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Mikhailova L.V. SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF RUSSIAN NORTH TOPONYMY SPACE / L.V. Mikhailova // Russian Linguistic Bulletin. — 2020. — № 2 (22). — С. 26—28. — URL: (дата обращения: 08.12.2021. ).
Mikhailova L.V. SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF RUSSIAN NORTH TOPONYMY SPACE / L.V. Mikhailova // Russian Linguistic Bulletin. — 2020. — № 2 (22). — С. 26—28.


Михайлова Л.В.1
1 , Петрозаводский государственный университет, Петрозаводск, Республика Карелия, Россия
В данной статье исследован процесс перехода имен в знаки и символы, которые описывают Валаамские и Соловецкие острова, характеризуют духовную и хозяйственную сферы деятельности северных монастырей. Исследование топонимического пространства Русского Севера проводилось на основе изучения топонимии островов Валаамского и Соловецкого архипелагов, которая состоит из названий, как русского, так и прибалтийско-финского происхождения. Актуальность исследования связана с возрастающим интересом к истории, культурной и духовной жизни вновь возродившихся на Валааме и Соловках монастырей. Целью данной статьи является изучение топонимии Соловков и Валаама. Задачи исследования – выявить топонимы из архивных и других источников, классифицировать, определить топонимы, переходящие в знаки и символы.
Ключевые слова: Валаам, Соловки, Русский Север, знак, символ, монастыри, топонимы, классификация.
Страницы: 26 - 28

Mikhailova L.V.1
1 , Petrozavodsk State University Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, Russia
This article explores the process of transitioning names into signs and symbols that describe the landscapes of the Valaam and Solovki islands, characterizing the spiritual and economic fields of the northern monasteries’ activity. The research of Russian North toponymy space was based on the study of toponymy of the Valaam and Solovetsky archipelagos islands, which consists of place names of both Russian and Baltic-Finnish origin. The research is connected to the growing interest in the historical, cultural, and spiritual life of the newly reborn monasteries on Valaam and Solovki. The aim of this article is to study the place names of Solovki and Valaam. The research tasks are meant to identify place names from archival and other sources, to classify, to identify the place names that are removing into signs and symbols.
Keywords: Valaam, Solovki, Russian North, sign, symbol, monasteries, toponyms, classification.
Pages: 26 - 28
Почта авторов / Author Email: larisa.mihailova[at]


In this article is researched the process of transitioning toponyms into signs and symbols. The study of the Russian North toponymy space was based on the study of the toponomy of the Valaam and Solovetsky archipelagos islands. The relevance of the study is connected to the growing interest in the historical, cultural, and spiritual life of the newly reborn monasteries on Valaam and Solovki. The architectural and landscape ensembles of these monasteries make up the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Russian North. The purpose of this article is to study the place names of Solovki and Valaam. The objectives of the study are to identify place names from archival and other sources, to classify the names, and to identify place names that turn into signs and symbols.

The Valaam archipelago islands are located in the northwest part of Lake Ladoga, while the Solovetsky archipelago is in the middle of the White Sea Onega Bay entrance. Toponyms have been preserved in the names of roads, lakes, bays, islands, as well as the memory of the monasteries’ coenobites who once lived here, their occupations, their workshops, their factories, and the monasteries’ economy. Landscape place names introduce us to the amazing nature of the islands, both harsh and beautiful.

In the formation of Solovki and Valaam toponymy can be distinguished several periods: 1. Mythological. This is a time when the islands of the Valaam and Solovetsky archipelagos did not have a permanent population, but they were visited by residents of the coast of Lake Ladoga and the White Sea. They named the surrounding natural objects with mainly landscape place names. 2. The second period is associated with the founding and activity of the monasteries and is characterized by the active naming of objects located on the islands of the archipelagos in connection with the development of various trades, the skete monasteries’ construction, the building of a monastery complex: temples, living and household buildings, hotels, chapels, roads. 3. The new period is associated with the monasteries’ closure. New populations developed on the islands, military and, as a result, appear new names. 4. The newest period in the Solovki and Valaam history is characterized by the monasteries’ revival, the skete’s restoration, the increase in the number of monks, and active visits to the islands by tourists and pilgrims. Toponyms help determine the places where hermit monks lived in the past, to identify historical places, etc.

An important section of the study of place names is also field materials collected by the author on the islands of the Valaam and Solovetsky archipelagos from 2000-2018.

The results of the study are partially published in the monograph "The Transfiguration of the Russian North" [4].

Research methods

The study is based on the use of information collection methods, linguistic analysis identified in field studies, various sources of the names of geographical objects located on the Valaam and Solovetsky archipelagos islands, and the classification method. The results of the empirical study of the cultural landscape of Solovki and Valaam, which were conducted by the author from 2000–2018, are the basis of our work.

