U.S. and Russia Revive Provocative Street Names

Moscow might rename the street that houses the U.S. Embassy ‘North American Dead End’

U.S. and Russia Revive Cold-War Game of Provocative Street Names

Russia Embassy in Washington

Russia’s Embassy in Washington

MOSCOW — Trolling between the United States and Russia apparently is not limited to Twitter bots.

The latest effort involves street names.

More specifically, it involves renaming the streets on which the Russian and American Embassies sit in a way that is sure to provoke annoyance — or laughter — in each other’s capital.

In Moscow, the proposed name for an alley near the United States Embassy compound is 1 North American Dead End.

Mikhail Degtyaryov, a right-wing Russian lawmaker who suggested the name, confirmed on Twitter on Monday that the appropriate Moscow city commission would take up his suggestion later in February.

To be fair, the United States started it.

On Jan. 10, the City Council in Washington changed the name of the block of Wisconsin Avenue where the Russian Embassy sits to 1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza. Mr. Nemtsov, a charismatic opposition politician and fierce Kremlin critic, was fatally shot near the Kremlin walls in February 2015.

Although five Chechen men were jailed for the crime, Mr. Nemtsov’s family and friends, some of whom lobbied for the street name, believe that the real mastermind has never been publicly identified. The change received a sympathetic response in Washington, especially after the Russian meddling in the 2016 American presidential election.

Any change in Moscow still faces hurdles. Even if the commission recommends the name change, it will need the approval of city hall. The Kremlin is likely to have a say, and given its desire to improve relations with the United States, it might well scrap the idea.

The chance that the city might consider a change, however, unleashed a tsunami of alternative suggestions and commentary on social media sites.

They included a slew of streets and alleys named after foreign leaders who have clashed with the United States: the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un; Fidel Castro of Cuba; and various Arab leaders whom the Russians consider to have been murdered under the auspices of the United States, like Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya and Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

Colin Powell’s Tube was an odd street name inspired by the infamous United Nations speech the former secretary of state gave in 2003 to validate the American invasion of Iraq, in which he presented pictures of tubes in the desert that were said to be evidence about the weapons of mass destruction. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also mentioned.

Like many such games, this one appears to be another wrinkle that has returned from the grave of the Cold War as diplomatic relations have suffered.

In the 1980s, United States congressional leaders renamed the area in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington “Sakharov Plaza,” to protest the detention of Andrei D. Sakharov, the famed Russian dissident, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and nuclear physicist.

Such moves are not limited to Russia, either.

Congress proposed renaming the street on which the Chinese Embassy sits in honor of Liu Xiaobo, the dissident and Nobel laureate who died last year. Beijing called that effort “a political farce.” In 2014, Chinese commentators retaliated by suggesting renaming the street in front of the American Embassy in Beijing “Snowden Street” for Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed secret documents detailing the United States’ mass surveillance programs, or “Osama bin Laden Road.” Neither capital acted on the suggestions.

Nor is the practice limited to major powers. On Monday, the mayor of Ankara, the Turkish capital, approved renaming a street outside the United States Embassy “Olive Branch,” after Turkey’s continuing military campaign in Syria. The United States and Turkey have found themselves awkwardly on opposite sides of the fighting in Syria, because of the American military’s support for a Kurdish militia. The proposal is expected to be approved by municipal officials just days before Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson is expected in Ankara on Thursday.

Previously, the Islamic Republic of Iran famously stripped the name of Winston Churchill from the street outside the British Embassy in Tehran and renamed it after Bobby Sands, a member of the Irish Republican Army who died in prison on hunger strike.

Last year, the Iranians also named the street where the Saudi Arabian Embassy sits after Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a clerical leader from the Shiite Muslim minority who was executed in the kingdom.

During the Vietnam War, India once changed the name of the street outside an American diplomatic mission to honor Ho Chi Minh, the Communist leader of North Vietnam.

In Moscow, when the street in Washington was renamed for Mr. Nemtsov, the journalist Oleg Kashin suggested that it was rather telling that Russians would consider the Americans’ action a slur.

The announcement about “1 North American Dead End” also provoked criticism from opposition members and others who suggested that the name game was at best childish.

Dmitri G. Gudkov, a former member of Parliament and a possible future candidate for mayor of Moscow, noted that the city had brushed aside requests for a memorial to Mr. Nemtsov but jumped at the chance to change the name near the American Embassy. (Memorial flowers and candles placed where Mr. Nemtsov was shot have persisted to this day, despite repeated attempts by the city to clear them away.)

“The tribute to the memory of the Russian politician in Washington is perceived as a rebuke in Moscow,” Mr. Gudkov wrote on Facebook. “Our government is ashamed, and so they take revenge in a petty way.”

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

Source: by Neil MacFarquhar, NYTimes.com Feed, February 12, 2018
© Copyright 2018. The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.



Moscow might rename the street that houses the U.S. Embassy ‘North American Dead End’


US Embassy in Moscow

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is on Bolshoy Devyatinsky Lane. (Grigory Dukor/Reuters)

It’s not exactly the Cold War. But things are heating up between the United States and Russia over something very silly: the name of the streets that house each other’s embassies.

Back in January, D.C. city officials voted unanimously to rename the street on which the Russian Embassy sits. On Jan. 10, the street was redubbed Boris Nemtsov Plaza, after a slain Russian democracy activist. Nemtsov was a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In February 2015, he was shot dead while walking home from a Moscow restaurant. Five Chechen men were convicted of the killing in 2017, but Nemtsov’s family believes his real killer remains at large and that he was assassinated for his political work.

At the time, Russian politicians called the District’s name change a “dirty trick.”

Now one wants to strike back. Hard.

A lawmaker with Russia’s nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has suggested renaming the Moscow street where the U.S. houses its embassy “North American Dead End.” The full address would read: North American Dead End, 1. (The embassy is housed on Bolshoy Devyatinsky Lane, 8.) Politician Mikhail Degtyaryov pitched the plan to Moscow’s city hall recently, and the government says it will consider the option.

It’s just the recent parry in a fight waged around the world.

Coincidentally, Ankara city officials on Monday began debating whether to rename the street on which the U.S. Embassy stands to “Olive Branch.” It may sound nice, but it’s something of a troll — Olive Branch is the name of an ongoing Turkish military operation in Syria against the Syrian Kurdish militia. That effort was in response to a U.S. plan (later scrapped) to create a border security unit on the Turkey-Syria border made up mostly of Kurdish fighters.

Recently, Turkey renamed the street of the United Arab Emirates Embassy after Ottoman commander Fahreddin Pasha, a defender of Medina during World War I.

Source: By Amanda Erickson, the Washington Post, February 12, 2018

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