Probably the surest sign that communism has indeed failed in Eastern Europe is a growing desire for name changes. In almost every country that once lay behind the Iron Curtain, the word communist has disappeared from political party names.
Even more fundamental name changes are being pushed inside the Soviet Union itself.In a suggestion that would have shocked Lenin and Stalin to the core, the citizens of Leningrad, the birthplace of the Russian Revolution, express a growing sentiment to restore the city's historic name of St. Petersburg.
And it doesn't stop at the local level. At a meeting in Moscow, President Mikhail Gorbachev suggested changing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to the Union of Sovereign Socialist States (USSS) to reflect the more independent status of the various states, some of which have declared independence.
This penchant for name change probably has mapmakers and encyclopedia publishers seeing dollar signs. It's been nearly 20 years since the last major name change spree when the bulk of Africa changed names. The new spellings for Chinese cities did provide a minor ripple a few years ago.
Mapmakers not only have a new Germany and (pending resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis) the possibility of an enlarged Iraq to deal with, the world's largest nation is contemplating massive name revisions.
William Shakespeare's contention that a rose by any other name is still a rose may be an accurate assessment of life in general. But in the map-making field, changing the names of countries and cities is like money in the bank.