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NGO Wants St. Petersburg To Change Soviet-Era Street Names

The mean streets of St.Petersburg?
The mean streets of St.Petersburg?
ST. PETERSBURG -- A Russian cultural center is appealing to the St. Petersburg mayor's office to rename several of the city's streets currently named after prominent Soviet or Communist leaders and organizations, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The cultural group Homecoming argues that just as several Russian cities have discarded their Soviet-era names for their original ones -- for example Gorki reverted back to Nizhny Novgorod and Sverdlovsk to Yekaterinburg -- the same should also be done to street names in St. Petersburg, which used to be called Petrograd and Leningrad.

In particular, Homecoming is upset with Chekist Street, which honors the state security organization of the early Soviet Union. A Homecoming activist said that since Russia is fighting a war against terrorism, the country's streets should not be named after terrorist groups, which is what they consider the Cheka to have been.

Russian historian Kiril Aleksandrov agrees with Homecoming.

"I live near Bela Kun Street -- [named after] a Hungarian communist who served in the Bolshevik army and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Crimeans -- to me, he was a typical terrorist," Aleksandrov told RFE/RL.

Indeed, many historians wonder why the names of many of the city's streets, such as Chekist, were not changed 20 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Aleksei Kovalev, a member of St. Petersburg's topography commission, told RFE/RL that the renaming of streets is just a political move.

"It's dangerous to start renaming streets," Kovalev said. "I mean, how far back are you going to go? Are you going to change the name of Pestel Street [named after 19th century revolutionary Pavel Pestel]? He was an anti-Semite and a terrorist of that day."