[Published: UNGEGN Newsletter No. 18-19. September 1997; pp. 14-16]


Baltic Division

The Baltic Division, established in pursuance of Resolution 1 of the Sixth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, comprises of experts from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Russian Federation.

In April 1997 the Toponymic Training Courses and the Second Meeting of the Division were held in Rīga, Latvia.

Toponymic Training Courses

On 22 - 24 April 1997 the State Land Service of Latvia, the Scientific Laboratory of Regional Cartography and Toponymy at the University of Latvia, the State Language Centre, the Latvian Language Institute and the Baltic Division of UNGEGN organized in Rīga the International Training Courses in Toponymy of the Baltic Division of UNGEGN that was attended by 74 participants from 10 countries. Below is a short version of the programme of the courses.

Topics Lecturer
General topics
Applied toponymyRandall E. Flynn (United States)
- terminology
- history of applied toponymy
- linguistic aspects of geographic names
- survey of national programs throughout the world
United Nations and the standardization of geographical namesHelen Kerfoot (Canada)
- UN conferences on the standardization of names
National standardization
National names authoritiesRandall E. Flynn (United States)
- basis for establishing principles of standardization
- policies, procedures, methodology and guidelines
ExonymsEeva Maria Närhi (Finland)
Naming policies and procedures in CanadaHelen Kerfoot (Canada)
The standardization of geographical names in SwedenHans Ringstam (Sweden)
Norwegian Place Names Act and its implementationBotolv Helleland (Norway)
On the development of the treatment of place names in FinlandSirkka Paikkala (Finland)
Video presentation from Finland on the collection of place names
Video presentation from Canada: What's in a Toponym?
Geographical names databases
Automated data processingRandall E. Flynn (United States)
- introduction (terminology, hardware, software, database management systems)
- office processing (data verification, loading the data)
- data retrieval requirements and techniques
- maintenance procedures
- national gazetteers
GEOnet Names Server (GNS) of the US BGNRandall E. Flynn (United States)
Canadian Geographical Names Data Base and Geographical Names web siteHelen Kerfoot (Canada)
Geographical names in the Swedish property register and the property reformHans Ringstam (Sweden)
Standardization of dialectal place names (round table discussion)
Geographical names on the official maps of Sweden with some aspects of dialectal writingHans Ringstam (Sweden)
Handling of dialectal names in LithuaniaMarija Razmukaite· (Lithuania)
Toponymic guidelines
IntroductionPeeter Päll (Estonia)
Toponymy of the Russian FederationVladimir Boginsky (Russian Federation)
Toponymy of EstoniaPeeter Päll (Estonia)
Legal procedures concerning place names in LatviaJurģis Kavacs (Latvia)

The course attendants were given a wide range of lectures on both international aspects of geographical names standardization as well as on national programmes in the Nordic countries, Canada and the United States. Particular emphasis was put on names automatization: data processing, database models, maintenance procedures, names web sites, etc. One day was devoted to matters of the Baltic Division members, this included a lively round table discussion on the standardization of dialectal names (reviews on policies in the three Baltic states as well as in Canada, Norway and Sweden) and toponymic guidelines.

These courses were highly valued by the participants who represented a whole range of institutions: national mapping authorities, language institutes, universities and academies of sciences, ministries, post agencies, statistics boards, national registers, schools and organizations dealing with research into local history.

The most sincere thanks are due to all guest lecturers from the Nordic countries, Canada and the United States who contributed most decisively to the success of the courses. The list of papers and other materials (incl. books, journals, maps and other publications as well as sets of transparents) presented exceeded over 50 items.

Participants were impressed by the smooth organization and exceptional hospitality shown by the Latvian hosts during the courses.

Second Meeting of the Baltic Division

By the invitation of the State Land Service of Latvia the Second Meeting of the Baltic Division of UNGEGN was held in Rīga, at the premises of the State Land Service on the 25th of April 1997. The meeting was attended by 36 experts from 10 countries, including 29 participants from the four member countries of the Baltic Division (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russian Federation) and 7 observers from 6 countries (Canada, Finland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, United States).

The meeting was chaired by Mr. Vitolds Kvetkovskis, Vice-Director-General of the State Land Service of Latvia, Ms. Elvi Sepp (Estonia) acted as secretary to the meeting. The agenda of the meeting included report of the Chairman of the Baltic Division, reports from member countries of the Division and election of the new Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Baltic Division. Reports presented by participants as well as by observers dealt e.g. with the activities of the Geodesy and Cartography Department of the National Land Survey of Lithuania (Mr. Tomas Duksa), activities of Poland in the field of geographical names standardization (Ms. Izabella Krauze-Tomczyk) and planned new reform of rural settlements in Estonia (Ms. Elvi Sepp). In discussions following the reports the need for compiling toponymic guidelines for the member countries of the Baltic Division was emphasized. Participants also touched upon preparations for the Seventh United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names.

As the term of office for the current Chairman (Mr. Peeter Päll) and Vice-Chairman (Mr. Ojārs Bušs) of the Division would end at the next United Nations conference on the standardization of geographical names, participants also discussed organizational matters. It was unanimously agreed that Latvia would coordinate the activities of the Baltic Division for the next inter-conference period. Mr. Jurģis Kavacs (Latvia) was elected Chairman and Mr. Vidas Garliauskas (Lithuania) was elected Vice-Chairman of the Baltic Division.