Landing At Pushkin: Putin Decree Assigns Russian Airports The Names Of Cultural Figures

File Photo of Airplane Approaching Runway About to Land

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – May 31, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/landing-at-pushkin-putin-decree-assigns-russian-airports-the-names-of-cultural-figures/29974519.html)

It’s already pretty hard to travel to Russia without hearing the name of the beloved 19th-century poet Aleksandr Pushkin. Now it may be impossible, if you fly into Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree attaching the names of historical figures to dozens of airports across Russia, from Moscow to Magadan.

Under the decree published on May 31, 44 airports were given the names of prominent poets, writers, singers, scholars, political figures, engineers, and others.

In the capital, Sheremetyevo airport was named to honor Pushkin, perhaps the most widely revered writer in Russia. Domodedovo airport was named for Mikhail Lomonosov, the 18th-century polymath who founded Moscow State University — which also bears his name — while Vnukovo airport was named for Soviet aircraft designer Andrei Tupolev.

Putin’s decree did not specify exactly how the airports will be officially named, but initial indications are that they will retain their former names, with the names of the prominent figures added. For example, Sheremetyevo Airport would be called “Sheremetyevo International Airport Named for A. S. Pushkin.”

The airport in Kazan, capital of Tatarstan, was named after classic Tatar writer and poet Gabdulla Tuqai. The airport in Voronezh honors Tsar Peter the Great, while the terminal in the southern city of Krasnodar was named for Catherine the GreatEmpress Catherine the Great. The airport in the Far Eastern city of Magadan, which was a brutal hub of Stalin’s notorious labor-camp system, was named for Soviet-era bard Vladimir Vysotsky.

The names were selected by public voting under an initiative called the Great Names of Russia, organized by a consortium of government-connected organizations including the Public Chamber, the Russian Geographical Society, and the Russian Military-Historical Society.

Organizers said the goal of the project was to promote national unity and patriotism.

Although Putin’s decree confirmed the new names of 44 airports, the Great Names of Russia competition included 46.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky file photo

The decree omitted St. Petersburg’s Vnukovo Airport and the airport in Volgograd, which — according to organizers — the public voted to name for 19th-century novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and legendary World War II pilot Aleksei Maresyev, respectively.

No explanation was given for leaving out the airports in St. Petersburg, which is Putin’s native city and was named Leningrad in the Soviet era, and Volgograd, which was called Stalingrad from 1925 to 1961.

[featured image is file photo from another occasion]