Saturday, November 27, 2004

Ukrainian Lesson

It’s exciting to see democratic optimism in the world these days, particularly within a country whose citizens are willing to fight for liberty and equality themselves. Since Ukraine has been in the news for the past several days, I decided to hold a mini-lesson here at Crash Course.

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It is slightly smaller than Texas, which is quite large for European countries. The population is about 48 million; per capita income is about $5,300. Huge chunks of western Ukraine were once part of Poland. Poles still talk about L’viv like a soldier talks about a missing limb. Ukraine was considered the breadbasket of the Soviet Union despite two famines that were ordered by Stalin. Millions starved to death while crop yields were shipped east. On August 24, 1991, Ukraine became an independent country.

The capital of Ukraine is Kyiv, transliterated from the Ukrainian (Київ) instead of the Russian. When speaking of Ukraine, never never never use the determinate article! “The Ukraine” no longer exists linguistically or geographically. (In Ukrainian, this shift was taken care of by replacing на (na) with в (v) in the locative case. By using “the,” Ukraine was seen as but part of a larger country (Poland, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia, Soviet Union).)

I lived in Ukraine during the summer of 2000, studying Ukrainian language and history as well as politics and economics at the Ivan Franko State University of L’viv. My colleagues and I traveled quite a bit too, visiting the Trans-Carpathian Mountains, Odesa on the Black Sea, Kyiv, and several other places in between.

According to their history, it was a Ukrainian who “discovered” coffee grounds in a Turk’s bag on the battlegrounds after some battle involving Turks and Ukrainians (as you can see, I probably wasn’t listening very closely to the lecture that day); hence, thanks to Ukraine, coffee made its way to Europe. Ukraine is also where Easter eggs originated.

To keep abreast of the current situation in Ukraine, please check out Neeka’s Backlog. When I have more time, I’ll post some other interesting links regarding Ukraine.

No comments:

Post a Comment