A small square in central Reykjavík will be renamed Kyiv Square in a show of support to Ukraine, the city’s authorities have announced. The square will also bear the name Kænugarður in Icelandic, an old Icelandic name for the Ukrainian capital. The square is located on the corner of Garðastræti and Túngata, amid a row of embassies, including Russia’s.
“Reykjavík is sending a clear message of support for the Ukrainian nation here and at the same time referencing the ancient connection between Iceland and Kænugarður [Kyiv],” stated City Councillor Eyþór Arnalds. “The location at the corner of Garðastræti and Túngata is appropriate as those streets house the offices and embassies of foreign countries.”
The notice from the City of Reykjavík states that Kænugarður “references the historic name of the city in Icelandic and emphasised its history that stretches back for millennia.”
Ancient Icelandic name for Kyiv
Scandinavians settled the area that is now Ukraine as early as the 8th century. The Kristni saga, written around the 13th century, refers to the city that is now Kyiv as Kænugarður. According to Vísindavefurinn, the first part of the word, kæna, is possibly derived from Kijane, the Old East Slavic name for residents of Kyiv, while garður shares the same root as the Old East Slavic word goród, meaning city.
In modern Icelandic, Kænugarður also means “Kæna Garden,” an appropriate name for the square, which features greenery. The square will be known as Kyiv Square in English and will have similar names in other languages, in order to reference the city’s internationally-known name.
Stone’s throw from the Russian embassy
The square is located amid a strip of embassies and foreign offices, including the Canadian Embassy to Iceland and the offices of the Faroese and Greenlandic delegations. The Russian embassy and Russian ambassador’s residence, where public protests have been held since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, are located a short distance up the street.
The Ukrainian embassy to Iceland is located in Helsinki, Finland.