In most media accounts of the current crisis in the Ukraine, the chief city of western Ukraine — the heartland of the anti-Yanukovich protest movement — is called Lviv. But yesterday, in a report on NPR’s Morning Edition, Emily Harris referred to it by the Russian name, Lvov.
Why? Because the report was about the political differences within a married couple living in Kharkiv (called by that name, the Ukrainian one, rather than the Russian Kharkov). The husband is an ethnic Russian and the wife a western Ukrainian, but their common language is Russian, and so, when telling Emily Harris their story, they called the place where they met (at university) Lvov. And the reporter didn’t bother mentioning that this is the same place that elsewhere is being called Lviv.
I will repeat my advice of a a couple of years ago: stop mispronouncing Lviv, Lvov or Lwów (the combination of palatal /l/ with /v/ with no intervening vowel, is nearly impossible for anglophones) and stick to the time-honored Lemberg. So what if it’s the German form? Danes don’t mind that we call their capital Copenhagen (as long as the a is that of mate, not of father — they didn’t like the way Danny Kaye sang it in Hans Christian Andersen) and not København. Russians don’t mind our calling their capital Moscow (a respelling of the German Moskau) and not Moskva. So, once again: Lemberg!