For the citizens of the small of Novgorodské, close to Donetsk in Ukraine, the future is clear: the town will shortly change its name back to New York.
The town was founded as a village in the 18th century, and a century later decided – for reasons lost in history – to name itself New York, or rather Нью-Йорк, transliterated as Niu-York.
The city of New York, New York, which was already using the name twice, was a gateway for immigrants at that time to the new continent, and raised no objection.
In 1859 documents that show the new name for the first time, the settlement is registered as consisting of 13 households, 45 male adults and 40 female, and one factory.
Thirty years later the whole property was bought by German Mennonites, who established New York as made up of seven settlements. In 1941, during the Second World War, all remaining Germans were deported to Kazakhstan.
In 1951 the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine – then still part of the Soviet Union – declared the town would now be called Novgorodské. And it remained until 2021, when a request was made for the old name to be reinstated.
On 1 July the resolution was passed by the Ukraine parliament, with 300 votes in favour and only one against, and 25 abstentions.
The decision, while anecdotal, has a deeper significance. New York stands at an important frontier between the pro-Russian forces that have annexed part of Ukraine, and free Ukraine itself. The change of name can therefore be seen as an important political decision in the republic’s battle against its former imperial power.
The US ambassador to Kyev was happy:
Congrats to the people of New York, Donetsk Oblast, on the return to their town’s historical name by cross-faction consensus in the @ua_parliament! Another reason to celebrate our close ties. We’re big fans of your new/old name! More background here: https://t.co/fGm6BBAKsJ pic.twitter.com/HJehUihFy2
— U.S. Embassy Kyiv (@USEmbassyKyiv) July 1, 2021