Finally, an answer to a question I’ve had since the war started. Why is everyone calling it “Kyiv” instead of “Kiev” all of a sudden?
As it turns out, there’s no all of a sudden about it. It was always meant to be Kyiv according to the Ukrainian language, but during the days of the Soviet Union, Russian was the dominant culture and language whether the Ukrainians liked it or not. So Kiev it was to most of the world. But since for now there’s no more Soviet Union, Ukraine has spent the last few decades doing everything it can to put things right. We should have been calling it Kyiv since at least 1995, and now I feel like a bit of a jerk.
When the Soviet Union controlled the area during the 20th century, it systemically tried to quell Ukrainian culture in favor of Russian culture—a process known as Russification, with origins dating back to the 19th century. This included promoting Russian over Ukrainian language, which is essentially how Kiev became more popular than Kyiv among international audiences. As the Soviet Union unraveled in 1991, Ukraine declared its independence and the country has been working to supplant Kiev with Kyiv ever since.
In 1995, as The Independent reports, the government made Kyiv the official Latinized name for the city; and in 2018, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs kickstarted a campaign called #KyivNotKiev to encourage the rest of the world to finally make the change official, too. The United States Board on Geographic Names did so in June 2019, and the media has gradually followed suit.