Abstract

On the material of semi-structured interviews with civil society activists, experts and city authorities engaged in place-renaming practices in St. Petersburg, author analyzes the public debates on the renaming of soviet place-names. Three types of discourses in which the participants of discussions build their arguments are distinguished: (1) political, (2) historical-cultural and (3) pragmatic. The concept of political discourse is applied to the regime of critique and justification when the commemorative components of place-names are in focus and place-names themselves are seen as instruments of propaganda. Historical-cultural discourse corresponds to a mode of perception, when names are considered as objects of cultural heritage, regardless of the value of names and symbols inscribed in them. The concept of pragmatic discourse is applied to such a regime of discussion when names are regarded as linguistic labels or spatial landmarks, and are excluded from the debates about their political, historical and cultural significance. Key features of these discourses and socio-cultural context of their articulation in public sphere are described. The meaning of proposed analytical model is demonstrated on the examples from the contemporary toponymic history of St. Petersburg: discussions about the renaming of 1-10 Sovetskaya Street, Bela Kuna Street, Robespierre embankment, and Marata Street. Author uses the neopragmatic perspective on the social reality of urban life, implying an anthropological approach to the description of public activity of citizens. The article touches upon the issues of producing the urban historical and cultural identity, collective memory and space governing policy.

Keywords: place-(re)naming, collective memory, neopragmatic sociology, discourse analysis, production of space