[OSM-talk] Naming disputes in Ukraine

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Wed Jul 25 08:33:43 BST 2012


    I'd like to hear the opinion of others in OpenStreetMap about the 
following situation that Data Working Group has been asked to mediate.

The official language in Ukraine is Ukrainian. To the untrained eye 
there's not much of a difference to Russian but of course the devil is 
in the detail, here's a street name example:

name:ru = Фурманова улица
name:uk = Фурманова вулиця

There are many areas in Ukraine where the language used by people who 
live there is mainly Russian. The clearest example is the Crimea 
peninsula (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimea) where the official 
language is still Ukrainian, but Russians make up 60% of the population 
(against 25% Ukrainians) and therefore Russian is the language generally 
used locally.

One Ukrainian mapper told me that if we there *were* mappers in the 
Crimea (which is an unknown to me), "I'm 100% sure that any Crimean 
mapper would take the Russian-language side".

We have photos from the Crimea that document street signs in Russian, 
but other Ukrainians say that technically signs must be in Ukrainian 
there and if they aren't then that's just because the government lacks 
the funds to change them.

Predictably, edit wars have broken out in OSM about street names in the 
area; most streets were created with Russian names initially, sometimes 
they were there for years, until this year members of the Ukrainian 
community started renaming streets to Ukrainian (often, it seems, 

The Ukrainian community is hotly discussing these edits 
(http://forum.openstreetmap.org/viewtopic.php?id=12367) but cannot seem 
to come to a conclusion; our general naming rule ("The default name 
(occupying the 'name' tag without suffix) should be the name in whatever 
language is used locally.", from wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Names) is 
interpreted by some to mean "locally in the area" and by some to mean 
"locally in the country".

Based on the facts It would be relatively easy for us to decree that the 
"name" tag should be Russian in the Crimea.

The problem is that Ukraine has lots of communities where there is still 
a Russian majority but not as pronounced as in the Crimea. Of course the 
issue is highly political, with ethnic Russians fighting for their 
identity against a government that forces them to use Ukrainian in 
official business etc., so if someone now comes along in OSM and changes 
the name of the street they live in to Ukrainian then that means much 
more to them than just a name on a street. But where to stop? If we say 
to use Russian in the Crimea, then what about some city in Eastern 
Ukraine where people also use more Russian than Ukrainian? And what if 
the use is maybe even local to a city quarter? (What if residents of San 
Francisco's Chinatown demand that the name tag in their area be in Chinese?)

The best solution to this conflict is, of course, a dual-language map 
where people can switch. Neighbouring Belarus has problems similar to 
Ukraine with regards to the Russian language, and they have created a 
dual-language map on openstreetmap.by. In the long run I hope we'll have 
a world-wide map that covers all languages of the world (Jochen is 
working on something like this, funded by Wikipedia, see recent 
http://blog.jochentopf.com/ entries). In the medium term, maybe OSMF 
could help people in the Ukraine set up a dual-language map. But in the 
short term, a solution needs to be found regarding the name tag.

(Simply removing all name tags in the Crimea, as we once did with the 
Jerusalem name tag when there was a conflict, is probably not something 
that would go down well.)

So, my questions to you are

1. The concrete question: Should all name tag in the Crimea be in 
Russian (with appropriate name:uk tags of course), even though the 
official language in Ukraine is Ukrainian?

2. The general question: What exactly is the "local" language in an area 
- can we come up with some rule of thumb that says "if X% of people in 
an area of at least Y sq km use the language..." or so?


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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