Saturday, June 1, 2024

Pre-1917 Russian Place Names Must be Restored But Memorials to Soviet Figures Need Not Be Removed, Bondarenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 – Yury Bondarenko, long a campaigner for restoring pre-1917 place names in Russia that the Soviets replaced, has now come up with a compromise proposal: all pre-1917 place names must be restored but memorial plaques to Soviet figures can be retained if the local population wants them.

            The president of the Return Foundation is calling for the convening of a congress of philologists and toponymists that could identify all the pre-1917 names that should be restored but said he wasn’t opposed to keeping plaques and other memorials to Soviet-era personalities (

            “Every name returned,” Bondareneko said on a Sputnik radio broadcast, “transforms the history which existed before 1917 from a dusty exhibit in a local museum into the living fabric of our present-day life” and thus “to the maximum extent possible, depoliticizes the toponym of our country.

            In fact, of course, almost every name change will enflame political passions. But Bondarenko’s suggestion that he isn’t opposed to keeping Soviet memorial plagues is an indication that those who want to restart the renaming process believe they can achieve their ends only by making compromises. 

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