Monday, February 11, 2013

Stalingrad is Back, at Times, as Re-Sovietization Continues across the Land

Stalingrad.  The city which stopped the Nazi advance into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  It was the battle here from summer 1942 into early 1943 which international communism turned the tide against national socialism.

Another long running battle, this one dealing with geographic place names, is continuing in Russia and recently reignited in the city.  First a little bit of background: the city was originally named Tsaritsyn, loosely translated Tsar (Russian king) town.  In the 1920s Soviet leader Joseph Stalin renamed the city after himself.  He was the local Communist Red Army leader during the Russian Civil War and was personally attached to the city.  However, the city was renamed Volograd (Volga town) in 1961 as part of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev destalinization efforts.

The name Volograd stayed throughout the rest of the Soviet Union and into the Russian Federation because of recognition of Stalin's evils, he killed more people than Hitler, and, later, a desire to break Russia away from its Communist past.  However, the local city government last month declared that the city will be renamed Stalingrad for several days each year.  These days will be the anniversaries of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, the fall of Berlin to the Red Army, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Victory against Japan Day, and the beginning of the Soviet counter attack at Stalingrad.

The official reason for the name change is to mark history.  Some geographers like Z-Geographer do not mind this change.  I, however, see this as yet another bad choice.  Russian nationalism is embracing Sovietness across the landscape.  I wrote earlier about Kirov and Leningori, especially Leningori, having name changes in order to reinforce the message of a totalitarian Russian state meant to dominant domestically and internationally.  Dreams for a liberal, or at least constitutional  order inside Russia died with Putin.  The landscape name changes are sadly just the fruits of change to root.

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