“#KyivNotKiev”: Yet Another Ukrainian Historical Blunder


Even during the current conflict, echoes of the “#KyivNotKiev” campaign can be heard, during which Ukrainians called on “to abandon the Soviet spelling”, which personified “one of the dimensions of the hybrid war that is being waged against Ukraine.” Similar calls were accompanied by similar pictures:



The funniest thing is that the second picture depicts the semi-mythical pre-Christian character Kiy, whose existence, other than mentions in chronicles, has not been proven. Another thing is funnier: the cue is depicted with the helmet of Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich. The helmet dates from the second half of the 12th – first half of the 13th century and was found in the Vladimir region near Yuryev-Polsky. The prince himself came from the North-Eastern lands and was the son of the Russian prince Vsevolod the Big Nest. That is, in essence, a myth based on a myth. Even if Kiy really existed, there is one nuance. Both of two the most ancient chronicles of Ancient Rus – Lavrentievsky and Ipatievsky call the father-founder not “Kyi”, but “Kiy”:

(“И быша (три) брата а єдиному имѧ Кии а другому Щекъ а третьєму Хоривъ и сестра ихъ Лыбѣдь”

And there were (three) brothers, and the name of one was Kiy, the other’s was Shchek, and the third one’s Khoriv and their sister Leded.)

The city founded by them, in that episode of chronicle is called “Києвъ (Kiev)”, but not “Кыивъ (Kyiv):

(“и створиша градъ во имѧ брата своєго старѣишаго и нарекоша имѧ єму Києвъ”.

and created a city in the name of his elder brother and named him Kiev)

Miniature from the Radziwill Chronicle – Kiy, Shchek, Khoryv and their sister Lybid found the city of Kiev.

To begin with, let’s stipulate that the variant Kyiv, promoted by Ukrainian propaganda as the oldest European name for the former capital of Rus’, was not found in any foreign language until the twentieth century. Until the 19th century, there was no single name for Kyiv in European languages ​​- there was only a continuous variety of types and forms, but with all this diversity, the currently promoted version “Kyiv” was completely absent; examples of names of Kiev in medieval European sources:

Cuiewa, Kitawa (Thietmar’s Chronicle)

Chion (Gloss on the psalter of odalrik of reims, mid. XI century)

Chive (Adam of Bremen, “Acts of the Hamburg Archbishops”, 1070s)

Chios (Otto of Freisingen, “The Tale of Two Cities”)

Chiebe (Manuscripts of the Benedictine Monastery St. Emmeram in Regensburg, entry 1179)

Chue (Helmold von Bosau, “The Slavic Chronicle”, XII century.)

Kyou (Gallus Anonymus, «The Deeds of the Princes of the Poles», нач. XII в.)

Kiovia (Polish Chronicle of Master Vincent (called Kadlubek), end XII – first quarter. XIII century)

Куо (The Deeds of the Hungarians – Simon Kézai, circa 1280/1285)

Kiow, Kyouia (Plano Carpini, “History of the Mongols”) and etc

The Russian version of the name is also not reflected in medieval sources in Europe, but there is one large and important exception – the Greek language. If Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century still designated the city as Κιοάβα, Κίοβα, then later, starting from the 11th century, the name Κίεβο / Κυεβο (pronounced as “Kievo”) was established in Byzantium, which is still preserved in the Greek language as normative – this name is an exact transliteration of the Old Russian “Kiev”, even the ancient reduced vowel Yer (Ъ), lost in the East Slavic languages, was preserved in the Greek name.

Examples of the name of Kiev in Byzantine documents of the X-XIV centuries;  from the book by M. Bibikov “Code of Byzantine evidence of the 9th–15th centuries about Rus’”:


In the New Age, in the XV-XVIII centuries, in European cartography the city was most often called Kiow, Kiov, Kiof; This was a reflection of the Polish name – the Poles designated the former capital of Rus’ as Kijów (pronounced “Kiyuf”). In Polish this name remains to this day (for comparison, in Lithuanian the city is called Kijevas). Even in the 17th-18th centuries in Europe, they usually relied on the Polish name and pronunciation: on the Beauplan map the city is called Kiov, Kiowia, in the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d’Alembert it is called Kiou, Kiovie, in the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1771 it is called Kiow.

