2020, Volume 17, Issue 1

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Marina V. Datsishina
Russian State Archive of Social and Political History
Moscow, Russia

Place Renaming and German Policy-Making in Temporarily Occupied Soviet Territories

Voprosy onomastiki, 2020, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp. 113–135 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2020.17.1.006

Received 13 February 2019

Abstract: The article discusses the transfer of territory-remapping strategies by Nazi Germany from Europe to the occupied territories of the USSR, with a particular focus on place renaming. Measures concerning toponymy and onomastics were generally well-rooted in the policy of the Third Reich. In the year of 1942, as the German occupation zone in the Soviet Union reached its peak for the whole period of the war, specific guidelines for renaming were issued to secure the acclaimed territories. On the functional side, the guidelines were to eliminate confusion in the correspondence between administrative bodies of the occupied lands and their Berlin leadership. The author shows that each renaming decision could be due to several factors, but ultimately these were meant to contribute to further legal and cultural appropriation of the occupied territories and their subsequent Germanization. Renaming of places in the German way took different forms. Most commonly, it went through the integration of the Nazi ideology into the context of European and world history. The national socialists declared themselves heirs to Germany’s great past, the successors of its best traditions. The “Germanization” of place names in different occupation zones had different dynamics. Logically, the farther the occupied territories were from the Western border of the USSR, the fewer German names they featured. The article showcases how the “derussification” policy was used to disrupt the links with the Soviet past, to foster separatist tendencies, and ultimately to verbalize the expectations of a “blitzkrieg” victory. Renaming of toponymic objects also aimed to reduce the population’s resistance to occupation, as well as increase the loyalty to the occupiers. The paper builds on archival documents, the occupation press, eyewitness accounts.

Keywords: Nazi Germany, language expansion, temporarily occupied Soviet territories, toponymy, conqueror discourse, social linguistics.


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