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Germany renames Kiev

Germany’s authorities have decided to move away from the Russian spelling of Ukraine’s capital of Kiev to the Ukrainian one, the nation’s foreign ministry said on Saturday. The city that was previously spelled as ‘Kiew’ in written German would now have to be spelled as ‘Kyjiw’, the ministry said in a series of statements on X (formerly, Twitter).

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Berlin has introduced the relevant changes to the “Country Register for the Official Use” – a document providing the guidelines for the government document workflow. The foreign ministry also said that it was “gradually” introducing the changes as well.

The statement did not elaborate on the reasons for the change and only said that such a spelling had been a “common practice” for “many” entities, without naming any such entity in particular.

The Japanese defense ministry took a similar decision in March 2022, about a month into the conflict between Moscow and Kiev. The move was taken following a review of “major media” coverage, it said at that time.

The Ukrainian authorities have been campaigning for the spelling change at least since 2018. The US Board on Geographic Names (BGN) – a body tasked with maintaining uniform geographic name usage throughout the American government – introduced similar changes back in June 2019 when it adopted ‘Kyiv’ instead of ‘Kiev.’

The AP news agency followed suit two months after the BGN decision. Russia’s Rosreestr agency responsible for the geographical naming standards among others said at that time that it saw no need for any changes, adding that ‘Kiev’ was still the correct spelling under the Russian laws. The agency also said that the Ukrainian authorities have not been cooperating with it since 2016.

Although some major British and American media then also switched their spelling of the Ukrainian capital to ‘Kyiv’ over the past years, many news media outlets in other Western nations, including France and Spain, are using ‘Kiev’ spelling to date.

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