The present upheavals in Ukraine bring the pronunciation of its place names into prominence. Even the country’s name is now subtly different from what it was thirty years ago. Then the geographical area was always called “The Ukraine”, which was suitable for what was a part of a larger whole (cf. “The Midlands”, “The Algarve”) but since its independence with the break up of the Soviet Union, the definite article has been dropped.
Ukrainian is a different language from Russian, so the old Russian forms of its place names have also, on the whole, been abandoned in favour of the equivalent Ukrainian forms. So we now have Lviv, which used to be Lvov (and before World War II, when it was part of Poland, Lwów), and Kharkiv, formerly Kharkov. The capital, however, has not lost what has become a standard anglicization – Kiev. However, I’m puzzled by the pronunciations for this that I’m hearing on both radio and television. The eponymous dish – chicken kiev – is always pronounced (in my experience at least) /ˈkiːef/, and I have always pronounced the city in the same way. Now, I am hearing /ˈkiːev/ or even /kiːˈev/. These are not the Russian pronunciation, nor the Ukrainian. Must we now start getting used to all Russian or Russian-like names having their final -v pronounced /v/? Moloto/v/? Prokofie/v/? Khrushche/v/?