Throughout its 72-year history, the republic's borders changed many times, with a significant portion of what is now Western Ukraine being annexed by Soviet forces in 1939 from the Republic of Poland, and the addition of Zakarpattia in 1946. From the start, the eastern city of Kharkiv served as the republic's capital. However, in 1934, the seat of government was subsequently moved to the city of Kiev, Ukraine's historic capital. Kiev remained the capital for the rest of the Ukrainian SSR's existence, and remained the capital of independent Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The name "Ukraine" (Latin: Vkraina) is a subject of debate. It is often perceived as being derived from the Slavic word "okraina", meaning "border land". It was first used to define part of the territory of Kievan Rus' (Ruthenia) in the 12th century, at which point Kiev was the capital of Rus' (Russian land). The name has been used in a variety of ways since the twelfth century. For example, Zaporozhian Cossacks called their Hetmanate "Ukraine", which can be translated as "Our country" or "our land".
Since the partition of Poland, the name has generally disappeared and was replaced with the Russian colonial name of Little Russia.
The idea of Ukraine as borderland crept in the English language at some point. Therefore, while Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, Anglophones referred to the Ukrainian SSR as "The Ukraine". However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the officially recognized name is simply "Ukraine". The definite article may imply that it is a land or general geographic area with unidentified borders.