Bahmut or Artyomovsk? A historical look at the name of the city

The battles for Bahmut/Artyomovsk have been raging for some time, the city becoming the focal point of defence the the Ukrainians were building up over the last 8 years, while hiding under the fig leaf of the Minsk peace accord. The Western/Ukrainian publications stick to the name Bahmut as a true “Ukrainian” one. (Incidentally, the name Bahmut has a Turkic sound to it.) The Russian side sticks with Artyomovsk. The article that I am going to translate below looks at the history of the name, and may be an eye-opened for both parties.

And so, the article in question, published in on the 26th of December 2022. Note that the names may alternatively be transliterated as Bakhmut and Artyomovsk.

Bahmut or Artyomovsk? What is wrong with the city’s name?

The conflict in Ukraine is being fought not only on the battlefield – with artillery and missiles, but also in the information space, where symbolism becomes the main weapon. The city of Bahmut, where fierce battles continue, has become a mini-field of a global information and semantic struggle. The Ukrainian modern name of the city is Bahmut, while Russian media and bloggers persistently use the Soviet toponym Artyomovsk.

This material of IA DEITA.RU is about where both names of the city came from, why the heated argument, and what is the problem with the position of our information attack.

Bahmut vs Artyomovsk

The legal name of the city in the north of the Donetsk People’s Republic is currently Bahmut. In 2016, the Ukrainian authorities abandoned the Soviet name Artyomovsk in its favour. And the city is called by this toponym now in Ukrainian documents and media.

Everything is clear here, the city is called according to the current documents.

The Russian side uses the old, Soviet name of the city, Artyomovsk. It can be heard both in our media and in the statements of the officials. Despite the fact that this name presently only exists in the history textbooks.

The argument goes like this – the city was renamed by the Ukrainian side, currently the enemy. This gesture is perceived as hostile to Russia. So the reverse renaming, so far only in the statements and the media, is of an opposing nature – an act of counter-struggle against the anti-Russian aggression.

As an example, the Primorsky military observer Alexey Sukonkin, although he now calls the city by the Ukrainian name, but in the future he also leans towards Artyomovsk.

“Why do I write the Ukrainian name of the city – Bahmut? Because we are beating the enemy citadel. And the name of this citadel is hostile. So when we liberate this citadel, when we breathe new life into it, and when this territory turns into a flourishing city, that’s when I will begin to write the Russian name of the city – Artyomovsk. At least that’s fair. We don’t beat our own,” explains Sukonkin.

The Bahmut River and “Comrade Artyom”

Let’s figure out where both of these toponyms came from in general.

The city of Bahmut was founded in the XVI century on the river of the same name. It was a border outpost, and under the Russian tsar Ivan the Formidable was a defensive frontier to protect against the attacks by the Crimean Tatars.

The city bore this name throughout the pre-revolutionary Russian history and for several years after the October events – until 1924, when it was renamed to Artemovsk. The name of the city was derived from the pseudonym of the revolutionary and Soviet politician Fyodor Andreevich Sergeev, who was nicknamed “Comrade Artyom”. He is known for his active participation in the revolutionary coup and the creation of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Republic (DKR) – an autonomy within the RSFSR.

The formation of the Donbass Republic took place in parallel with a similar process in the adjacent territory – the emergence of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, whose successor is modern Ukraine. Comrade Artyom saw in the DKR a large industrial region as part of Soviet Russia.

But the idea of Fedor Sergeev was put to an end by Lenin, abolishing the territorial formation.

“She [DKR – ed] will anyway be incorporated into Ukraine, and the Germans will conquer it, so it is useless to abandon the united front for the defence of Ukraine,” Lenin wrote in March 1918 to Grigory Ordzhonikidze.

And after the disappearance of the republic in 1921, its founder, “Comrade Artyom” also died, while his name remained on this territory in the form of the new name of Bahmut – Artyomovsk.

Later, the Donetsk People’s Republic, formed after the events on the Maidan in 2014, declared itself the successor of the DKR. The decision was made by the deputies of the People’s Council.

“This is a political document on the continuity of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog and Donetsk republics. We feel like we are part of the historical construct that was proclaimed in 1917,” Andrei Purgin, who served as chairman of the People’s Council of the DPR, said at the time.

And in 2015, Artyomovsk, remaining under the control of Kiev, was renamed back to Bahmut as part of the fight against the country’s communist past.

A spite against a spite

Thus, it turns out that both names – Bahmut and Artyomovsk – are ours, and they are related to Ukraine only in passing. At the same time, Bahmut is even more of a Russian toponym than the Soviet Artyomovsk, if we take into account the dislike of the communist internationalist authorities for the division based on nationality. At the same time, it was the Russian nationality that got especially meticulously removed from the consciousness of the Soviet people by the communist authorities as hostile, as it was the state-forming one for the Russian Empire, with which the Soviets were at war.

