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Imperial Mirrors: Toponymy of Urban Space in the Romanov Empire, 1855–1917

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, regime change, nationalisation, memory, and commemorative practices (Azaryahu 2009; Berecz 2020, 2022;  Palonen 2015; Reill 2020; Rusu 2019). In the context of the Romanov Empire, however, the toponymy of urban space has not attracted substantial attention from historians of the empire. With the exception of renaming streets in the Northwestern region after the Polish uprising of 1863–1864 (Staliūnas 2007), the history of street names only been tackled by regional historians, who do 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, Gorbachevich and Khablo 2006; Mashkevich 2018; Päll 2009; Vladimirovich 2009). This project fills this gap by focusing 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 examine the palimpsest of toponymical practices involving not only different political, economic, and cultural spaces, but also different languages of the empire. On the one hand, it explores the process of 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 go beyond the story of politicisation of toponymical practices already familiar from other contexts and reveal its hitherto unstudied aspects.