Text of article

The research of the Solovki and Valaam sign systems is based on the study of the islands’ toponymy, which consists of name signs. According to B. A. Uspensky, "the semiotics of the sign considers semantics, sintactics, pragmatism, the structure of the sign, the semiotics of the language, in his opinion, is connected with the mechanism of transmission of content, which uses a certain set of elementary signs" [7, P. 273]. Names are part of the Valaam and Solovetsky archipelago islands toponymy space. Y. M. Lotman defines «such a closed space within the boundaries of culture as a continuum, filled with different types of and at different levels of organization semiotic formations, which he, similar to the ‘noosphere’ and ‘biosphere’ of V.I. Vernadsky calls the semiosphere, the space of which is abstract» [2, P. 191].

Toponyms differ in semantics. They can determine the boundaries of toponymy space, indicate direction, and characterize landscape objects. Thus, in the toponymy space of Valaam and Solovki culture can be distinguished the following groups of name signs:

1. Border signs. This group includes the names of the extreme points of the islands in the north, south, east, and west: Valaam — Petrovsky (cape), Black (cape), Winter (cape), Cross (cape); Solovki — Ovsyannikov (cape), Pechak (cape), Rebalda (cape), Beluga (cape). Border signs may also be the names of the archipelagos islands surrounding Valaam and Solovki: Valaam archipelago —  Extreme (island), Dubrovsky (island), Porfiryevsky (island), Egg (island); Solovetsky archipelago — Tops (islands), Zayatsky (islands), Anzersky (island).

2. Landmark signs. This group includes the names of roads, bridges, canals: Valaam — Monastery (road), Tihvinsky (bridge), Brick (channel); Solovki — Isakovskaya (road), Drinking (channel). Landmarks are also the names of outstanding elements of the landscape. It can be, for example, high mountains, alleys, groves of artificial plantings, streets, monuments: Valaam archipelago — Theodorovskaya (mountain, 42 m), Alley of the Lonely Monk (fir alley), Oak (grove); Solovetsky archipelago — Larch Alley (alley), Primorskaya (street).

3. Signs-metaphors. Such names are, along with border, the most ancient signs. According to A. N. Veselovsky, "the metaphors reflected the naive syncretic representation of nature, which is based on the transfer of the trait characteristic of one member of the parallel, in another: the root – the leg of a tree; grass, forest – the hair of the earth" [1, P. 126,]. By O. M. Freudenberg’s definition, naming the objects of the surrounding world through metaphors denoting the body parts of a mythological being was characteristic of many languages of the world [8, P. 93]. On Valaam and Solovki, there are also metaphor signs: Valaam archipelago — Monasterin Guba (bay), Black Nose (island); Solovetsky archipelago — Humpback (lake).

4. Microtoponym signs. The place names of this group are signs of modernity, as they form the newest layer in the place names of Solovki and Valaam. According to A. V. Pravdikova, "Microtoponymiya consist of the objects names surrounding a person in everyday life" [5]. Microtoponyms, used mainly by Solovki and Valaam’s local inhabitants, appeared in the 20th century due to the arrival of a new population on the islands. This new population did not know the historical names and instead used Pike (Nikonovskoye, lake), Red (Resurrection, skete), and Yellow (Gethsemane, skete) [3] (Valaam). There was a ban placed on the use of these former names: Red (White, lake), Kremlin (Holy, lake) (Solovki).

5. Symbols. Some of the names of objects located on the islands of the Valaam and Solovetsky archipelagos are examples of the transition of the sign into a symbol. K. G. Jung believes that the meaning of the symbol is wider and may include a sign. The symbol can be both a name and an image that has any additional meaning [10, P. 49]. According to O. Spengler’s definition, «symbols are sensual signs, recent, indivisible, and most importantly, involuntary impressions of a certain meaning. The symbol is a certain trait of reality, with immediate internal authenticity denoting for sensually awake people something that cannot be communicated in a reasonable way» [9, P. 324].

Let's consider examples of the transition of toponymy — sign into symbol in the names of Valaam and Solovki objects.

1. A sign is a symbol of ancient culture. Thus, the sign-microtoponym of Babylon, the name of the stone structures on the Great Zaatsky Island, is transferred to other ancient places of worship located on the islands of the Solovetsky archipelago, such as labyrinths, seidas, and stone heaps, becoming a symbol of paganism. On Valaam, the symbol of paganism is the sign-microtoponym Bald Mountain, the name of the forestless top of the Black Nose Mountain.

2. Sign is a symbol of Orthodoxy. The symbol of Orthodoxy, both on Valaam and on Solovki, becomes the place name of the Saint: Valaam archipelago — Holy (island); Great Solovetsky Island — Holy (lake).

3. A sign is a symbol of a new story. The Finnish sign-microtoponym for “outpost” and “village” appeared in the 1920s and 1940s of the 20th century and are symbols of the new time in the history of the Valaam island and the Valaam Monastery. Such semantics of names have survived to this day. The New Valaam, a sign marking the location of the monastery in Finland, became a symbol of Valaam's farewell for the Valaam Monastery coenobites. The toponym Old Valaam, the sign of the first settlement of monks on the island of Saint, acquired the meaning of the symbol denoting the Valaam Monastery before its evacuation to Finland in 1940.

