Vol. 71 No. 4 (2023): NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics

A Case Study of De-Russification of Ukrainian Hodonyms: Rigged Trial or Justice Restored?

Oleksiy Gnatiuk
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in Ukraine
Anatoliy Melnychuk
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in Ukraine

Published 2023-12-20


  • de-Russification,
  • hodonym,
  • toponym,
  • Ukraine,
  • toponymic cleansing,
  • memory politics,
  • decolonization
  • ...More


The 2022 outbreak of the Russian full-scale war against Ukraine has led to a reassessment of memory politics in Ukraine. The erasure of communist symbols or “decommunization” has evolved into a decolonization process of de-Russificationin in which Russian cultural symbols, including toponyms, are removed from the symbolic space. This article presents the results of a mixed method investigation of Ukrainian hodonyms to shed light on the effects of war on a nation’s postcolonial toponymic legacy. We argue that de-Russification in Ukraine is a case of national “toponymic cleansing”. Simultaneously, this process may be interpreted as an act of restorative justice following cultural colonization. The findings indicate that posttransitional rethinking of place names in Ukraine is still strongly bounded by the effect of scale, and specific approaches to de-Russification are largely dependent on the local historical, cultural, and geopolitical context.


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