Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Authorities Wanted Airports to Have Tsarist Names, But Russians Prefer Soviet Ones

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 21 – The plan to rename Russia’s main airports after historic figures in the past was intended by its chief organizers, Putin favorite Metropolitan Tikhon, a passionate monarchist, to lead to a situation in which the names of tsars would replace the names of villages and thus reinforce present-day Russia’s links with the tsarist past.

            To that end, Tikhon arranged that no one could suggest or vote for the name of any political leader active in the last 100 years. (Because Nicholas II was murdered in 1918, he got in under the wire.)  But what that meant, Elena Rychkova of the Nakanune news agency says, is that ordinary Russians chose figures from the Soviet period (

            That wasn’t what Tikhon (and presumably his patron Putin) wanted, but it means, she continues that Russians won’t be flying from one tsar to another but rather from one Soviet military commander to another, an indication that the Kremlin’s efforts to move the country back before Soviet times will be resisted.

            The government has apparently convinced Russians in some places to back tsars or at least tsarist figures. In Astrakhan, Voronezh, and St. Petersburg, Peter the Great is in the lead in the current voting. In Murmansk, Nicholas II is; in Pskov, Princess Olga; and in Krasnodar, Catherine the Great.

            But elsewhere, “by overwhelming majorities,” Russians voted for Soviet military commanders, fliers, scientists and bulders, Rychkova says. And what is interesting is that “‘the best tsar of all times and places’ – Nicholas II – has proved not to be that popular.” Even in Murmansk, he leads Ivan Papanin, the Arctic explorer, by relatively few votes.

            Other Russian cities have made similar choices. In Volgograd, military commander Vasily Chuikov is in the lead; in Nizhny Novgorod, flier and explorer Valery Chkalov is; and in Novosibirsk, there is a close competition among fliers, explorers, scientists, and military men, all from the Soviet era, hardly what Metropolitan Tikhon wants.

            Historian Yevgeny Spitsyn tells the Nakanune journalist that if the authorities had allowed it, it is almost certain that in many places, Russians would have chosen the names of Lenin and Stalin both out of familiarity and respect. They weren’t allowed to do so and so they are choosing lesser but still Soviet personalities.

            Perhaps the most controversial choice Russians appear to be making is the vote in Kaliningrad. There, people have cast the most votes for Immanuel Kant who lived there when it was called Koenigsberg.  Marat Bariyev, a Duma deputy from Tatarstan, says Moscow must intervene to stop this (

                According to the deputy, re-naming the Kaliningrad airport now after a German philosopher would be an insult to the memory of the veterans of the Great Fatherland War who drove the German forces out of what had been East Prussia and thereby opened the way for Stalin to annex and rename that territory Kaliningrad.

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