Determined serendipityI was reading Frederick Forsyth's "The Devil's Alternative" a couple of weeks ago. The book is set partly in the Ukraine, which is when the question popped up: why is the Ukraine "the Ukraine" and not just "Ukraine". I filed it away as a query to pose to my local geography maven and then promptly forgot all about it.
Couple of days ago, I was reading a post on the Language Log on a completely unrelated topic (about Kate's mum and William's grand mum), and following some of the linked articles. The last one made a passing mention of Lynne Murphy's "Separated by a Common Language" blog. It turned out that her latest post was on the determiner-with-place issue, with the Ukraine mentioned!
It's a very interesting post with lots of other examples. Incidentally, there's a Wikipedia article *even* on this. (I find page faults on that site to be relatively rare).