The World

Find a city for today’s Geo Quiz that straddles the Dnieper River.

The Dnieper begins in Russia’s Valdai Hills and empties into the Black Sea.

Ukraine’s largest city lies on the Dnieper…and that’s the city we’re after.

It’s one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe.

It’s home to Russian and Ukrainian speakers and they disagree on how to spell the city’s name.

The UN recently adopted the Ukrainians’ Anglicized spelling, but the Russian version is still widely used.

Another dispute has arisen here over who was the “Greatest Ukrainian” of all time.

A local TV show asked viewers to vote….and they got a split decision.

Some said it was an eleventh-century Russian prince, others favored a modern Ukrainian nationalist.

We’ll hear from both sides of the debate in a few minutes…

But first, try to name this city on the Dnieper.

Today’s geo quiz takes us to the capital of Ukraine.

That’s Kiev….K-I-E-V or as Ukrainian speakers prefer K-Y-I-V.

There’s another disagreement that pits Russian speakers against Ukrainian speakers…this one’s over a local television show.

It’s called Great Ukrainians and is a knock-off of a BBC TV program, called Great Britons.

Viewers voted for their choice of the top fifty British people of all time.

US TV had its version.

Back in 2005, Ronald Reagan was voted as the Greatest American ever.

That was a controversial choice.

But that’s nothing, compared to the flap over the Great Ukrainian.

Some of you may remember back in 2005, a TV show named Ronald Reagan the greatest ever American. A shortlist of ten names was put to the public, and viewers were asked to vote for their favorites. The Gipper narrowly beat Abraham Lincoln.

Now a row has broken out in Ukraine over a local version of the show. The “Greatest Ukrainian” was announced last month. But the editor of the series is crying foul – he says the vote was rigged, in favour of an eleventh-century king, to prevent a twentieth century nationalist from taking the top slot. Many believe him. The argument is being seen in terms of pro- and anti- Russian forces, in a country that is still deeply divided – over its past, and its future. Gabriel Gatehouse reports from Kiev.


After months of voting, of argument and counter argument, this was the moment that TV viewers in Ukraine were told the name of their greatest ever citizen. And the winner was…

Yaroslav the Wise – one of the great princes of Kievan Rus’ – who until his death in 1054 ruled over an empire that straddled present-day Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. But did he really win?

Not according to the show’s editor, Vakhtang Kipiani.

Kipiani: From about two in the morning on Friday there was a massive spike in the voting. At first we thought it was being done by hand, that there was a group of people sending text messages. But now that we’ve seen the figures, it’s clear that it must have been some computer programme, working from a database of telephone numbers.

Kipiani charges that the vote was rigged in favour of Yaroslav. He says that he alerted his bosses to his suspicions, but that his warnings were ignored. I put that allegation to Anna Bezlyudna, head of INTER – the TV channel that ran the show.

Bezlyudna: I’ve already said, it’s completely untrue. We’ve finished this project, and finished it very successfully, we had high viewing figures, and everyone is happy. If there are people who aren’t happy then they are politics-crazy. Unfortunately there are many such people. You have to take that into account. I’m not going to comment on conjecture. It’s nonsense.

Whatever the truth of the matter, she’s right about one thing: here in Ukraine, there are suspicions of dark political machinations behind almost everything that happens. After all, president Yushchenko was poisoned by his enemies during the 2004 election campaign.

In an island of calm amid the traffic of central Kiev stands the St Sophia cathedral. With is green and gold onion domes and white walls, it was built in 1037 by Yaroslav the Wise, and it’s the oldest cathedral in the Russian orthodox church. And the key word here is Russian

Kulikov: Yaroslav the Wise, for an average Ukrainian, especially for those who got their education in history in Soviet times, was the builder of the state that was supposed to be the common cradle of the three fraternal peoples: Ukrainians, Russians and Belarussians.

Andrei Kulikov is a local journalist – he says that this row is not about the past at all – this is about the future of Ukraine, and its relationship with its neighbour.

Kulikov: There is on the one hand a tendency to look for a separate, “the” Ukrainian way. On the other hand there are quite a lot of people who think that we should go into the future hand in hand, or at least side by side with Russia.

And here’s where the other figure in all of this comes into play.

Stepan Bandera – he is the man that the shows editor says would have won, if the vote had not been fixed. He was a Ukrainian nationalist, who fought a guerilla war against both the Nazis and the Soviets. He was assassinated by the KGB after World War Two. To many – especially in western Ukraine – he’s a hero and a freedom fighter. But to many others, Bandera was a terrorist, and a traitor to the Soviet motherland.

Shuster: Stepan Bandera is a divisive figure, but Stepan Bandera is very much a symbol.

Savik Shuster was the presenter of the Great Ukrainians show.

Shuster: He is a symbol for a young generation that actually feels the independence of the country, wants it to be independent, and sees its future in the West, in Europe.

Bandera’s partisans are not letting go. A group of 77 Ukrainian parliamentarians signed a letter asking the BBC to investigate the results of the Great Ukrainian contest. The BBC owns the worldwide rights to the idea behind the show. So far, there’s been no response to the letter.

For The World, I’m Gabriel Gatehouse, in Kiev, Ukraine.

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