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The Russia News

May 27, 2022 12:00 pm

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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Where Putin Street Intersects with Stalin Street – and Other Oddities of Toponomy in North Caucasus


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – The renaming of cities, villages and streets has not taken place in the orderly fashion many assume, Vadim Khnygin says. While it is true that there was a large wave in the early 1990s of giving new toponyms to places which bore Soviet names, that process was not complete, renaming has continued to occur, often producing some unexpected intersections.

            The Caucasus Post journalist says that names are being changed on an almost constant basis and in contradictory directions at least in part because “the authorities as a rule do not listen  to the opinions of the people” (capost.media/special/starye-nazvaniya-ulits-ploshchadey-rayonov-i-gorodov-severnogo-kavkaza-pereimenovyvayut-vsye-chashch/).

            “In Soviet times, one could find streets named for Lenin, the Soviets, October, the Communist Party, the Komsomol, Kirov and so on in any city or large village.” Some were changed in the early 1990s. “But not everywhere” and certainly not in a consistent way. And the same holds for lower-ranking and foreign communist figures.

            “In Nalchik to this day,” Khnygin says, “there is an Armand Street” because Inessa Armand died there, even though she is buried in Red Square. Makhachkala renamed Lenin Avenue in honor of poet Rasul Khamzatov but it still has a Lenin Square with the inevitable Lenin statue.  

One North Caucasus capital, Magas, doesn’t have anything related to Lenin because it was established too recently. But elsewhere in Ingushetia, Lenin is doing well: three are a minimum of 12 streets named in honor of the Bolshevik leader in other cities and villages, the journalist continues.

Stalin continues to be honored even though most people assume he disappeared from public view almost 70 years ago. Ossetians are especially devoted to his memory because they believe he is one of them and not a Georgian. In Vladikavkaz, there is no Stalin Street, “but there are in Beslan and Alagir and in 13 North Ossetian villages.

            In South Ossetia’s capital Tskhvali, there is a Stalin Street, and it is crossed by Putin St. There are five Stalin streets in Daghestan, and three in villages of Kabardino-Balkaria.

            The name of Nikita Khrushchev is also one most would expect to encounter. But in Magas, his name is on one of the main streets. Since 2000, it has been on one of the main squares in Grozny.

            As for Vladimir Putin, in addition to the Tskhinvali intersection with Stalin St., there are seven Putin streets in Daghestan, three in Ingushetia, and two in Chechnya. The South Ossetian capital also features a short street named after Dmitry Medvedev. Chechnya keeps changing the names of the streets and squares in its cities and villages.

            Most North Caucasus cities have done away with streets named for foreign communists, but Stavropol has retained them. In a village near Sochi, there is a Darwin Street; and in Grozny, there is another one with that name as well as streets honoring Mozart and Shakespeare, Knygin relates.

            And in the Chechen capital since 2016, there has even been a street named for American boxer Mohammed Ali.

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