The other day, I had to wait for a train at Stratford-upon-Avon and so I went to the library there (in an appropriate Tudor building, naturally) to kill time—time survived, this time. I picked up a book on the Russian Revolution by Orlando Figes—a celebrity historian I had vaguely heard of—and flipped to a random page. It happened to be about the Ukraine and Brusilov. What interested me was that Figes called it “the Ukraine” throughout—not “Ukraine”. The book was originally published in 1997, and this reprint dated from 2017. What does this tell us? The Western academy and publishing industry implicitly accepted that the Ukraine was not really an independent state in 1997—and were fine with it as late as 2017. To say “the Ukraine” makes it a region—as in “the Pennines” in the UK—and not an independent country. It’s about as significant as the media’s penchant for Zelenskyy not Zelensky or Kyiv not Kiev—personally, I am always tempted to write Zelenskyyyyyyyy…
What this shows is quite how quickly the masters of public perception can change—and, in turn, turn the mind of the ordinary man on the street who knows practically nothing about the Ukraine (“I think it’s ‘Ukraine’, mate—that’s how they say it on the news.”). It also shows that the preponderance in the Western academy was to treat “the Ukraine” as a region, not an independent country, until relatively recently; and this suggests the Russians are correct when they regard the Ukraine as a region, just as the Pennines are a region of Britain (unless they become independent and become “Pennines”).
It can change overnight. With physical books at least you have to burn them or cut out the pages if you want to memory wipe the long-established consensus. Online, I notice that the covers of the films I buy via Apple change periodically—and with online books so too could everything be “Zelensky” one day and “Zelenskyyyyyyyy” the next.