It seems strange to think that the historic heart of Russia was once Kiev, a city that is now the capital of an independent Ukraine. The Rus’ people had pushed south from their heartlands in Novgorod to reach Kiev in the ninth century. Kievan Rus’ became the centre of a golden age for Russia.
Given the central role of Kiev in Russian history, the etymology of the Ukraine is a reminder of its geographic position. The traditional view on the origin of the country’s name is that it came from the old Slavic term ukraina which meant “border region” or “frontier” (‘u’ meaning at and ‘krai’ meaning edge). This is analogous to the term used in many western countries of the march or marcher countries.
This is disputed by those who think that it has its origins in Ukrainian words meaning something akin to ‘homeland’. One Ukrainian language expert has said “”What people would name themselves the ‘Border People?”.