Street Name Controversy in Tartu, Estonia

4066976166_028cf8245d_mIn Tartu, Estonia, along the Emajõgi riverbank, a naming controversy has erupted over a new street name. After spending what many felt was an exorbitant amount of money for a lawyer to develop a name for the new thoroughfare, residents of the once nameless street were horrified by the solicitor’s final toponymic suggestion: Madruse. It translates into ‘The Sailors’ in English.

As defenders of the street name explain, the proposal has to be seen in the geographic context. In a neighborhood where other streets are named Kapteni ‘The Capitans’ and Lootsi ‘The (River) Pilots’, the quaint name ‘The Sailors’ would fit right in.

However, residents of the street complain that the comparatively low nautical status of sailors relative to that of marine positions immortalized in the neighboring street names constitutes a collective insult. While officials might have been willing to overlook that perceived slight, the fact that the street name has become the butt of many jokes throughout the nation has led the government to conclude that the name Madruse has to go. The search is now on to find a new street name.

This is not the first time that fights have arisen in Estonia over who gets the most prestigious name. In another neighborhood where the streets are named after regal birds of prey such as Kotka, ‘The Eagle’, residents living on ‘Duck Street’ say their street name is simply humiliating and they would prefer the name Kondori or ‘The Condors’.

For more on this controversy, in Estonian, click here.