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No, the message isn't clear at all. You're looking at this and thinking it says, "This is Ukraine and that's Russia and Russia needs to stay out of Ukraine." But try reading it like this: "Это Украина" pointing to Kiev on a map, "Россия вот здесь" pointing to Donetsk.
There's not a clear political message either way. So perhaps the course creators had no political agenda at all with this sentence and were actually just trying to teach us a couple useful country names??
Does that mean we will hear about Kazakhstan and the rest of Central Asia? (bounces excitedly).
If you get enough volunteers, does it really matter if it is mall?
Well...I guess that is the same when United States talk about Mexico, or any member of the European Union talks about any other member of the group. If you visit any of those countries you will need to know what is the name of their neighbours or at least the name of the countries that share a common history or has a big influence on them.
Benjamin-Ukrainian language is very similar to Russian, and people in Ukraine also speak Russiaan. Imagine someone in Ukraine thinking they're in Russia. They can't seem to find Moscow so they ask someone for directions to Moscow. They reply while pointing to a map, " Вот Украйна, и вот Руссиа." (Not sure if I spelled it right.) Basically, showing someone where to go. That's how I remember it.
We just wanted to give a couple of examples for countries, but not many, as there are more important things to teach other than country names. Ukraine was just kind of natural choice, it's known to English speakers, it's easy to spell, we also have Ukrainian course on Duolingo, Ukraine is another country with a Slavic language and it's Russian's neighbour. Those are all the reasons - nothing more. We didn't even think about it as deeply as it's discussed here. We're obviously aware of the political situation, but it has nothing to do with the sentences in the course.
It's surprisingly hard to get out of the habit of calling it "The Ukraine". According to Wikipedia It's been more than 20 years since it was commonly referred to that way, but I've rarely had occasion to refer to it at all in the meantime, so the way I learned to say the name in my childhood has stuck...
It would be probably interesting for you to know that in Russian there is similar situation but not with the name of the country itself but with the preposition before it. It is very politicized. In soviet period and before it it was often said "на Украину" (to Ukraine). Preposition "на" in Russian is usually used with territories, not independent countries. There are some exceptions but they are almost all islands. After 1991 ukrainian government started to force form "в Украину" as "в" is used with country names. The problem is that ukrainian government doesn't have rights to decide how to use Russian language, only Ukrainian one. But now many of ukrainians say "в Украину", but most russians still say "на Украину". which lead to many hot discussions.
It is not commonly referred to that way? I have always heard it called "The Ukraine".
So, to the slow ones (like me): The direct translation is "Russia is here here", but because of 2 x here, it becomes specifically here, so "over here"?
No. "Вот" has different meaning from "здесь". You say "вот" pointing to something. It is more like "this is". If somebody asks you "где повесить картину?" (where to hang a picture?) you may answer "здесь", "вот здесь" or "тут" (almost no difference between these options) but you cannot just answer "вот".