What do ancient Russian sources say about the name of the city? According to ukroprop, everything is simple – in Rus’ the name of the city has always been written and pronounced as “Kyyiv” (Ukrainian Київ), while the antiquity of the name “Kyiv” is aggressively denied by ukropropaganda, claiming that in all ancient Russian chronicles the name of the city is written with Y :

“(Russians) can’t even pronounce it the way they write in the chronicles: “Kyiv”! In our chronicles they write “Kyiv”, they write in the very old Ostromir Gospel of 1057 “Kyev”” (from here)

Regarding the Cyrillic spelling of “Kyiv”, it should be noted that before the 19th century this variant is not recorded anywhere at all – “Kyiv” is a very late version of the name of the city, which Ukrainian propaganda passes off as very ancient. The Ukrainians themselves when they declune their “Kyiv”, for some reason it instantly turns into “Kiev” (“я їду до Києва, я був у Києві, я вклонився Києву, я мандрував Києвом (I am going to Kiev, I was in Kiev, I bowed to Kiev, I traveled through Kiev)”). So, they forbid to a German to pronounce the name of their capital as his ancestors did because it is “Russian propaganda”, while use “Russian propaganda” in their language themselves.

In the 18th-19th centuries, the “Kiev” variant was used by the Little Russians and was not considered something alien among them; in Taras Shevchenko we find this option along with the options “Kyiv” and “Kyev”:


It turns out that even in the 19th century, even among themselves, Little Russians called this city in the Russian manner. At the same time, in the 18th-19th centuries, in Europe, the common East Slavic name of the city, transliterated as Kiev/Kiew, under the influence of Russian cartography that had gained weight, began to displace the former Polish name as well as other, more archaic options (one one of the earliest examples of this displacement is a German map of 1785).

When today’s Ukrainians say that “Kiev” is a Great Russian version of the name of the city and was established in the world only thanks to the influence of the Russian Empire (“Transliterations based on Russian names became common practice because of aggressive Russification policies from the Russian Imperial and later Soviet governments”), they are telling only half the truth – the other half of the truth is that at the same time, right up to the beginning of the twentieth century, this same version of the name was also Little Russian, and besides, to oust the Polish version, the government of the Russian Empire did not organize any hysterical campaigns like “Kiev not Kijów” – Europeans and without instructions from St. Petersburg, they themselves began to call Kiev as everyone called it in the Russian Empire.

But in the 20th century, some Ukrainians suddenly emerged from historical oblivion, who for some reason decided that the name “Kiev” was now alien to the Little Russians, and the name Kyiv (“Kiev”) was native, their own, the only acceptable one, and at the beginning of the 21st century a new version, transliterated like Kyiv, they “put it for export”, demanding that they replace previously established spellings; friendly remind you once again that the transliterated name Kyiv was not found in any European language until the twentieth century.

The last but not the least: In the “Song of the Nibelungs” there is a mention of Rus’ and Kiev. The “Song” was recorded in the 12th or early 13th century in German lands; the plot contains an episode of a visit by members of the Burgundian royal house to their sister Kriemhild, who married the king of the Huns living on the Danube (in the “Song” they are actually identified with the Hungarians) Etzel (obviously that his prototype is Attila). An unknown author, describing Etzel’s subjects, mentions the “eastern” peoples and countries of his time known to him (the author) – Rus’ (Ruzen), Greece (Kriechen), Poland (Polan), Wallachia (Vlachen), mentions the Hungarians, Pechenegs, as well as ” Kiev land” – lande ce Kieuen in Middle High German.

1) Translation from the modern German to English

Many men of Rus’ (Russia) and Greece rode there;

The Poles and Wallachians came quickly

On their good horses, which they rode splendidly.

There everyone showed themselves in their native customs.


Many men rode from the land of Kiev, and the wild Peschenegs.

They began to shoot with bows at the birds that flew in the air;

with all their strength they drew the arrows to the end of the bow.

2) Translation to the modern German

Von Reußen und von Griechen ritt da mancher Mann;

Die Polen und Walachen zogen geschwind heran

Auf den guten Rossen, die sie herrlich ritten.

Da zeigte sich ein Jeder in seinen heimischen Sitten.


Aus dem Land zu Kiew ritt da mancher Mann

Und die wilden Peschenegen. Mit Bogen hub man an

Zu schießen nach den Vögeln, die in den Lüften flogen;

Mit Kräften sie die Pfeile bis zu des Bogens Ende zogen.


3) Original text in Middle High German, based on the Hohenham manuscript (Handschrift A)

Von Rvzen vnd von Kriechen reit da manich man

den Polan vnd den Vlachen sach man swinde gan

ros div vil guoten si mit krefte riten

swaz si siten heten der wart vil wenic vermiten


Von dem lande ce Kieuen reit da manic degen

vn– die wilden Pesnære da wart vil gepflegen

mit bogen schiezen zuo voglen da si flugen

die phile si sere zuo den wende vaste zvgen

 So, basically, the old campain “KyivNotKiev” is just an attempt of tops to rewrite not only the Russian, but Western European history as well. The city on Dniepr river was called in many ways and in the Russian language, this variant, with minimal phonetic and spelling changes, has existed for a thousand years. In Ukrainian it is actually prohibited, while the new version “Kyiv”, which has not appeared in Eastern Slavic and European sources earlier than in XIX-XX centuries. So, we again become the witnesses of rewriting the history for political goals of enemy forces.

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