4. Commemorative signs and symbols. An example of the transition of a commemorative sign into a symbol is the name of the pine tree, known as Shishkina (Pine Shishkina). It grows on the island of Skitsky near the road to the skete in the name of All Saints. Initially, the pine was a familiar model, which was depicted in the drawings and paintings of famous Russian artist I. Shishkin. It has now become a symbol of the Valaam period in Shishkin's work.

Mount Calvary — a sign pointing to the construction site of the church in honor of the Crucifixion of the Lord and the device of the Calvary-Raspyatsky skete on the island of Anzer [6] (Solovetsky archipelago) — turned into a symbol of crucifixion and the destruction of prisoners of the Solovetsky prison special (STON).


Research of toponymy space of the Russian North was conducted on the example of formation and development of the Solovki and Valaam toponymy systems. Signs-names also contain information about the natural landscape of the Solovki and Valaam archipelagos islands. They characterize the Solovki and Valaam ancient culture. In certain situations, signs can turn into symbols, having wider value than signs. On the islands are saved orthodoxy, new history symbols, and memorable signs.

Therefore, we can conclude that Solovki and Valaam place names, consisting of both ancient and modern signs and symbols, are part of the toponymy space of the Russian North.

Список литературы / References:
  1. Веселовский А. Н. Историческая поэтика / Веселовский А. Н. – Л.: Художественная литература, 1940. – 648 с.
  2. Лотман Ю. М. Статьи по семиотике и типологии культуры / Лотман Ю. М. Т. 1. – Таллин: «Александра», 1992. – 479 с.
  3. Михайлова, Л. В. Валаам в географических названиях. Топонимическая карта / Михайлова, Л. В. – Петрозаводск: ООО «Издательство «Острова», 2012.
  4. Михайлова Л. В. Преображение Русского Севера: монография / Михайлова Л. В. – Петрозаводск: Изд-во ПетрГУ, 2015. – с. 112.
  5. Правдикова А. В. Микротопонимия как отражение картины мира [Электронный ресурс] / Правдикова А. В. – URL: (дата обращения 04.03.2020).
  6. Соловецкие острова. Solovetsky Islands. Картографический путеводитель. – Санкт-Петербург: ФГУП «Аэрогеодезия», 2001.
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  8. Фрейденберг О. М. Миф и литература древности / Фрейденберг О. М. – М.: Издательская фирма «Восточная литература» РАН, 1998. – 894 с.
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Список литературы на английском / References in English:
  1. Veselovsky A. N. Istoricheskaya poetika [Historical poetics] / Veselovsky A. N. – Leningrad: Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, 1940, – 648 p. [in Russian]
  2. Lotman Yu. M. Stat’i po semiotike i tipologii kul’tury [Articles on semiotics and typology of culture] / Lotman Yu. M. Vol.1. –Tallinn: Aleksandra, 1992, – 479 p. [in Russian]
  3. Mihajlova L. V. Valaam v geograficheskih nazvaniyah. Toponimicheskaya karta [Valaam in geographical names. Toponym’s map] / Mihajlova L. V. – Petrozavodsk, LTD. publishing "House "Islands", 2012. [in Russian]
  4. Mihajlova L. V. Preobrazhenie Russkogo Severa: monografiya [The Transfiguration of the Russian North: monograph] / Mihajlova L. V. –Petrozavodsk, PetrGU, 215. – p. 112. [in Russian]
  5. Pravdikova A. V. Microtoponymiya as a reflection of the world picture [Electronic resource] / Pravdikova A. V. – URL: (accessed: 04.03.2020). [in Russian]
  6. Solovetskie ostrova. Solovetsky Islands. A mapping guide. – Sankt-Peterburg: FGUP «Aerogeodeziya», 2001 [in Russian]
  7. Uspenskiy B. A. K probleme genezisa tartusko-moskovskoj semioticheskoj shkoly [To the problem of the Genesis of the Tartu-Moscow semiotic school] / Uspenskiy B. A. // Y. A. Lotman and the Tartu-Moscow school of semiotics. – M.: Gnosis, 1994, – P. 273–278 [in Russian]
  8. Freydenberg O. M. Mif i literatura drevnosti [Myth and literature of antiquity] / Freydenberg O. M. – M.: Publishing company "Eastern literature" RAS, 1998, – 894 p. [in Russian]
  9. Spengler O. Zakat Evropy [Decline of Europe] / Spengler O. – Moscow: Mysl’, 1998. Vol.1, – 663 p. [in Russian]
  10. Yung K. G. CHelovek i ego simvoly [Man and his symbols] / Yung K. G. – M.: Silver threads, 1997, – 368 p. [in Russian]

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