The politics of toponyms in the Pamir mountains

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This paper is an original study of the relationship between landscape and ideology through an examination of Pamir mountain toponyms. The research analyses traditional, Tsarist, Soviet and post-Soviet Pamiri toponyms. It is the first study to compare mountain toponyms with existing research on the naming processes of urban Soviet and post-Soviet places. It also compares the Soviet political use of landscape with that by other political systems and ideologies, in particular Nazism. The paper finds that over time there are commonalities in the types of names selected for urban places and mountains and the rationale behind these choices. However, it also notes significant differences. These differences suggest that the concept of ‘the mountain’ did not carry the same political significance as the urban or other landscapes (the steppe and forest) in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet ideological and nation-building constructions.

Keywords: Pamirs; Soviet; Tajikistan; mountains; political geography; toponyms

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1 2AH, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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