Mariupol : the April 2022 Slavonic item of the month

All of us have learned the names of Ukrainian cities and towns from the shocking and heartrending news about Russia’s war against Ukraine, and the name of Mariupol has appeared probably most frequently of all.  This blog post – written while desperate attempts continue to be made to arrange safe passage at least for the civilians in the besieged Azovstal factory complex – looks at a map of Mariupol from 1967.

At that stage, Mariupol (Маріуполь) had another name, being one of many places renamed in the Soviet period after Soviet politicians – in Mariupol’s case after Andreĭ Zhdanov (1896-1948), who was born in the city.  This map, then, has the city as Zhdanov (Жданов), which name it held from 1948 until 1989.

The first close-up shows Zhdanov and the second “Zhdanov-Port” to the south west of the city.  Readers will notice that there is almost nothing here about the land (the darker section) – the detail is instead all about the water; this is a map printed by the British Admiralty, based on the “Russian government chart” of 1964.  You can see in the first close-up the port for the enormous Azovstal works which are now where remaining Ukrainian fighters are, together with ordinary citizens, under bombardment from the Russians.

Mariupol is the largest city and an extremely important industrial city on the Sea of Azov.  In 2014, it was taken by fighters from the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, but was retaken a month later.  It came under further attacks until early 2015.  The suffering inflicted on the city and its population in 2022, however, is beyond comparison with what it endured then.  We must hope for a ceasefire immediately and for swift international efforts to rebuild the city and bring its surviving population back home.

Mel Bach

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