Row over Ukrainian city's new name

A pre-revolution postcard showing the Peterburg Hotel in Yelisavetgrad
Image caption Before the Russian revolution the city was called Yelisavetgrad

A row has broken out in Ukraine over renaming the central city of Kirovohrad, pitting some local campaigners against parliament.

Since pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in 2014, Ukraine has been removing all public vestiges of Soviet rule, from statues of Lenin to street names honouring other Communist luminaries. A parliamentary committee recently decided that Kirovohrad, which was named in honour of leading Bolshevik Sergei Kirov in the 1930s, is to be called Inhulsk after the local river.

That hasn't gone down well with some local campaigners, who have been lobbying the city council not to adopt the new name, the Ves Kirovohrad newspaper reports.

Inhulsk was one of seven options that received some support in a local referendum last year, and the city council forwarded all seven to parliament to make a decision. But the most popular choice among the public - backed by 76% of the nearly 46,000 locals who turned out to vote - was the pre-Soviet name Yelisavetgrad. The decision to choose a different name has led some government critics to accuse the authorities of ignoring local opinion in favour of a "total rejection of the past".

But despite its popularity at the polls, campaigners for Ukrainian culture complain that Yelisavetgrad refers to Russian Empress Elizabeth, during whose reign the city was founded, and see a pro-Moscow political agenda behind it. There were scuffles when the two sides encountered each other at a protest in late December.

While the Ukrainian parliament's mind appears to be made up, the anti-Inhulsk camp are still hoping to sway local representatives. By law, the city must change its name by next month.

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