Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Moscow Seeking to Take Control Even of Street Names in Non-Russian Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 27 – The transformation of the Russian Federation into a completely unitary state is “approaching the finish line,” Lenar Miftakhov says, now that Moscow has arrogated to itself the right to determine what names can and cannot be used in the cities of the non-Russian republics.

            The Tatar activist who is a member of the Federative Party says that in his city, Elabuga,” up to now, there has been a rule that 50 percent of new street names must be Tatar in origin, while 50 percent of them must be Russian. But now Moscow has decided that arrangement is insufficient (region.expert/toponyms/).

            A month ago, the Russian government issued an order specifying that the naming of streets in all cities of the Russian Federation must correspond with the standards and “stylistic norms of the present-day Russian literary language.” In informal language, they must have ethnic Russian and not non-Russian origins.

            This decree gives free reign to officials who may decide that Tatar names in Elabuga must be changed even as they decide to do nothing about Tatar names like Arbat and Ordynka in Moscow. What is sad, even tragic, Miftakhov says, is that some local officials are going along rather than challenging this example of imperial overreach.

            But fortunately, there are others, including members of the local Toponymic Commission which includes people of various nationalities, “unanimous refused to support the renaming of streets” in Elabuga so that only Russian-originated words would grace new motorways in that Tatarstan city.

            Unfortunately, the support for the existing system by the Toponymic Commission is not definitive. The city council will have to decide whether to support it or go along with what Moscow now wants. One republic deputy has called on Kazan to intervene on the side of the commission, and a prominent lawyer has offered his services to challenge what Moscow wants.

            According to Miftakhov, “this problem requires an immediate decision because otherwise the residents of the new streets will become hostages of the situation and won’t be able to receive registration documents.” If the conflict proceeds, no one will know which address, Tatar or Russian, should be recorded.

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