Robert Conquest and I were reminiscing about something a few weeks ago — this post put me in mind of it. We were talking about Ukraine. And I said that the very first time I heard “Ukraine,” without the definite article, was from his lips. It sounded so strange. He was speaking at Harvard in about 1986. After he said “Ukraine,” he paused to explain that people conceiving of Ukraine as a country unto itself say “Ukraine”; people who regard Ukraine as merely part of Russia — like “the Midwest” in America — say “the Ukraine.”
I thought I could never, ever get used to “Ukraine.” But, lo, I have.
By the way — and while we’re on the subject of British historians and intellectuals — Paul Johnson once gave a piece to us in which he referred to “the Lebanon.”
Ah, also by the way: I grew up saying “the Sudan.” I never thought I would adjust to “Sudan.” But I have indeed — even to “South Sudan.”
P.S. For Conquest’s landmark book on the Ukrainian “terror-famine,” as I believe he named it, go here. The book is The Harvest of Sorrow.