Last month, 24 years after the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine began “decommunization.” The country has more than 4,000 towns and villages (paywall) whose main street is named after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, plus countless thousands of squares, avenues, boulevards, villages, factories, schools, and other places with Soviet-related names. Under a new law that bans both Nazi and communist symbols and propaganda, all must be changed.
Ukraine is explicitly trying to distance itself from Russia. Recently meduza.io, a Russian news site, asked the local search engine giant Yandex to catalogue streets in Russia named after Lenin. The Yandex folks decided to also look for 34 other names (link in Russian) with Soviet associations. They found more than 5,000 Lenin streets—plus 224 called Ulyanov, Lenin’s birth name—as well as thousands named for Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space), and other heroes. There were more streets named ”Soviet” and ”October” (for the Bolshevik revolution) than “Lenin,” but he comes first in the total length of streets, at 8,632 km (5,363 miles)—more than the distance from Moscow to Minneapolis:
Street names aren’t the only thing in which Russia and Ukraine are diverging. Ukrainians have been tearing down Lenin statues across the country since the revolution that ousted a pro-Russian president last year. A crowd-sourced site, leninstatues.ru, estimates that Russia had 7,000 Lenin monuments (link in Russian) when the USSR fell and still has 6,000 today—including, of course, the Bolshevik leader’s mausoleum in Red Square—while Ukraine, which had 5,500 of them in 1991, is already down to 1,400.
The one Soviet figure Russia has more or less expunged is Stalin. A website operated by the Russian tax service counts only 31 streets (link in Russian) in the country with some variant of the dictator’s name.
As for Russian president Vladimir Putin, he has just one street, barely more than a mile long, named after him, according to the Yandex search (though the tax service lists a handful more). That street is in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Chechnya is ruled by the warlord-governor Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin loyalist who took the job over from his assassinated father, Akhmad Kadyrov. There are 59 Kadyrov streets in Russia.