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Imperial Mirrors:
Streetscapes of the Romanov Empire, 1860s-1917

Gemeinsamer Workshop des Nordost-Instituts, der Universität Tartu und der Universität Düsseldorf


The naming and renaming of urbanscapes has never been a disinterested and easy matter; this process has always been part of structures and discourses of power and identity politics (Azaryahu 2009). As historians of the Habsburg Empire have recently shown, the reconfiguration of city space has also been linked to issues of regime change, nationalisation, memory, and commemorative practices (Palonen 2015; Rusu 2019; Berecz 2020, 2022; Reill 2020, 199). In the context of the Romanov Empire, however, the history of toponyms has not yet been viewed as part of its political history and historians of the empire have not paid much attention to it. Thus, with the exception of renaming streets in the Northwestern region of the empire after the Polish uprising of 1863–1864 (Staliūnas 2007), the history of urban toponymy of the empire was previously tackled only by regional historians, who did not pay much attention to the political context of this process, the rationale behind these decisions, their practical implementation, or how the population at large reacted to name changes (see for instance, Vladimirovich 2009; Päll 2009; Gorbachevich and Khablo 2006). During this workshop we would like to focus on the history of names of cities and towns as well as street names in the Romanov Empire in the second half of the nineteenth century. The participants will examine the palimpsest of toponymical practices involving not only different political, economic, and cultural spaces but also different languages. On the one hand, we would like to explore the process of the gradual politicisation of toponymic practices in late imperial Russia, its achievements, and failures. On the other hand, the history of toponymy of Romanov imperial cities merits attention as a way to study the extent of the empire’s penetration of everyday life of its inhabitants. The workshop aims to explore these issues from a broad geographical perspective, and especially welcomes contributions dealing with the Baltic provinces, western borderlands, Caucasus, Siberia, and Central Asia from the middle of the nineteenth century to the breakup of the empire.

The Workshop is a cooperation of Catherine Gibson (University of Tartu), Anke Hilbrenner (University of Düsseldorf), Anton Kotenko (University of Düsseldorf) and Joachim Tauber (Nordost-Institut).

Contact: anton.kotenko@hhu.de