Toponymic Landscape of the Kazakhstan-Russia Borderland: Cultural Sovereignty and Renaming Policies
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Kazakhstan Russia Post-Soviet Period Borderlands Toponymic Landscape Renaming Cultural Sovereignization Ethno-Demography Peasant Colonization Tselina

How to Cite

1. Vendina O., Karpenko M. Toponymic Landscape of the Kazakhstan-Russia Borderland: Cultural Sovereignty and Renaming Policies // Journal of Frontier Studies. 2023. № 4 (8). C. 277-305.


The authors consider the toponymic landscape as a “space of meanings” that reflects the power relations and the dominant ideological positions its time. The concept of “cultural sovereignization” is used to describe the state politics aimed to prevent imaginary or real threats to territorial integrity from irredenta diaspora living in the borderland and in close contact with a neighboring parent country. By the procedure of toponymic re-naming, states not only demonstrate the power of control over their territories, but also project a certain social order to subjected space, and shaping identities. To analyze the changes in the toponymic landscape of the north-Kazakhstani borderland in the post‑Soviet years, authors compare the actual toponymic map of the region with that which existed at the late Soviet era. The dynamics of renaming was considered in the context of the legislative activities of the Kazakhstan government regarding the linguistic and historical policies; toponymic data were compared with ethno-demographic statistics and population dynamics. The authors conclude that the cultural sovereignization policy produced controversial effects on the north-Kazakhstani borderland: erasing “unwanted” toponyms the political actors erase their symbolic meaning and yet eliminate the traces of large-scale historical processes. As a result, the most urbanized and economically developed region looks on the maps like natural area and isolated province. It also causes the social splits in society, alienating a significant part of the local population from historical memory and familiar environment. New environmental context hinders the complementarity between territoriality of the local border communities and Kazakhstni national identity, and mobilizes the ethnic particularism. The article is intended for specialists in the border and frontier studies.
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