Ukraine’s Former President Yanukovich’s GeoGaffes

Oct 26, 2014 by

[This post was originally published in April 2012]

map_of_ukraineMy previous post mentioned several egregious geographical errors made by various U.S. politicians. But such illiteracy and confusion are not limited to American officials. Another politician notorious for his GeoGaffes is Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovich.

In 2004 Yanukovich described his visit to Mount Athos but misplaced it in Palestine instead of Greece. But what would one expect of a politician who considers Israel “a European country” and subdivides Eurasia into Asia and… Eurasia! In various speeches, Yanukovich confused Slovakia and Slovenia; Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo; and even North Ossetia and South Ossetia.

Not only does Yanukovich have trouble with finding places on the map, but he can barely keep up with current political and economic events. In July 2005 he expressed his condolences to the residents of London after terrorist attacks that shook the city, noting also that leaders of G8 were there at the time. In actuality, the G8 meeting was then taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland. On another occasion he used “Stockholm Accords” for Helsinki Accords of 1975, which formulated the principles of the inviolability of national borders and respect for territorial integrity.

Yanukovich’s geographical troubles extend to his home country as well. On many occasions he forgot where he was or confused various Ukrainian cities: Balakliia in Kharkiv Oblast of eastern Ukraine with Balaklava in Crimea, the site of the famous battle during the Crimean War; Kirovohrad in central Ukraine with Chernihiv in northern part of the country; and Mykolaiv with Kherson (both cities in southwestern Ukraine on the Black Sea coast).

Besides geography, Yanukovich has trouble keeping in mind dates, names, and quotes. His cultural knowledge is rather limited: he called Anton Chekhov a “great Ukrainian poet” and confused Isaak Babel with August Bebel. Yanukovich regularly struggles with details of diplomatic protocol, and his battles with spelling have made him a laughing stock, especially when filling out a questionnaire, he misspelled his academic degree as “proffesor”, with two Fs and one S. Unsurprisingly, this misspelled title became his nickname.

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