2019, Volume 16, Issue 1

Back to the Table of Contents

Yury S. Kostylev
Ural State Medical University
Ekaterinburg, Russia

The Soviet-Period Toponymy of Severnaya Zemlya as a Reflection of Ideological Struggle

Voprosy onomastiki, 2019, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp. 160–172 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2019.16.1.009

Received 15 March 2018

Abstract: The paper deals with the names of geographical objects in the archipelago of Severnaya Zemlya, coined during the Soviet period of the exploration of the Arctic. The study looks out to the motivation of place names and aims to establish the extent to which they can form integrated toponymic systems. The evidence was taken from a specialized toponymic reference book, providing information on the motivation of toponyms, as well as from the memories of participants of major topographical expeditions in the archipelago. The analysis of motivational patterns clearly demonstrates that the naming of geographical objects in the Soviet period was almost entirely driven by the dominant ideology and political situation in the country. Since the archipelago was partially explored in 1913, and a number of toponyms of Severnaya Zemlya refer to the pre-revolutionary period, the Soviet toponymic system was notably formed a contrario to the previous tradition. The overwhelming majority of names given to large geographical objects in the Soviet times were deantroponymic formations which served as a propaganda tool, openly reflective of the ideological course adopted in the country. The changing attitude towards that or another Soviet politician invariably led to the replacement of the eponymic place name with another one, which entailed a change in the toponymic system of the archipelago in general. Of particular interest are the objects that changed their names several times, and those which have surprisingly retained those given by the expedition of 1913. It is quite difficult to estimate the real propaganda potential of both the primary naming of geographical objects and their renaming. On the one hand, considering that the archipelago is located on the Northern Sea Route and is rather poorly developed, it is unlikely that the names of its objects would be very telling to the public. On the other hand, the largest objects of the archipelago are present on the maps, and therefore these names could be seen as markers of political domination and territorial control.

Keywords: toponymy, artificial nomination, motivational patterns, toponymic system, Soviet propaganda, Northern Sea Route, Severnaya Zemlya archipelago


Golomidova, M. V. (1998). Iskusstvennaia nominatsiia v russkoi onomastike [Artificial Nomination in Russian Onomastics]. Ekaterinburg: Izd-vo UrGPU.

Kostylev, Yu. S. (2017). Toponimiia Novoi Zemli sovetskogo perioda nominatsii kak iskusstvennaia sistema [The Soviet-Period Topоnymy of Novaya Zemlya as an Artificial System]. In E. L. Berezovich (Ed.), V sozvezdii slov i imen: sb. nauch. st. k iubileiu M. E. Rut [In a Constellation of Words and Names: a Collection of Papers on the Occasion of M. E. Rut’s Anniversary] (pp. 169–183). Ekaterinburg: Izd-vo Ural. un-ta.

Rut, M. E. (1992). Obraznaia nominatsiia v russkom iazyke [Figured Naming in Russian Onomastics]. Ekaterinburg: Izd-vo Ural. un-ta.