Renaming Streets in Russia: Political Figures, Poets and Generals

Sovetskaya street former Bolshaya Yekaterininskaya street

Pic: Sovetskaya street former Bolshaya Yekaterininskaya street (in honor of the Catherine the Great)

In Russia streets and even towns get often renamed. This phenomenon is very well illustrated with an example of the second largest Russian city of St. Petersburg.

The former imperial capital of Russia in 310 years has been renamed three times: St. Petersburg became Petrograd, then Leningrad and then back to St. Petersburg.

Street Names are Reference Points

All streets, avenues and squares in the historic center of St. Petersburg got their names in a natural way: on historic and geographic grounds.

When the main imperial palace was built – the Winter Palace (Hermitage), the neighborhood around it was named “palatial”. On the Haymarket Square, hay and grain were traded, on the Noble Street nobles lived, and the whole block was named in honor of horses –Konyushennyi.

All Power – to the Revolutionaries

For two centuries the names of streets in St. Petersburg have not changed, but after the revolution of 1917, most central locations in the city were renamed by the Bolsheviks.

All name changes were revolutionary in nature; Nevsky became the Avenue of the 25th October, Grand Avenue – Proletarian, Suvorov Avenue – Soviet, Haymarket – Peace Square, Horse Guards Boulevard – Trade Unions Boulevard.

Dozens of cities, streets and squares during that time took the names of political leaders: Lenin, Stalin, Marx, Engels, Dzerzhinsky, Kirov, etc.

During the Soviet period the streets were renamed 2-3 times: as governments and party leaders changed, so did the names of the streets.

The Triumph of History

With the end of the Soviet era in the 90s, Russia was again swept by the storm of renaming. Many objects were given back their imperial names. To those were also added the names of Russian geniuses – writers, poets and artists.

A modern map of St. Petersburg is full of oddities. The city was given back its historical name, but the area around it is still called Leningradsky region. Also, next to the streets of poets and writers such as Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky still peacefully coexist Soviet and Proletarian Streets.

To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

pic: Фотобанк Лори

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