Ukraine wages the linguistic battle and demands that the invasion be written correctly

Ukraine wages the linguistic battle and demands that the invasion be written correctly

2023-05-28 07:48:35

at the beginning of war, the Ukrainian diplomatic delegations in the allied countries fought for the media to use the place names in their Ukrainian transliteration instead of the Russian one. That it be written and said Kyiv instead of kyiv, Kharkiv and not Kharkiv. In recent weeks, they have launched a campaign so that, beyond these place names, the Western media speak properly about the war. For example, have them write “war of Russian aggression against Ukraine”, instead of war in Ukraine o “zones temporarily occupied” by Russia, rather than “annexed zones”.

“It is very important that the Spanish media use the correct terms in relation to the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine,” they say from the Ukrainian embassy in our country. “We want to emphasize the importance of using ukrainian place names as they sound in ukrainian (Kyiv not Kiev, Kharkiv not Kharkiv, Dniprό not Dnepr, Odesa not Odessa, Lviv not Lvov, Mykolaiv not Nikolaev), since it is a form of recognition of Ukrainian identity”.

The effect of these movements is being limited. In Spain, for example, and despite the Ukrainian insistence, the bulk of the media follows the recommendation of the Royal Spanish Academy or of the Urgent Spanish Foundation (Kiev, Kharkov). Publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN or BBC, or The Vanguard in Our Country have indeed accomplished that change.

“Wrong” ways of referring to war

The large-scale invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 is considered by kyiv as an expansion of the aggression that began already in 2014. In that sense, consider inappropriate the terms “Ukrainian conflict, Ukraine crisis, war in Ukraine or Russia’s force in Ukraine”. They ask that, instead, one of the following be chosen: “Russian war of aggression against Ukraine”, “Russia’s war against Ukraine” the “aggression of Russia against Ukraine”.

Some of the requests go beyond the merely formal. They have detected, for example, that some media have written that Ukraine was a part of Russia, something that was never true: both Ukraine and Russia were parts of the Soviet Union.

They also disagree with the widespread idea that the eastern part of Ukraine (the Donbas, above all) is considered “with a majority of Russian-speakers culturally close to Russia.” According to the guide sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the media, through the embassy in Spain, “speaking Russian does not mean being culturally or mentally close to Russia; and Russian-speaking Ukrainians represent a legacy of Russian colonialism and a long-term policy of ‘Russification’, the result of policies of language replacement and population replacement carried out by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union for three centuries.”

Regarding Crimea, the Ministry requests that talk of “Ukrainian attacks on Crimea” be stopped, for example the bombardments on the fuel depots in the town or on the bridge that connects the occupied peninsula with Russia. Instead, it should be indicated that it is “Ukraine’s legitimate efforts to vacate Crimea”, since it is “part of the Ukrainian sovereign territory within internationally recognized borders”. They remember that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopolparts of the Ukrainian territory, were temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation from February 20, 2014.

Donetsk, Lugansk, Jershon, Zaporiyia should not be considered Ukrainian regions annexed by Russiabut “temporarily occupied” areas, run by “representatives of the Russian occupation administration”, not by Russian officials.

They discredit the argument that “the Ukrainian war is not genocide because then all wars would be.” For kyiv, “Russia’s war against Ukraine It is genocidal by all indications. It is so in its theoretical conception and so in practice”. And they point out as evidence that systematic violence is committed “not only against men, but also against women, children or the elderly“. Furthermore, Russia has displayed an “annihilation frame of mind” when has attacked fleeing civilians, when it has forcibly transferred children to Russia “to be re-educated or adopted”, a fact that violates the “Geneva convention”.

In the opinion of the government of Volodimir Zelenski, one should not speak of “Ukrainian refugees abroad” either, but of “persons displaced from Ukraine”. In the background of this strong idea is the fear that these displaced people will not return to the country after the war and leave it depleted of talent and citizens. An estimated eight million of the 43 million Ukrainians have left the country because of the war, most of them women and children. Spain has exceeded 170,000 temporary protections for refugees from Ukraine one year after the activation of the rapid mechanism.

“The incorrect use of these terms creates confusion and, in some cases, even plays into the hands of the Kremlin’s propaganda,” they allege from Ukraine.

Toponyms Kiev or Kiev

“There are two possible practices when it comes to integrating exonyms (place names, or place names, of countries with other languages)”, writes Ernest Alós in El Periódico de Catalunya, from the same publishing group as this newspaper (Prensa Ibérica). “First, stick to the traditional forms (in some cases with medieval roots) that the language itself has adopted for the names of places in other countries, often very different from the original due to the influence of other intermediary languages, of Latin, of evolutions divergent,” he explains. It would be the case of Moscow (not Móskva) or Russia (not Rossíya), London (not London).

“The second possibility is to respect the name in its original spelling in Latin characters, regardless of its pronunciation, or to transliterate it according to certain rules, which are close to the real pronunciation, when the original is written in an alphabet other than Latin. That would be the most common option in minor place names, in which there is no coined tradition of use in other languages”. And he concludes that, in this situation, the option of the newspaper is, without ignoring the evolution of the real use by the speakers, abide by the established norm by the respective linguistic authority.

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