Thursday, September 19, 2019

Replacing Soviet Place Names Continues in Ukraine but at a Slower Pace

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 15 – VladimirVyatrovich, the head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, says that his agency has overseen the renaming of “almost a thousand” cities and towns and 52,000 street names, the same numbers as last spring and a sign that the renaming effort has slowed (

            In part, this slowing down is a mark of success. Most of the most horrific examples have been corrected. In part, it reflects the resistance of some Ukrainians who don’t want the names to change either because they have become accustomed to them or because changing them would cost too much.

            And in part, this slowing down in an effort many celebrated when it began with the passage of a law in 2015 reflects broader political developments in Ukraine and a weariness of fighting what many view as an old and no longer central political battle (

            Vyatrovich for his part is not discouraged. Ukrainians across the country participated in the renaming effort: “We decided and decided by ourselves what new names to use or what older names to restore in the case of 52,989 cities, 26 districts and in addition, squares, mountains and rivers.”

            The 2015 law requiring that names imposed by the communist and Nazi regimes be replaced led his institute to publish a list of 520 historical figures whose activities in Ukraine mean that their names must be eliminated from the map of Ukraine. Overwhelmingly that has happened, he suggests.

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