Rethinking the toponymic politics in Belarus in the 20–21 centuries: toward the post-colonial perspective


  • Sergei Basik School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Conestoga College



political toponymy, spatial politics, post-socialism, post-colonialism, Belarus


The article explores the historical trends and patterns in the politics of space in toponymic landscapes of Soviet and postSoviet Belarus through the prism of critical toponymy and the post-colonial theoretical approach. This work aims to reveal the colonial essence of the toponymic politics and policies in Belarus during the Soviet era and explore the unique national (post) colonial context of the post-independent place names. Based on the idea of methodological convergence of post-colonial and post-socialist paradigms, this article analyzes the “top-down” hegemonic toponymic practices implemented by the Soviet regime in Belarus in comparison with the place name policies of the colonial regimes in other parts of the world. Using the comparative analysis of historical (re)naming cases from the regional toponymic system of Belarus, the work shows that the Soviet regime used similar goals, methods, and technologies as other colonial powers. Such examples include ignoring the national language, history, and cultural traditions reflected in place names, inadequate renaming criteria and arrogant methods of choosing the new names, banalization of toponymic landscape and inconsistency in renaming, removing the Belarusian vocabulary from the toponymic landscape and inserting the foreign words and terms into the toponymic system, phonetic and grammatical mutilations of national toponyms according to the norms of the foreign language, symbolic resistance of local population toward new place names. The post-independent period can be defined by the selective post-colonial toponymic practices, which include the co-existence of the Soviet and national toponyms, symbolic (re)naming processes typical for new independent post-colonial states, and the resurrection of the ideologically motivated “toponyms-zombies” from the previous period. Therefore, the modern toponymic landscapes in Belarus can be considered post-colonial, and methodological and theoretical post-colonial perspectives on toponymic research can be applied to post-socialist states.


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How to Cite

Basik, S. (2020). Rethinking the toponymic politics in Belarus in the 20–21 centuries: toward the post-colonial perspective. Journal of Geography, Politics and Society, 10(3), 5–15.