Staunton, April 28 – Vladimir Putin has directed the Russian Geographic Society along with Russian government agencies to prepare a new world atlas showing Russian toponyms that other countries may have replaced in order to protect “historical and geographical truth,” the latest step in his promotion of his “Russian world” notion.
“We do not have the right,” the Kremlin leader says, to ignore those cases where places had Russian names and then these were changed by others. He notes that this has happened most often in Antarctica where names given by Russian explorers have been replaced by others (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57377 and newsru.com/russia/28apr2018/antarktida.html).
At the same time, Putin assures that “Russia does not intend to impose anything on others.” But despite that declaration, his latest project will put pressure on Russia’s neighbors many of whom are changing place names in ways that Moscow and many Russians find objectionable as “anti-Russian.”
But as with most such Putin proposals, this argument only works in one direction: he wants to challenge any renaming of Russian toponyms by others but will invariably oppose anyone who tries to restore a non-Russian name to places Moscow has imposed a Russian one on, such as Koenigsberg for a place Russians now call Kaliningrad.