Renaming makes a comeback in Russia

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As if economic depression were not enough, the city of Kirov is reviving the long-dormant Russian debate over whether or not to change its name.

Name-changing was all the rage after the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia reached back to its roots for old-new identity. Gorky Street, the main shopping boulevard in Moscow, reverted to Tverskaya; Leningrad to St. Petersburg, and so on.

After that initial burst of remaking history, the fashion for substituting old names for Soviet-era ones faded. Last year, controversy flared anew over a decision to rename Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa, or Big Communist Street, in Moscow after Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize laureate and chronicler of the Gulag, who died in August.

Now, Nikita Belykh, well known in Russia as an opposition figure who in December accepted Kremlin entreaties to become a regional governor, is studying whether or not to change the name of Kirov back to Vyatka, a name dating from the 14th century.

Kirov, about 900 kilometers, or 560 miles, east of Moscow, got its current name in a particularly twisted piece of Soviet history. It was renamed after the murder in 1934 of Sergei Kirov, the Leningrad Communist Party chief.

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