Public opinion polling carried out by the local mayor's office in the central Ukrainian city of Kirovohrad found a majority of the city's residents voting in favor of the city being renamed to its old Imperial Russian name of Elizavetgrad, news portal Kirovograd.net has reported.
Just over 51 percent of the residents surveyed in the poll, hosted on the website of the mayor's office, voted in favor of changing the city's name to Elizavetgrad. The polling was conducted amid a national 'de-communization' campaign aimed at renaming dozens of cities, hundreds of towns, and tens of thousands of street names in order to part with the country's Soviet legacy.
Other popular proposals for the 230,000+ city included 'Zlatopol' (23 percent of respondents) and 'Ingulsk' (16 percent). It is not clear if leaving the city's name alone was an option in the survey, but polling conducted earlier this year found that 74 percent of respondents wanted to leave the city's name as it is.
Renamed Kirovohrad in 1934 after prominent Russian Bolshevik revolutionary Sergei Kirov, the city was originally called Elizavetgrad, in honor of Saint Elizabeth, by Russian Empress Elizabeth of Russia, who founded a fortress in the area in the 18th century.
The city which was subsequently built around the fortress was thus named in honor of both the saint, and its formal founder, the Russian empress. Local media have pointed out that in the current political climate, where authorities are attempting to distance themselves from everything Russian, the results of the polling are worrying. The survey's results have already mysteriously disappeared off the mayor's office website, ahead of public hearings by the local city council on renaming the city, which began on Thursday.
Authorities had earlier proposed spending between 600,000-1,000,000 hryvnia (equivalent to between $28,000 and $47,500 US) to carry out more detailed public opinion polling on city's new name. Unable to find the funds in the city's cash-strapped budget, some council members proposed spending reserve funds, while others suggested that the question be put on the ballot during local elections, set for October.
Local officials in Kirovohrad and other cities have already complained that federal law does not give them the authority to carry out referendums on changing place names. Political scientist Dmitri Sinchenko earlier told local media that the opinion of the city's residents will ultimately matter very little anyway, since the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev is ultimately responsible for making the decision on the new names.
Kirovohrad's experience seems to confirm fears voiced by experts earlier this year that the decommunization plans would unleash a financial, political and bureaucratic nightmare. With literally tens of thousands of city, town, village and street names slated for renaming, and tens of thousands of communist symbols earmarked for removal from buildings, monuments, gates and facades, the campaign is projected to cost the impoverished country at least 5 billion hryvnia (equivalent to about $236 million US). Moreover, once the cities, regions and streets are renamed, at least 2 million people, businesses and public organizations will have to line up in government offices to have their documents renewed.
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