Monday, February 4, 2019

Renaming ‘Boom’ in Kazakhstan ‘a Campaign Against Soviet ‘Colonial Past,’ Pakholin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 3 – The dropping of Russian and Soviet names from streets and towns throughout Kazakhstan over the last few months, Aleksey Pakholin says, has become a concerted “campaign against the Soviet ‘colonial past,” an effort that does not reflect the views of the local population and that is taking place in many cases despite their wishes.

            The Russian commentator says, “the size of the renaming effort in Kazakhstan is shocking. A vertical onomastic revolution is taking place. According to some date, already by the mid-2000s, 60 percent of all geographic names [there] had been changed. And in Wikipedia one can find data on almost 1700 population points and other geographic objects which have received new names after the disintegration of the USSR (

            “The absolute majority of these objects bore ethnic Russian, including Soviet names, but now they sound Kazakh,” Pakholin continues. In the past, this campaign hit Kazakh-majority areas more than those with mixed Kazakh and ethnic Russian populations. But now the Kazakhs are focusing on the latter as well.

            According to the Russian commentator, the cities of Uralsk, Petropavlovsk, and Pavlodar may soon be given new Kazakh names as part of a campaign against “the Soviet ‘colonial past’” which even those engaged in this effort do not deny is their intention.

            They routinely say that “residents of Kazakhstan aren’t required to remember when they lived in ‘the Soviet empire.’ They have the complete right to give districts, population points and streets ‘national’ names.” But in doing so, they are ignoring the interests of the second largest nation in Kazakhstan, the ethnic Russians and threatening inter-ethnic concord.

            Just how sensitive this issue is becoming is reflected in something else: After posting this article on its portal, Russia’s Strategic Culture Foundation took it down almost immediately. But in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever really completely lost – and the article is still available via other sites. 

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