and other official documents Ukraine word is used without the definite article. In Ukrainian and Russian languages there are no definite article. “Ukraine is a traditional short and long name of the country, said in 2012 BBC representative of the Ukrainian Embassy in London. — The name stated in the Ukrainian Declaration of independence and the Constitution.”
But in the English language this country for decades, appears with the definite article. The article is so entrenched that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine became independent, she had to explain that her name is not “the”. Most of the information of the publications agreed with this and made the appropriate adjustments.
It is difficult to understand why the definite article is so firmly joined to the name of Ukraine, but the reasons may lie in the history of this country. In the period from 1919 to 1991, the Ukraine was the official name of the Ukrainian Soviet socialist Republic, and in English this name had a definite article. Probably, in Soviet period the name stuck “the”. Another explanation may lie in the etymology of the word “Ukraine”, since many (but not all) scientists believe that it comes from the old word “suburb”.
That’s why the definite article in the name of Ukraine so annoying to many Ukrainians. This error implies that Ukraine can be characterized only by its attitude towards the large neighbor of Russia and the dominance of Moscow over her in the years of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. Adding the definite article to the name of Ukraine, we would like to Express our doubts as to its sovereignty. And it is fraught with trouble, especially against the background of Russian annexation of Crimea and the support that Moscow provides the rebels in the East of Ukraine.
For trump, whose friendly attitude to Moscow has received notoriety, it creates a special awkwardness. Poroshenko on Tuesday apparently not very upset from his words, but many on Twitter noted the admitted mistake. And former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has indicated that the choice of trump demonstrates his lack of awareness.
A good prebrief from a staffer could have coached him on why “the Ukraine” is so insulting to Ukrainians. He is the President after all https://t.co/jdR3VhDZjz
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) 20 Jun 2017
Good training taught him to why the name “the Ukraine” is so insulting Ukrainians. In the end, he is the President.
But as noted by many other American leaders also made this mistake, including former chief McFaul, Barack Obama, made it in 2014.