Long live the golden-domed city

27 02 2022

Kyïv* has had its share of battles and even demolitions — by Suzdal prince Andrei Bogolubsky in 1169, Batu Khan’s Mongols in 1240, Crimean Khan Mengli in 1482, protracted wars between the Ukrainian Peoples’ Republic (Central Rada), the Bolsheviks, and a series of others between 1917 and 1922, and the Nazi occupation in 1941-3. Each time it has recovered, rebuilt, and thrived.

It is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful cities in the world — beautiful in its topography, its potential, and more recently its spirit. Whatever happens tonight and in coming days, it will rebuild again.

*I spell “Kyïv” with a diaeresis (two dots) over the “i” to make it more evident that it is bisyllabic, not monosyllabic. In Ukrainian it is not “keev,” as most Anglophone media seem to be pronouncing it, but closer to “cave” with a “yee” thrown in between the first part (kay/cay) and the final consonant “v.” Or, more accurately, “ki-” as in “kitten” followed by “yeev.” This makes it akin to the word “naïve” except that the accent comes on the first syllable (“ki-“), not the second (“yeev”). Alas, this spelling hasn’t caught on, but perhaps at least The New Yorker, with its diacritical courage (e.g., “coöperate”), might choose to get it right.

Of course, many of its dwellers still call it “Kiev” and it is that, too, though I expect this war may have an effect on language use in the city. It shouldn’t be possible for a single delirious man to discredit an entire language and culture (for an entire neighboring people), but if it is possible, Vladimir Putin is that man.

A second footnote: I originally included “Prince Rurik of Novgorod” on the list of foreign aggressors who sacked Kyïv, but have since learned he was more of an insider to the Kyïvan Riuriks than an outsider, and his tenure as prince of Novgorod was very brief. Not that “internal aggression” should be denied; it’s the “of Novgorod” part that was misleading. But my knowledge of what happened under Rurik is spotty, so I’ve left it off.




One response

27 02 2022
Dov Michael Schiller

Thank you!!

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