Russia Toponymic Revolution

As in the interurban toponymy, a real revolution has taken place in the names of the cities themselves. Or, better, we could speak of counter-revolution or restoration, given that it was the restoration of pre-existing names, of medieval or modern origin but always pre-revolutionary, which had been replaced in the communist age, usually with names of protagonists of the Bolshevik revolution.

Thus, between 1990 and 1992 names that had mostly disappeared in the 1920s or 1930s reappeared on the map of the Russia Therefore Leningrad (1924) took back the old name of St. Petersburg (1703), which had gradually become Petersburg in common use and Petrograd in 1914 for anti-Germanic nationalism. To the north and east of Moscow, the ancient illustrious names of Tver (Kalinin from 1933) and Nizhny-Novgorod (Gorki from 1932: in this case it was not really a Soviet hierarch) reappeared. Rybinsk, also north of Moscow, could only be called Andropov for five years: from 1984 (date of the death of the politician) to 1989 (the first ever of post-communist toponymic restorations). In Ciscaucasia, he resumed the proud name of Vladikavkaz (= ruler of the Caucasus) the city that had been dedicated to Ordžonikidže in 1954. On the middle Volga we find Samara, a sixteenth-century city that was called Kujbyšev for sixty years (1930-90); and, on the lower course of the river, the contemporary Caricyn (= of the Tsar), renamed Stalingrad in 1925 and with this name gone down in history – for the epic war story that in 1942-43 marked one of the essential turning points of the Second World War -, but then called Volgograd in a more neutral way (1961, in the wake of de-Stalinization) and in 1991 brought back to the tsarist toponym. Finally, in the same year, beyond the Urals, the eighteenth-century Yekaterinburg resumed honoring the name of the great Catherine, after having called itself Sverdlovsk for sixty years.

The ecological ” glasnost ”. – Among the fundamental changes that have occurred or are in progress in Russia since the reforms of Gorbačëv, it is worth mentioning the new attitude towards environmental problems. In the old Soviet Union there were eg. many accidents in nuclear power plants (such as in Chelyabinsk, southwestern Siberia, in 1957 and again in 1967), with large-scale radioactive leaks, thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of contaminants. Radioactive waste was secretly dumped in the Arctic and Pacific; in the first of these oceans the icebreaker reactors and sunken nuclear submarines were also abandoned without problems. All this without counting the military experiments, conducted without any regard for the populations of the affected areas.

Then the glasnost (” transparency ”) preached by Gorbachev laboriously took over. Solemn mea culpa they were played by the new leaders, and in March 1992, for example, the St. Petersburg nuclear accident was immediately made public internally and abroad. The dumping of radioactive waste is today announced in advance (it will take ten years before safe deposits are ready on the ground) despite the protests of Japan. Major ecological and economic problems remain. About half of the 60 Russian and Ukrainian nuclear power plants are to varying degrees dangerous or unsafe and would certainly need to be closed, according to a technical report drawn up jointly, after thorough inspections, by two well-known specialized agencies (the Swedish Asea and the Swiss Brown Boveri). This measure would open energy supply problems that are probably insoluble without massive financial as well as technical help. western; and yet it is a measure that would be easier to take in time, without waiting for the economic recovery that would cause the demand for energy to rise sharply.

Beyond the nuclear issue, other ecological issues are increasingly discussed, and tackled with a new spirit, in the Russia of the nineties: from the pollution of the Volga, a river that up to the previous decade had been considered a genuine free purge for drains. industrial, to the progressive drying up of the Aral Sea, faced by the Muscovite geographer Kotlyakov already in the Eighties, but today it has become the exclusive problem of the new independent states of Central Asia. Still little attention is paid to pollution deriving from urban traffic in large cities, traffic which is growing and which uses particularly deleterious fuels.

Russia Toponymic Revolution