Yerevan’s Mayor Taron Markarian reiterated on Wednesday that his administration will seriously consider an opposition proposal to rename streets in the Armenian capital still bearing the names of controversial Soviet-era figures.
Markarian said that the bill drafted by the opposition Yelk alliance and submitted to the city council on Monday is “subject to discussion.” But he made clear that a final decision by the municipality must also take into account the views of scholars as well as ordinary Yerevan residents.
“That is why there has to be a public discussion, public and expert opinions,” he told reporters. “After that the [ruling] Republican Party faction [in the municipal council] will formulate its position.”
“We must not renounce our history, but as regards the names given by Yelk, we don’t mind naming streets after our national heroes. We just need to legally look into which streets can be renamed and when.”
The Yelk bill would change the names of five Yerevan streets. Three of them are named after ethnic Armenian Communist leaders who were involved mass repressions in Soviet Armenia and other parts of the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s.They include Anastas Mikoyan, Joseph Stalin’s Armenian-born associate who for decades held top leadership positions in Moscow. Yelk wants a Yerevan street bearing Mikoyan’s to be named after Kirk Kerkorian, the late Armenian-American philanthropist.
Yelk is also objecting to the city’s Leningradian Street symbolizing the Soviet-era name of Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city. It wants the street to be named after Leonid Azgaldian, an Armenian hero of the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh who was killed in action.
Markarian ruled out this particular name change demanded by the opposition bloc. “The population [of Yerevan] is accustomed to that name and we don’t find it appropriate to change it,” he said. The mayor also argued that Yerevan and Saint Petersburg are sister cities.
Davit Khazhakian, a Yelk councilor, dismissed Markarian’s arguments. “There is Leningradian Street but no city called Leningrad now,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).“Russia and other former Soviet countries are getting rid of [Vladimir] Lenin’s statues and legacy, and I think we should do this revision.”
Khazhakian also said that thousands of people have signed a Yelk petition demanding the name change.
Armenia was one of the first Soviet republics to remove the statue of Lenin, the Soviet Union’s founder, from the central square of its capital in 1991. Most Yerevan streets with Bolshevik-related names were renamed in the following years.