Kiev seeks to return historical Tatar-language names as part of its “decolonization” effort
Ukrainian authorities are set to rename an unspecified number of cities and other places in Russia’s Crimea as part of their long-running campaign to cut cultural ties with Moscow.
The plan was announced on Tuesday by what Ukraine calls the ‘Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories’, which said that “historical names in the Crimean Tatar language” would be restored to some locations. It did not, however, provide a list of the proposed changes.
Crimean Tatars made up the ethnic majority on the peninsula when the Russian Empire secured control of the region in 1783, but lost their dominant position in the following decades. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union accused them of collaborating with Nazi Germany and undertook a massive campaign to deport them.
Many Crimean Tatars have also been critical of the 2014 referendum on the peninsula in which the overwhelming majority of the local population voted to join Russia after a Western-backed coup in Kiev. As of 2021, more than 280,000 Crimean Tatars and Tatars lived on the peninsula, representing 12.7% of the total population.
According to the ministry, the renaming campaign is meant to enforce the law seeking to ban the “propaganda of Russian imperial policy” and “decolonize” the names of places.
Officials said they were working on mechanisms that would allow place names to be written in the Latin alphabet in the media and scientific sphere, as well as on signs and maps.
Meanwhile, Olga Kovitidy, a Russian senator representing Crimea, has dismissed the initiative as “lunacy.”
“It’s high time to stop regarding the agonizing Ukrainian government as a sane entity. Crimeans have long stopped reacting to the political turmoil that has engulfed Ukraine.”
Ukraine embarked on a renaming spree back in 2015 after passing a now-infamous decommunization law that in practice also targeted thousands of Russian-linked street and settlement names. The effort only intensified after the start of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev in February 2022.
Earlier this year, the authorities in Kiev went as far as to consider renaming Russia as Moscovia – an unofficial name used centuries ago – after receiving a petition to the effect. However, the initiative did not go any further.
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