The NLO publishing house has published an extremely interesting book by the urban historian Sergei Nikitin, “Country of Names”, dedicated to toponymy - naming and renaming cities, streets, squares in Russia. Today, when the real war with monuments broke out in the world, this topic looks more than relevant.
Since the 18th century, Russian authorities have been actively involved in toponymic creativity, using names as an instrument of ideological influence. The desire to subordinate toponymy to large state tasks led to the fact that a change of rulers and regimes was followed by waves of renaming.
330 years ago, Peter the Great came to power and the era of naming began. In the spirit of the ideas of the Enlightenment, the king saw the name as part of the living space that can and should be changed - like furniture. It is not necessary to live in a stuffy Nut, when it can be turned into Shlisselburg overnight. This new concept of the toponym has survived for centuries: the Yaroslavl peasants argued in the same spirit in the revolutionary 1918, when they petitioned for the replacement of their native Zapryadyazhye into the village of Tsvetkova, and the residents of Ryazan, who collected signatures on renaming Second Godless Street (“contrary to Russian values”) to Trump Street. Specific motivations in choosing an object are changing, but the concept is the same. Toponymic culture unites our country - from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad, with the countries of Europe and Asia.
Each era expressed in toponymy something very important for her - either aesthetically or ethically. They ring the self-irony of the era of Perestroika of the Field of Miracles (and in Murmansk there is even the Country of Fools). The ceremony, like in Baroque lace, is Monplaisir and Yekaterinental, given by Peter the Great in honor of his wife, Catherine I. The constructivist Elektrostal beats the current, which in 1928 changed the calm on the map: how is it better to tell about the change in aesthetic priorities? And there are still dreamy Mars and the Moon.
Not only power initiates renaming. One of Nikitin’s remarkable discoveries in the State Archive of the Russian Federation: at a ceremonial meeting in 1927, Tambov police decided to petition the Kremlin to rename Moscow to the city of Ilyich. Ilyich - the patronymic of Lenin - is better than the "outdated and incomprehensible" name of the capital.
In the book of Sergey Nikitin layer by layer the meanings lurking in the current and former names of Russian cities, villages and streets are deciphered. Written on archival sources, press materials and interviews, this book reveals the beauty, the original emotional charge and the meaning of hundreds of famous and little-known names. We bring to your attention the most, perhaps, the most dramatic chapter of the book, telling about how Paul the First dealt with the mother’s heritage on the map of New Russia and in Moscow.
Chapter 8. Broken heart of a son. Deekaterinization of toponymy in the reign of Paul I
The Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich grew up without parental love in the shadow of his power-hungry mother, Catherine II. He did not like his mother, could not forgive her for the murder of his father, Peter III. He turned Catherine’s funeral into a symbolic act of revenge: at his direction, the coffin with the body of Peter III was removed from the crypt of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, where he had been buried before, and put up in the throne room of the Winter Palace next to the tomb of Catherine. And one of the main participants in the palace coup, Alexei Orlov, carried on the golden pillow the crown of the emperor he had killed. In the Peter and Paul Cathedral, both were buried and buried in one crypt.
At forty-two, the heir finally received the throne, and the son’s dislike of his mother immediately spilled onto the empire’s card. Founded under Catherine II, Yekaterinoslav (Yekaterinoslavl, then Dnepropetrovsk, now the Dnieper), Theodosius and Sevastopol at the beginning of the reign of Paul I became Novorossiysk, Kafa and Akhtiar, respectively (1797). Of the three names enshrined in the relevant resolution, only Novorossiysk was truly new; it is formed from the word Novorossia, which in the official documents of the XVIII century called all the South Russian acquisitions of the Russian Empire. For the other two names, more detailed explanations are needed.
The name Kafa was used in relation to Theodosius by the Genoese and later captured by the Turks. That is what Athanasius Nikitin called her: “And he came to the ship and conspired about a tax - a golden scat from his head to Kafa..." The return of the toponym “Kafa” became a sign that, out of hostility towards his mother, Paul was ready - at least on the map - to abandon her conquests.
The same with Sevastopol: the city was founded on the territory conquered from the Ottoman Empire. Under Paul, Sevastopol (from the Greek "The Majestic City") received the Turkic name Akhtiar - in the old Tatar village Akhtiar (translated "White Gully") and Akhtiar bay, on the banks of which the city was built. Simferopol was also returned to the name of the village - Ak-Mosque. Returning to the map of Turkism, Paul declared that the Greek project is no longer relevant, and we are not at war with the Ottoman Empire.
The "new" old names did not last long. In the very first years of his reign, Alexander I, the beloved grandson of Catherine II, was restored by Yekaterinoslav.
The return of old geographical names under Paul was designed to cross out all the foreign policy, military, and diplomatic concepts of Catherine’s time expressed in them. In the article “Yekaterinoslav” in the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedia, the reverse renaming of Novorossiysk to Yekaterinoslav dates from 1802, and this act is directly linked to the accession of Alexander I, though without specifying the sources. The Great Encyclopedic Dictionary of 1991 dates to the restoration of the toponym Sevastopol in 1801. Interestingly, according to Evgeny Pospelov, no corresponding decree was issued on the reverse renaming of southern Russian cities.
Thus, having existed for several years, the renaming of Pavlovsk time disappeared, as if they were related not to real geographic objects of strategic importance, but to court intrigue. The toponym Novorossiysk, replaced by Yekaterinoslav, turned out to be in demand in the near future: a few decades later it was assigned to a new Russian fortress (1839) on the Circassian lands in the Tsemess Bay of the Black Sea - the well-known Novorossiysk.
And when did Akhtiar become Sevastopol again? According to Sergey Antonov, Pavel did not sign a decree on the elimination of the toponyms of Sevastopol and Feodosia: until 1826, in pairs, Sevastopol and Feodosia were used simultaneously with the old Akhtiar and Kafa.
Personal accounts with her mother were not limited to a map: the newly completed Catherine Palace in Moscow Lefortovo was defiantly turned into a barracks, and the garden was ordered to "cut trees in the form of roosters and peacocks, and also other geometric shapes without the slightest omission." The Tsaritsyno palace near Moscow (now the Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve) was destroyed, and only under the mayor Yuri Luzhkov, the palace appearance was returned to the grandiose ruins - alas, with the loss of the original plan.
Thus, already at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the toponym was a significant value for contemporaries. The authorities turned toponymy into a platform not only for the manifestation of national interests, but also for settling family accounts...