Conscious Polonisation and Derussification?

One common accusation of Russians against Ukrainian language is that it was artificially polonised, and made different from Russian to assume its uniqueness. I can think of at least two examples of this…

In Ukrainian town or city is called “misto”:

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Towns and cities in Ukraine however bear the names Uzhhorod, a town in the extreme west of the country, Vyshhorod, in the suburbs of Kiev, and further east Myrhodod, in the Poltava region.

Each of these towns bear the Russian form “gorod”, “horod” in Ukrainian and South Russian pronunciation.

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The thing is, “misto” is a Western Slavic (compare Czech: “město”) form, that clearly entered the Ukrainian language through the Polish language, and it was likely consciously chosen to replace the Eastern Slavic form still apparent in the names of Ukrainian cities.

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Another such linguistic peculiarity concerns the hard sing. The hard sing is on old Slavic letter that at one point was overused. The Serbian language reformer,
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić famously wrote about the “Hardness of the hard sign”, and today the Serbian language lacks this letter altogether. The Russian language also dropped the hard sing following language reforms instituted by the bolsheviks, and now only uses it to mark a pause within a word. The Ukrainian language also dropped the hard sign, and now uses the apostrophe instead for the same function as the Russian language.

And I have to ask why? It is clear the Ukrainian language makers were aware of the hard sign. The apostrophe is a Late Medieval Western invention that has no tradition in Slavic languages. But it makes the Ukrainian language different from Russian, and that’s the point.

5 thoughts on “Conscious Polonisation and Derussification?

  1. I could imagine in some distant future where Russia and the Ukraine are reconciled, both language authorities could make some efforts to move the languages closer together, say replace some foreign words in Russian with proper East Slavic words from Ukrainian, which on the whole is a more conservative language.


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