Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2005-03-07/Gdansk or Danzig

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Vote on Gdansk/Danzig naming dispute closes

By Chris 73, 7 March 2005

The vote on Talk:Gdansk/Vote to resolve the Gdansk/Danzig naming dispute has closed as scheduled on Friday, March 4th 0:00. (See also the previous article) This vote aimed to resolve the multi-year, multi-article dispute about the naming of Gdansk/Danzig, arguably the largest and longest-running article content dispute on Wikipedia.

Since notice of the vote was posted on many of the talk pages for affected articles, and also announced in several other places, the vote received a significant turnout with about 100 users adding their votes. A lively discussion was also active on Talk:Gdansk/Vote and Talk:Gdansk/Vote/discussion, although many of the arguments were already known to participants in previous discussions on Talk:Gdansk.

Naming of Gdansk/Danzig

In the first section of the vote, the naming of Gdansk and Danzig was decided. Dividing the history of the city into six periods, most periods received a very clear result, although there were some discussions about the exact starting and ending years for the respective periods. A large number of voters preferred the city to be named Gdansk before 1308, and after 1945. Between 1308 and 1466, and between 1793 and 1945 a large majority voted for Danzig. Only the period from 1466 to 1793 was almost evenly split between Danzig and Gdansk, as the city was under Polish overlordship during this period but remained culturally German. Ultimately a slim majority preferred Danzig, in line with the practice common in English-language history books.

For a quick summary, the outcome is that the city is to be named Danzig between 1308 and 1945, and Gdansk before 1308 and after 1945. The vote left open the possibility that these guidelines may change in the future if the community consensus changes.

Cross-naming

In addition to settling which name to use according to different time periods, three cross-naming proposals received large support. These dealt with the initial reference in an article, so that the first mention of Gdansk should also refer to (Danzig), and the first mention of Danzig should also refer to (Gdansk) to provide more information to the user about the city that is still known under both names. The same principle would apply to other locations that share a history between Poland and Germany, for example with Szczecin (Stettin) or Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland).

Another guideline that received general support recognized different treatment in biographical articles based on the nationality of the subject. Thus for biographies of clearly Polish persons, the Polish name is to be used, and for biographies of clearly German persons, the German name is to be used, always with the first instance referring to the other name Gdansk (Danzig) and Danzig (Gdansk).

Some voters expressed an explicit preference for Polish-only names if the location reference is limited to after 1945, citing for example the List of cities in Poland, List of airports in Poland, etc. This, however, did not receive majority support, with a smaller number of voters explicitly opposing this limitation. In any case, the cross-naming does not need to be followed at all cost if there is agreement with respect to individual articles, but the vote could still guide decisions in case of a dispute.

Enforcement

The last part of the vote dealt with how the results could be enforced, and the possible protections for users trying to enforce them. Many voters on both sides opposed labeling edits that did not comply with this naming convention as vandalism. However, a majority of participants did support the enforcement proposal.

Underlying this was the question of whether changes that violated the naming guideline, as determined by the poll, could be reverted without subjecting the person reverting to the three-revert rule. In complex edits that involved more than just the naming issue, however, reverting other content would still be seen as a regular revert.

Conclusion

The vote successfully showed that community opinion strongly favors one of the options over the other in most cases. This may help solve a large number of edit wars related to Polish-German topics on Wikipedia, although many disputes are not limited only to the location names. As with all decisions on Wikipedia, the consensus view may change in the future, but until then this vote can hopefully serve as a useful guide to editors dealing with these disputed names.