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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lost? City Weighs End to Street Renaming

Looking for Krestyanskaya Zastava but can't find it on any map? On Okhotny Ryad when you thought you were on Prospekt Marksa? You are not alone if you are feeling a bit lost; These days, lifelong Muscovites cannot always find their way around Moscow.


With this in mind, Moscow's controversial program to return city streets to their prerevolutionary names may soon be brought to a halt.


A session of the Moscow City Council took the first step this week when it ordered its smaller board, or Presidium, to stop the process it began two years ago. Already about 70 Moscow streets have been renamed under the program.


In a rare moment of unanimity, the mayor's office - which usually opposes the City Council - applauded the move.


Igor Zverev, spokesman for Mayor Yury Luzhkov hailed the decision Tuesday as "one of the few reasonable decisions the council has taken".


The renaming of city streets here got underway with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Suddenly, Bolshevik idols like Karl Marx and lesser heroes had fallen from favor. Many of the street's historic names seemed more appropriate to the new era.


But over the months, public opposition to the renaming program has grown in step with confusion. Today it has nearly tripled from the level two years ago, opinion polls indicate.


In a 1991 poll conducted by the Institute of Public Opinion Studies, 12 percent of Muscovites questioned opposed the renaming program compared to 35 percent in a different poll made last month by the City Council.


Last month, a public outcry followed the city's move to rename Ulitsa Pushkinskaya - which runs parallel to Tverskaya (formerly Gorky Street) from Teatralnaya Ploshchad (formerly Ploshchad Sverdlova) to the Boulevard Ring.


The venerable Moscow street has been rechristened Bolshaya Dmitrovka; it had borne the name of Russia's most beloved poet only since 1937.


"Pushkin has done nothing wrong", Vadim Dormidontov, head of the city council's renaming commission, said at a press conference when the deed was done. "But he has nothing to do with this street whatsoever".


Some Muscovites take issue with this attitude, however, saying that Pushkin's name is associated with the street in their' minds and should remain. Another concern voiced by city residents is the cost of the program at a time when funds are short for more pressing needs.


A City Council spokesman, Nikolai Figurovsky, said he expected a final decision by the Presidium on the renaming process sometime in September.


Dormidontov of the City Council's renaming commission dismissed any suggestion that renamed streets like the former Prospekt Marksa could be returned to their Soviet-era names.


"All the council might do", he said, "is ban future renaming".