Ukraine would very much like people to stop saying “the Ukraine,” Politico reports:
The construction of Ukraine’s name has been politically fraught for years. … Critics of the use of “the Ukraine” argue it belittles the country’s status as a sovereign state, reducing it to its status as a former Soviet territory.
Those of us who work at Washingtonian can sympathize. Everybody here calls it Washingtonian. It’s on our masthead, our merch, our social media accounts. But the tradition of a definite article has deep roots. USA Today called us “the Washingtonian” just last week.
I was unable to find much definition among this publication’s present and past leadership about when or how we dropped our “the.” The first magazine cover without it happened in June 1988–three years and two months before Ukraine declared independence from the USSR–but inside that issue the magazine writers used The Washingtonian, as did the folios at the bottom of each page. Jack Limpert, who edited Washingtonian until 2009, still calls this place The Washingtonian on his blog. He couldn’t point to any name-change dictate but tells me he suspects art directors finally sanded away our “the.” Garrett M. Graff, who edited Washingtonian until 2014, says he was always under the impression that the “the” was a relic of our early days and edited as if the name of this place is just Washingtonian. That is also the understanding under which our editor, Michael Schaffer, operates.
Whatever happened here—and just for the record, I’m cool with the uncertainty—Washingtonian can sympathize with Ukraine. Like Facebook, Sudan, and, yes, Politico, we know what it’s like to have an unnecessary “the” chasing you around. You’ll always be Ukraine to us.