Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One in Every 12 Cities in Post-Soviet Space has Been Renamed since 1987, Bochkaryev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 5 – In what he admits is an imprecise calculation, historian Anton Bochkaryev says that 190 of the 2457 cities across the post-Soviet space have been given new names since 1987 -- some 7.7 percent of the total – not to mention the far more numerous changes in the names of streets and the relatively fewer changes in the names of regions.

            This process recalls the renaming of the former colonies of the British and French empires, he says, with changes far more often in the non-Russian successor states than in Russia. In Tajikistan, for example, 44.4 percent of the cities have been renamed, and in Turkmenistan, 34 percent (polit.ru/article/2018/11/04/ps_renaming/).

                In the Russian Federation, on the other hand, only four percent of the cities have been renamed, a figure that exceeds only the still lower number of place names changed in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where there was less earlier renaming during Soviet times and thus fewer restorations that the governments and people wanted to make. 

            In many cases, most of the renaming took place at the end of the 1980s or beginning of the 1990s; and there has been none since. In Armenia, the last city to be renamed was in 1995; in Lithuania and Moldova, in 1991 and 1992. As for Russia, “of the 49 cities which have been renamed, only nine have been changed since 1995.”

            The first city to be renamed was Ustinov which after three years under that nomenclature recovered its earlier name in the summer of 1987, Bochkaryev says.  “By the end of 1989,” all the places featuring the names of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko had disappeared from the map.

            The renaming trend hit the non-Russian countries immediately after they gained or regained independence in 1991.  But after that time, such actions became sporadic and have attracted little notice.  The two chief motivating factors, Bochkaryev continues, have been “decommunization and de-Russification.”

            Other reasons included stressing national unity with Armenia and Azerbaijan each renaming places on their territories named for nationals of the other, the opening of closed cities which had been identified only by numbers, local cults of personality as in Turkmenistan, and linguistic problems.

            What makes this article so useful is that it includes a complete list of the changes that have been made and a country by country discussion of how these various factors worked out, with decommunization less in evidence in Russia and ethnic concerns far greater in the Caucasus and Central Asia. 

No comments:

Post a Comment