Sunday, July 13, 2014

Revolution and Geography: revolutionary renaming

In 2003 Russian toponymist Sergey Nikitin wrote the article titled "Revolution and geography", where among others he takes up the questions of the renaming. I'd like to publish in my blog fragments of his work in Russian with abstracts or explanations in English. I find this opus brilliant and I am sure that it's pretty global investigations integrating various onomastic data. It's based on his "Concept of Soviet toponym" (on archival materials of the first years of Soviet power 1918-1926 / Toponimia i oronimia. Krakow: Wydawnictwo naukowe DWN, 2001. p. 363-372).

Sergey Nikitin (1975, Moscow) is Russian historian, cultural studies scholar, member of the Russian Geographical Society, Associate Professor of Theory and History of Culture at the People's Friendship University of Russia, founder of Moskultprog Project and Moscow Architectural Cyclenight. He graduated from the Faculty of History at the MSU University.

He participated in more than 40 international conferences, he's author of works on italianistics, urbanistic renaming, problems of urban culture and orientation in Russia and abroad. His area of research is toponymy and toponymics. 

What is the most interesting for us, it's the fact that in his "Topogenesis in the Russian and Italian cities" (2008), he developed the theory of topogenesis explaining and modeling the development of intra-urban toponymy. Actually, the term of topogenesis is being used in the biochemistry where it means morphogenesis of protein tertiary structure, they also use adjective "topogenic" for it. However, Jörn Seemann from the URCA (Universidade Regional do Cariri, Brasilia) and Witold Hensel from the Polish Academy of Sciences employ the same term for their cartographic and archaeological purposes respectively.  

Let's start with "Revolution and geography"


As we know Bolsheviks were fond of altering the names of localities. These new names were supposed to reflect new ideology and conform to a political situation of the day. With times changing, the people’s attitudes to these matters also transform. Sergey Nikitin tells a story of modern Russian toponymy.

Published in the modern literary magazine "Otechestvennye Zapiski" (Отечественные записки, variously translated as "Annals of the Fatherland", "Patriotic Notes", "Notes of the Fatherland", etc), 2003 (Nr.2).

Революция и география

Становление советской топонимики в 1918–1930 годах / Formation of the Soviet toponymy in 1918-1930s 

ХХ век оказался чрезвычайно богатым на массовые переименования: изменения географических названий коснулись не только азиатских и африканских стран, добившихся независимости, но и «старой» Европы, где на аннексированных территориях также проводилась радикальная замена географической номенклатуры. В Судетах и в Поморье, отошедших к Польше после Второй мировой войны, было заменено в общей сложности около 32 тысяч непольских названий; французские, словенские, хорватские и немецкие названия активно устранялись в Италии. Все эти переименования были обусловлены внешнеполитическими причинами, изменением государственных границ, желанием подчеркнуть национальную принадлежность объектов номинации.

The 20th century was exceedingly rich in mass renaming: name changes touched not only Asiatic and African countries that achieved independence, but the "old" Europe as well, where, on the annex territories, the geographic terms had been radically replaced. In the Sudetenland and Pomerania, retroceded to Poland after WWII, a total of about 32.000 non-Polish names were changed; French, Slovenian, Croatian and German place-names were actively removed in Italy. All those acts of renaming were conditioned by foreign-policy reasons and national boundary adjustments willing to stress ethnic identity of the naming units.