Negotiating Identity in Political Debates in Central European Cities since 1989

Negotiating Identity in Political Debates in Central European Cities since 1989

dr. sc. Zoran Stiperski, red. prof.


18:00-20:00, Galerie Jaroslava Fragnera


Names of streets and squares reflect the values of the existing power structures. Events such as Second World War or the fall of the Berlin Wall were accompanied by changes of street names in many cities of Central Europe. These changes differ in terms of their extent and selectiveness. Why did for example some of the most important beacons of the socialist revolution remain, and in other cases there are efforts to return the socialist leaders in the pantheon of values?


New or existing street names are sometimes discussed in city councils, in the streets, in protests. Other streets names are dealt with quietly, with no protest or political debate. The main discussions are concerning the political leaders from socialist period or after the fall of Berlin Wall. For example, there is a constant dispute about keeping the name of Marshall Tito’s square in Zagreb. On the other hand in Slovenia naming new street after Tito has been declared unconstitutional, while the streets named after Tito before democratic changes in 1990 are regarded as a continuation of the tradition.

Other disputes refer to the leading personalities of time after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There was e.g. a suggestion to call the central square in Nowa Huta (part of Krakow) after Ronald Reagan. In the end, the square was named Plac Centralny im. Ronald Reagan (Central Square Ronald Reagan), but some people say they're going to Plac Centralny and the other to Reagan. Sometimes people call the street differently from their official name. One popular square in Zagreb used to be called Square of Brotherhood and Unity, and after the democratic changes it was renamed into Petar Preradović’s Square, but people have always called it Flower Square because of its flower shops. In Prague the airport is now named after Vaclav Havel, while in Warsaw, there is a debate between Okecie (local toponym) and Fryderyk Chopin. Sometimes residents fight against the new street names.