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Where The Streets Have One Name -- Stalin

Slavyanka -- a so-called residential dacha cooperative on the outskirts of Novosibirsk -- dates only back to 2008. Many houses in the village are still partially built and unoccupied. 

SLAVYANKA, Russia -- Stalin is the first name residents of Slavyanka think of when it comes to side streets. It is also the 10th. And the 15th....

In fact, all 25 side streets in the Siberian village are named after the notorious Soviet dictator.

The initiative is the brainchild of village head Vyacheslav Zuyev , according to locals, who add that he insists that each of the lanes be called "not just Stalin, but Generalissimo Stalin."

Several residents who spoke to RFE/RL said that they had no problem with their streets bearing the name of Josef Stalin, whose reign is commonly equated with terror and political repression.

Hundreds of thousands of people were summarily killed during Stalin's Great Purge, while millions more were sent to the gulag, camps notorious for their harsh conditions, brutal treatments of prisoners, and sub-zero temperatures.

Yelena, a young mother from Slavyanka, is unmoved. "What's the big deal?" said Yelena, who gave only her first name. "I like it [that our streets are named after Stalin]," she said on April 10.

Yelena said she was more worried about practical issues, such as rising electricity prices and road construction.

Another passerby said she saw nothing unusual in naming the locations after Stalin. "The naming of the streets is justified because it's not so much about Stalin as it is about the whole country, which has come a long way in its development," said Lyudmila Vasilyevna, who works as a university professor in neighboring Novosibirsk.

She downplayed estimates given for victims of Stalin-era repressions, suggesting such figures are exaggerated. "Only 76,000 people were executed in the camps," Lyudmila Vasilyevna said on April 10.

Slavyanka residents' main complaint about the street names is that registry officials often misspell the word Generalissimo when they enter their address.

"In my passport, they spelled it wrong twice," said a resident of the 5th Side Street Generalissimo I.V. Stalin, who declined to give her name.

Slavyanka -- a so-called residential dacha cooperative on the outskirts of Novosibirsk -- dates only back to 2008. Many houses in the village are still partially built and unoccupied.

According to Yandex Maps, there are more than 20 full streets -- accounting for a total length of 29 kilometers -- bearing Stalin's name across Russia.

Yandex also lists the full name of Slavyanka's side streets, starting with 1st Side Street Generalissimo I.V. Stalin.

Village head Zuyev wasn't available for comment as to why a village with no apparent connection to Stalin should have all its side streets named after him.

Officials at the Communist Party's Novosibirsk office said they had no idea about the existence of Slavyanka, let alone the names of its side-streets. "I have never heard of it," said Rinat Suleymanov, the second secretary of the party's regional committee. The Communist Party was the only political party during Soviet rule.

"The Communist Party doesn't have any connection to the naming of streets," Suleymanov told RFE/RL.

The party, however, recently agreed for a Stalin bust to be installed in downtown Novosibirsk. The monument is set to be unveiled on May 9.

Lawyer Ivan Kasharin explains that in Novosibirsk the naming of streets is controlled by the office of the mayor. "The office of the mayor has a special commission that deals with naming the streets and the final decision is approved by the mayor," Kasharin told RFE/RL, adding that similar commissions exist in other cities and regions.

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    Mikhail Laitshtern

    Mikhail Laitshtern is a correspondent for the Siberia Desk of RFE/RL's Russian Service.

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.