The question of municipality names in the Estonian municipality reform of the 1930s Cover Image

Vallanimede küsimus 1930. aastate vallareformis
The question of municipality names in the Estonian municipality reform of the 1930s

Author(s): Taavi Pae, Madli-Johanna Maidla, Erki Tammiksaar
Subject(s): Political history, Sociolinguistics
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: municipality names; municipality reform; Estonianisation of names;

Summary/Abstract: By changing place names, authorities have always had the chance to impose their ideology. Therefore, every power changed those names in their own way – some of them more extensively, some just slightly. The aim of this study was to find out which were the main aspects of changing municipality names in the 1930s and who had the most impact on the process that was especially related to the municipality reform finalised in 1939. The study is based on archive materials from the Estonian National Archives. Some additional information was found from newspapers and legal texts of that time.The main idea that dominated the name-changing process in the 1930s was the Estonianisation of place names. A lot of municipality names used at the beginning of the 20th century had originated from the names of Baltic German manor owners. After Estonia had gained independence in 1918, these names were found to sound foreign and thus unsuitable for a newborn nation-state. In addition to the general idea of Estonianising place names, there were other factors behind the name-changing process. The main reason was the municipality reform itself. During that time, the size of Estonian municipalities varied significantly and the smaller ones were often incapable of accomplishing the usual duties of local governments. During the municipality reform, over a hundred of smaller municipalities were merged into bigger ones. Every new municipality needed a name. Another reason stemmed from practicalities. There were many places in Estonia that had the same or a similar name, which caused frequent delays in post delivery as well as complications in other processes. The process of changing the names of municipalities in the framework of the municipality reform was actually quite slow, taking over a decade due to many participants and political difficulties. Local and county governments, the national government, academic institutions, and voluntary activists were involved in the process. Each municipality was given an official name at the latest by 1939, when the municipality reform finally came to an end.

  • Issue Year: LIX/2016
  • Issue No: 10
  • Page Range: 755-769
  • Page Count: 14
  • Language: Estonian