When the Ukrainian authorities destroyed the communist legacy, which they associated with modern Russia, they acted clumsily. They returned the Russian name of Bahmut, which the city wore when Ukraine was mentioned only as a borderland part of Russia. In this sense, this act is no different from what the modern Russian government did to Leningrad – they returned the original Russian name.

The Kiev authorities wanted to do this to spite us, but it turned out somehow not spiteful at all from the point of view of history. In this regard, the pressure of our side of the information conflict on Artyomovsk seems to make little sense. Firstly, it’s as if the Ukrainians managed to prick us. Secondly, the rejection of the Russian name Bahmut in favour of the Soviet Artyomovsk is hard to explain as a struggle against Ukrainianism. After all, it was the Soviet government that gave the name of Artyomovsk to the city of Bahmut, and invented Ukraine in its current form. Therefore, it rather resembles the same type of activity out of spite, saying, since you renamed Artyomovsk, then we will persistently call it that way. And when we knock out your troops from there, we will officially change the name so as to teach you a lesson. It smacks of the very same Ukrainianism.

For example, the Russian philosopher and publicist Arkady Mahler drew attention to this not so long ago.

“All these days I have been asking fellow patriots why you need to rename the Russian city of Bahmut to Artyomovsk, and the only clear answer I have received during all this time sounds something like this: “so that the Banderites would feel the heat!” That is, the name of the whole city, which has a centuries-old history, where, I hope, millions of people will still live, be born, create and die, we will be named only on the principle that someone “feels the heat”!”, Mahler noted.

In a recent broadcast of the TV channel “Russia 1” in the program “60 minutes”, writer and politician Zakhar Prilepin also pointed out the inconsistency.

“The opinions diverge – should we, after all, return the name of Artyomovsk or keep Bahmut. Because it is, in fact, a Russian city, a Cossack city,” Prilepin said.

And therefore, maybe we should not be ashamed of our Russian past, and not call the Russian name of the city of Bahmut for a hostile one only because some politically formed territorial entity uses this name. Are we above that?

Author: Anatoly Kalinin

From myself, I can add that when this is all done and the civil war is over, it should be up to the people living in the town to determine its name. Maybe even go the way of St. Petersburg, where the city was renamed to its pre-Revolutionary name, while the surrounding suburbs retained the old name of Leningradskaja oblast’? One other reason why Artyomovsk is being used so vehemently now is the continuity of fight against Nazism, once undertaken by the USSR against the Nazi Germany, it is now being continued by Russia against the resurgent Nazism in Ukraine.

4 thoughts on “Bahmut or Artyomovsk? A historical look at the name of the city

  1. You should know that the offer to include Azov into the army was a bait for them, which they took. They were a problem for Ukrainian authorities, so they decided to peacefully capture them. Having them in the structures of National Corps was helping to keep an eye on them and have them under control, as army command have more enforcement options, than civil law has. So instead of putting them in prison, they put them in the army.
    I think every nation state (and most European countries are nation states) has some groups of national extremists, but most also have some safety mechanisms in their constitutions, preventing Nazi parties to exist.
    Also, don’t be so surprised that people of Central Europe are so unkeen to Russia. During the WWII the Soviet command deliberately sent here their most cruel troops, mostly Ukrainian, and also some from Far East territories, who committed many crimes against the civilian people. What’s even worse, they stayed here even after the war ended. Also Russinan governors pursued a policy of exploitation of “liberated” nations. That wasn’t a happy time for us.

  2. I am approving this comment for educational purposes.
    Including Azov in the army as a “safeguard” is about the same as introducing cancerous cells into a healthy body, the result is what we observe now – the death of an organism (a state). And Azov is one of many such regiments. They now act as barriers against those troops thinking of retreat, they educate children, etc. You can check these three Telegram channels to start going down the rabbit hole:
    As for your second point, it is just a repetition of the Western russophobic propaganda that started to get decimated right after WWII, but got an especially strong foothold now. If a lie is repeated thousands of times, it may start sounding like truth in the minds of some, but it still is a lie.
    The truth of the matter is exactly the opposite (you can actually apply this 180-degree-rule to anything coming out of the Western MSMs and NGOs): Soviet troops were under strict orders to behave cordially. Any soldier caught marauding or misbehaving in any other way, faced a court marshal with a quite high probability of being executed by a firing squad. Among other things, this was done to maintain discipline in the army, otherwise an army would degrade into a band. Soviet army set up field kitchens for the civilian population, the cities were preserved as much as possible. You Krakow stands today in its original glory thanks to self-sacrifice of the tens of thousands of Soviet soldier who,instead of doing like the Americans and carpet-bombing everything – were fighting under orders to preserve as much as possible of the city and it population.

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