Grigory Pasko: Slices of Life – Names Matter

Slices of Life: Names Matter By Grigory Pasko, journalist Remember how Zhvanetsky hinted about the conservatory: how they’re saying maybe something’s not right there, if certain individuals keep having problems coming all the time. I recently was engaged in creative labour: I was entering the addresses of the heads of the regions of our beloved Russia on the computer. I discovered something amazing: in half of the regions, the residences of the heads of the Republics, Krays, Oblasts, and Okrugs are found on V.I. Lenin Street (or derivatives thereof – Red, Soviet, Communist, Internationale Street…). And I’m not even counting the streets named after Dzerzhinsky, Kuibyshev, Kirov, Smidovich, and other famous and not-so-famous figures from the Party of the Bolsheviks. Linguists and psychologists will no doubt find a certain connection between the past and the present if they proceed from the fact that in many of Russia’s regions, renamings never did affect the streets, squares, cul-de-sacs, and alleys. And it seems to me that there is definitely a sign in the fact that they did not affect even the main streets and main squares: it’s hard to wait for the arrival of democracy on Lenin Street – not to mention on Dzerzhinsky Street. Of course, this is all but trifles. And I speak about it with tongue prominently in cheek. The breakdown, as Professor Preobrazhensky used to say, is in the heads, and not someplace else… And yet… What stood in the way of renaming the streets? What is this brake or anchor? Is it the people who are not ready, or the little tsars who run things? On the other hand, there are also facts of another kind. Behold, in Kyzyl the authorities are on Chuldum Street, in Vladivostok on Svetlanskaya (formerly Lenin Street, by the way), in Chelyabinsk on Zwilling Street, in the Aginsky Buryat Autonomous Okrug (Urban-Type Settlement Aginskoye) on B. Rinchino Street, and in Anadyr on Vitus Bering Street… KGB_Statue.jpg So not all, as they say, is lost. Or perhaps just the opposite – not all has been renamed the wrong way? The thought of re-erecting the monument to Dzerzhinsky in its former place on Lubyanka Square, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, continues to haunt and haunt certain restless minds. So maybe they were right, those who didn’t rush to rename the past into the present? True, if a connection is discovered after all between the old names and the yearning for the old – in the sense of the former, socialist – life, then we probably shouldn’t be amazed at why we live the way we do, and not some other way.