More than 1,000 miles from Moscow, in a city near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan, residents have taken up an unusual cause: demanding that they be allowed to name their local airport after a famous rock star from the city.
In October, fans of Egor Letov, a musician who passed away 10 years ago, started a Facebook page as part of a campaign to change the name of the airport in Omsk, a city of just over 1 million people, to Letov International Airport. “Our name is Letov!” became a rallying cry for the movement on social media. One blogger created a mock-up of what the airport would look like, featuring giant portraits of the bearded, long-haired singer greeting travelers upon arrival. But Russian authorities, claiming that Letov’s fans were a “marginal audience,” blocked the name change.
The Omsk campaign came together after five Russian civil-society groups—at least two of which have ties to the Kremlin—announced a nationwide contest to rename 47 of the country’s airports after Russian historical figures. During the so-called Great Names of Russia project, which began in early October and lasted two months, more than 5 million Russian citizens voted for a new name for their local airport. The winning names, officially announced on Tuesday, featured a mix of military heroes, scientists, and artists. The project is the country’s latest and perhaps largest-scale attempt to answer the question that has gone unaddressed since the end of communism: What, exactly, is Russia?