September 29 – Changes in place names in the Russian Federation since the end
of Soviet times have been far from complete and have resulted in some truly
perverse situations such as when a statue of Lenin remains on a square now named
for a cathedral or a street named for a Chekist intersects with one named for a
victim of the Soviet security services.
perhaps the most glaring clash is in the northwestern corner of the Russian
Federation where the city of St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, is located
within Leningrad oblast, nomenclature that there has been remarkably little
pressure to change. In a new article, Russian 7 asks why (russian7.ru/post/pochemu-leningradskuyu-oblast-ne-stal/).
The northern capital
recovered its historical name on September 6, 1991, but only after what the
portal says were “stormy discussions” in the city administration and
media.Mikhail Gorbachev opposed the change, and Anatoly
Sobchak for a long time did not even allow the city soviet to discuss it.
taken in April 1991 found that 54 percent of the city’s residents favored a return
to the pre-Soviet name; but even after the decision was taken, the issue has
continued to divide the population. Indeed, in 2011, Vladimir Putin remarked
that the return of the historical name St. Petersburg had “split the city.”
poll, of course, was not a referendum; and the decision was taken not by the
population but by the city council.And
in that lies one explanation for why Leningrad was renamed but Leningrad Oblast
was not. In the city government, liberals and democrats were dominant while in
the oblast the communists were. They never allowed it to be discussed.
explanation, Russian7 says, is that Moscow did not want to change the name of
the oblast because it was associated with the defense of the northern capital
during World War II. As commemoration of the war has become more important in
recent years, interest in renaming the oblast has thus declined, even among the
perhaps the most important explanation is cost. While some say that changing
the name would not be expensive, others point to the costs Russian
municipalities have had to bear by doing so.Renaming Kuibyshev Samara cost 30 million US dollars, Forbes estimated
in 2012; and restoring the name Tver to Kalinin cost 20 million.
Russian economy has gotten worse, these costs loom larger in the calculations
there is an even larger explanation: Vladimir Putin clearly doesn’t favor
renaming the oblast.Six years ago, he
was asked if he was “shocked” that the city of Leningrad had been renamed while
the oblast had not. He responded that “for a long time already, nothing shocks
me; I am accustomed to everything.”
Kremlin leader added at the time that questions of renaming places must be “de-ideologized”
and the opinions of the population must be taken into account.In his remarks, he implied that ordinary Russians
are “accustomed” to living in Leningrad Oblast and so there is no reason to
press for change.