As a journalist, I find it frustrating when the reporters keep referring to the country as “the Ukraine,” when that isn’t correct. When I wrote for The Fort Polk Guardian, we used the Associated Press Style when writing. AP Style refers to many different ways of writing words, business names, abbreviation, etc. It's basically the Bible for journos. It’s why a lot of service members hate that we write Capt. instead of CPT when writing out the military rank of Captain or Lt. Col. instead of LTC. It’s dictated by a style of writing rather than the military style (it’s also why you don’t seem military time either).
As part of my “Bigger Better Me” journey, I ‘ve been learning geography. I was definitely rusty, but have had fun discovering some countries I never knew, which isn’t difficult when African nations are constantly changing. We have a lot of nations where “the” is inserted before their names: The Netherlands, the Philippines, the United States of America, etc. Why? And why wouldn’t we use “the” in front of other countries like France, Japan and Ireland as well? There’s a surprisingly good and easy explanation.
In the English language, there are four reasons why we would use “the” in front of the name of a country:
1.) If the name is plural. That’s why we use the Netherlands and the Philippines.
2.) If a common noun is included, hence the United States of America
3.) If the region is a sub-region of another, hence the Saar
4.) If the country name describes a geographical feature, like the Ivory Coast (describing the coast) or the Republic of Gambia (describing the river).
Ukraine fit rule number two until 1991 when it gained its independence from the Soviet Union and was no longer known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Currently, Ukraine fits none of the above rules, so it is formally known as Ukraine.
And since we recognized the Netherlands…
Did you know that Holland and the Netherlands are the same thing, but the country is officially known as the Netherlands? Calling the country “Holland” is like calling the United States “Texas.” There are two Hollands — North and South — that are provinces of the country. Holland is an accepted term, but doesn’t exactly refer to the entire country.