Thursday, August 23, 2018

Kyiv Moves to Restore Pre-Soviet Ukrainian Spellings, Infuriating Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 23 – Maksim Strikh, the head of the Ukrainian National Commission o Morphology, yesterday announced the introduction of new rules that will restore Ukrainian spellings to what they were in 1919 before the Soviet regime “Russianized” Ukrainian. He said the new rules would make the Ukrainian language richer and better reflect Ukrainian traditions (

            But Moscow commentators are furious, seeing this as yet another Ukrainian effort to distance Ukrainians from Russians and, what is even worse from their point of view, restoring a system that was promoted by anti-Bolshevik Ukrainians like Simon Petlyura during the Russian Civil War (

            The most notable changes involve changing the rules for transliteration when Ukrainian borrows from another language. In Soviet times, Moscow insisted that Kyiv follow rules paralleling those governing Russian; now, Kyiv is dropping those requirements and going back to pre-1917 patterns.

                Introducing these changes will be difficult because many will continue to use the spellings they are used to. But for Ukrainian as a national language, this program is every bit as important as the decision of some former Soviet republics to drop the Cyrillic alphabet in favor of the Latin.  As such, it should be supported by all who wish Ukraine well. 

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