October 20, 2023

How a Village Dies


How a Village Dies
The village of Lokh, Saratov Oblast.
Svetlana Evgrafova

Vladislav Davankov, vice-speaker of the State Duma and a member of the party “New People,” and Anton Tkachev, a deputy from the same party, introduced a bill prohibiting the use of settlement names that are “offensive” and “degrading to the dignity of residents.”

The document proposes allowing representative bodies of municipalities to act unilaterally and rename settlements, without coordination with other executive authorities.

“We recently received a letter from the village of Shalava [“slut”],” Davankov said. “There is one in the Yaroslavl region. People complained that they cannot change the name of the locality. Residents of neighboring towns laugh at them. Young people are leaving, trying to change their registration as quickly as possible. Nobody wants their children to have an offensive word on their passport. Thousands of people live in such settlements.”

The explanatory note attached to the bill states that children born in such settlements are subject to bullying and insults. As examples of “offensive” names, deputies cite the villages of Lokh (“sucker, naïve person” Saratov region), Antilokhovo (Ivanovo region), Shalava (Yaroslavl region), Musorka (“trash can,” Samara region), Pukovo (“fart,” Tver region), Popki (“little butts,” Pskov region) and Bukhalovo (“drunkenness,” multiple regions).

In the settlements themselves, residents did not agree with the deputies’ ideas. Head of Administration of the Velikoselsky settlement, Yaroslavl region (where Shalava is located), Vitaly Vodopyanov, told Gazeta.ru that he “had not heard” any complaints about the name from village residents, nor did he notice “any grins from neighboring villages.” He confirmed that the population of Shalava is indeed decreasing each year, but the reason for this is not the village’s “offensive” name, but the lack of infrastructure.

Deputies need to get their heads out of the clouds. I haven't heard anything like that. But one of the reasons why people do not choose to live in such settlements is because of the lack of infrastructure, roads, clinics, and pharmacies. It is primarily about comfort. I would advise any deputies of any factions and associations to pay attention to the quality of life in such settlements, to their financing, because our problems are mainly due to annual underfunding, and not because of their names.

Head of the Popkovsky settlement in Pskov region, Alexey Ivakhnov, told News.ru that its residents also “don’t see anything wrong with the name,” that they only “sometimes joke about it.”

“We are not shy,” he said.

Alexey Vorobyov, head of the Novoburassky district, Saratov region, in which the village of Lokh is located, also said the State Duma should take up more important issues and emphasized that the residents of Lokh are “proud of their name.”

“Some people simply have nothing to do there. You know very well what is needed. There is something far more useful to be doing,” Vorobiev said.

Translated from Meduza.

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