Wikipedia:WikiProject Cities/Names issues

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This page exists to develop a standard for how to treat alternate names for towns covered by WikiProject Cities. It aims primarily to establish guidelines for articles on towns, but secondarily also for references to towns. Relevant discussion is carried out at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Cities/Names issues.

Naming issues, i.e. how to name articles on towns, is however covered by Wikipedia:Naming conventions (city names).

Wikipedia:WikiProject Rivers#Rivers with multiple names does not yet mention the analogous problem, and Wikipedia:WikiProject Lakes does not yet exist, why this standard is better developed with an analogous standard for lakes and rivers in mind.


Many international cities have a recent history (i.e. of the last few centuries) of belonging to a different nation and/or state than to the one in which they are now a part. For example, what is now Poland was divided between various German states, Austria-Hungary, and the Russian Empire for most of the time between the late 1700s and the end of World War One. Many towns have had official names that were either transliterations or translations to the language of the governing nation, or totally different names than the names used by natives.

There is often a difference in opinions on how or if these alternates should be mentioned in the introductory paragraph, and many edit wars have erupted, which this standard attempts to prevent and to limit.


First order of business is to try to get an idea of the scope that should be included.

By situations[edit]

  • Poland (restored after "partitioning"): 1790s to WWI (mostly) Polish towns had alternate names given by the occupying states of Germany, Austria and Russia
  • Borders changed in aftermath of WWII: Districts that are now in states that they weren't in for much of modern history (e.g.: Szczecin, Gdansk)
  • Independence from USSR (any places that USSR changed town names that were restored after 1990?)
  • Borders changed in the aftermath of World War I (aside from Polish issues) - the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in particular. Also the independence of the Baltic states and Finland, and border changes along Germany's western and northern borders.
  • The break-up of the Ottoman Empire and its replacement by nation-states including Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia (and its successors), Albania, ...
  • Cities largely populated by linguistic/ethnic groups which never held political power, e.g. Yiddish-speaking Jews in some Eastern European cities; Aromanians in the Ottoman Empire and its successors.
  • Colonial names (Port Arthur in China,
  • another area/type of situation, etc.

By modern states[edit]

  • Israel
  • Slovakia
    • German names (Pressburg)
    • Hungarian names (Pozsony)
    • Polish names (Spisz, Orawa)
    • Ruthenian names (official in Eastern Slovakia)

Factors to consider for the standard[edit]

Intro paragraph[edit]

  • 1: Is there a need to mention alternate names?
  • 2: If so, then how many?
  • 3: If so, then which ones?
  • 4: Is there ever an "English" name for these places, or did English speakers pick one version over another?
  • 5: How should the standard wording be formatted?
  • 6: What is the relevance test for former names? (see Rumia, a tiny village that had its official German name but became a city after it got back to Poland)
  • 7: Should a link to other alternate names be in intro paragraph?
  • 8: Should there be criteria based on historical periods (e.g. only names used since Napoleon?), based on usage in the scholarly literature? based on importance of an ethnic group?

Rest of article[edit]

  • 1: Should only one name be used throughout the article about a city or should it depend on historical period, and if so what would be the criteria?