Sunday, 24 November 2019

Russia Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Russian cities.

Moscow is likely from the name of the Moskva River, although the origins of the river name are far from certain. Perhaps the best option of them all is the Proto-Balto-Slavic root muzg-imuzg, itself from Proto-Indo-European meu 'wet' and describing a wetland, or possibly a marsh.

Saint Petersburg refers to Peter the Great, tsar of Russia from 1682 to 1725.

Yekaterinburg is named after the wife of Peter the Great who succeeded him as Catherine I. Her reign lasted from 1724, when she co-reigned until his death the following year, until her death in 1727.

Kazan's origins are uncertain but may come from the Tatar word qazan meaning 'boiler' or 'cauldron'. This is either named from a legend or, more likely, a topographical feature.

Samara is named after the river, itself likely referring to 'summer water' and suggesting it is completely frozen in winter.

Krasnoyarsk was originally given as Krasny Yar or 'red steep riverbank'.

Perm comes from a Finno-Ugric root meaning 'far away land'.

Voronezh is first recorded in 1177, it is probably from the personal name Voroneg, although this is by no means certain.

Volgograd was originally known as Sary Su which, in the Tatar language, means 'yellow water' and a reference to the silt carried by the river. Later it became Stalingrad, to honour Joseph Stalin, and in 1961 Volgograd after the river. The Volga River is the longest in Europe and is named after the Proto-Slavic for 'wetness' or 'moisture'.

Saratov also comes from the Tatar language, where Sary Tau describes 'the yellow mountain'.

Krasnodar was named as such in 1920 and means 'gift of the reds'. Earlier it was Yekaterinodar or 'Catherine's gift'.

Tolyatti took the name of the longest-serving secretary of the Italian Communist Party, Palmiro Togliatti.

Tyumen comes from the Turkish and Mongol word tumen meaning 'ten thousand' and a reference to an earlier conflict.

Izhevsk had been named Ustinov after Dmitri Ustinov, former Soviet Minister of Defence, but was changed in 1987 to the modern name 'plant on the Izh' and a reference to ironworks here.

Irkutsk takes its name from the Irkut river, named from the Buryat word for 'spinning'.

Ulyanovsk was the birth place of Vladimir Lenin and named after the man born Ulyanov.

Khabarovsk was named after the 17th century leader Yerofey Khabarov.

Vladivostok was a name first applied to the bay in 1859, the following year also taken by the settlement and meaning 'the small seaside village'.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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