Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has given an order to rename a river running across the historically indigenous Yamalia, part of Russia’s Yamalo-Nenets District, the largest oil-and-gas producer in the country.
According to the local media, the river formerly called Shaitanka is being renamed after it drew the attention of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The patriarch reportedly didn’t like the fact that the Orthodox Church of Transfiguration stood over a river whose name smacked of Satan. The river is to be renamed Preobrazhenka, after the local church itself.
The river’s “Satanic” name was itself a colonial response to the local indigenous religion. Shaitanka’s traditional indigenous name used to be Lunhaut-Yuhan, which means “divine waters.” Russian Orthodox Christians who came to the region in the course of imperial expansion renamed the river in accordance with their views of indigenous beliefs.