Is it Kiev or Kyiv?

by Charles Curley
[email protected]

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Two headlines in this morning’s news (October 12, 2022) irked me more than usual.

Pepe Escobar had an article entitled Terror on Crimea Bridge forces Russia to unleash Shock’n Awe. Zerohedgereprinted an article entitled Will Germany sink the EU?, which is a fine headline. But the subtitle irked me: “Beseiged [sic] from all sides, Germany can now look to one reliable partner: Russia.”

The second item is irksome because anyone who has studied the history of Europe knows that Russia can be trusted to do one thing: pursue its own interests. And that means that Russia would be a reliable partner for Germany only so long as Germany served Russia’s interests, which may well mean not serve its own interests. So it was a mistake for Germany to become dependent on Russian natural gas to the extent it has.

US foreign policy wonks are occasionally correct: they tried to warn Germany against this dependence, particularly in the case of the Nordstream pipelines. The full extent of this folly won’t be laid bare for all to see for many years, but we’ll get an inkling of it this winter.

Whoever wrote that subtitle may have been ignorant of that history. Or the writer may have hoped that the reader was ignorant of that history. At least in my case that presumption failed, failed to the point of being insulting.

But whoever wrote Mr. Escobar’s headline takes the cake. To start with, Mr. Putin labeling the explosion on the Russian bridge over the Kerch Strait an act of terror is a bit rich, comparable to Sam Adams labeling four deaths in a riot the “Boston Massacre”. Back then, the “massacre” label was shocking and had a lot of propaganda value. Today, everything of which the speaker disapproves is an act of terrorism, so the word, like the dollar, has been devalued by being printed too much.

But that’s not the real wowser here. The Kerch Bridge explosion forced Russia to unleash shock and awe? Really? Do the Russians have so little agency that an explosion presumably engineered by the Ukrainian government forced the Russians to escalate the war they started? Is Russian military policy really run from Kyiv (or is it Kiev?)?

Of course the answer is, no, that’s nonsense. You don’t have to be a Rothbardian Spoonerite Smithian individualist to recognize that stupidity. (But it helps; I recommend it.) Ultimately there is no such thing as the Ukrainian government; there is only a bunch of thieves and murderers centered around Kiev (or is it Kyiv?). There is no such thing as the Russian government, there is only a bunch of thieves and murderers centered around Moscow. But that and the terrorism bit show how blatant the propaganda war has become.

At least, it’s blatantly obvious to me, but then I’ve been studying history since before Vladimir Putin was in school.

Indeed, it’s now obvious how the author of an article stands on the war in Ukraine by how the author spells the name of Ukraine’s capital city. If it’s Kyiv,the article is for the Ukrainian gang of thieves and murderers. If it’s Kiev, the article is pro the Russian gang of thieves and murderers. (Or it’s an article on cooking.) There are other verbal clues, but that’s the most blatant.

Which leaves the few of us who are neutral between the two gangs of thieves and murderers a problem: do we call the capital of Ukraine Kiev or Kyiv? A pox on both their houses. I suppose until someone comes up with something better we’ll just have to call it “the capital of Ukraine”.


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