Minority Names in Poland

 

Minority Place-Names in Poland

On 6 January 2005 the Polish Parliament passed an “Act on national and ethnic minorities and on the regional languages”. The act became valid on 1 May 2005. It is the first comprehensive Act in Poland's post-war history to regulate issues of national, ethnic and language minorities. Consistent with the definitions in this Act, national minorities (Belarusian, Czech, Lithuanian, German, Armenian, Russian, Slovak, Ukrainian and Jewish) and ethnic minorities (Karaim, Lemko, Roma and Tartar) appear in Poland as well as a minority using a regional language (Kashubian).

 

From the viewpoint of geographical names two of this Act's regulations are important. The first concerns the use of minority languages, the second geographical names in those languages.

 

SUPPORTING LANGUAGE

The Act lays down that communes in which persons belonging to a national, ethnic minority or using a regional language constitute at least 20% of the inhabitants can introduce a minority language as an “supporting language” used in contact with commune organs and in first-instance court procedures. At present only four minorities (Belarusian, Kashubian, Lithuanian and German) account for at least 20% of the inhabitants of 51 communes, among which 33 introduced supporting languages by 1 March 2014:

  • Belarusian in Czyże commune, Hajnówka urban commune, Hajnówka rural Commune, Narewka, and Orla communes in Podlaskie Voivodship
  • Kashubian in Linia, Luzino, Parchowo, Sierakowice, and Żukowo communes in Pomorskie Voivodship
  • Lithuanian in Puńsk commune in Podlaskie Voivodship
  • German in 22 communes of Opolskie Voivodship: Biała, Bierawa, Chrząstowice, Dobrodzień, Dobrzeń Wielki, Głogówek, Izbicko, Jemielnica, Kolonowskie, Komprachcice, Lasowice Wielkie, Leśnica, Murów, Prószków, Radłów, Reńska Wieś, Strzeleczki, Tarnów Opolski, Turawa, Ujazd, Walce, and Zębowice.

GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES

The Act also lays down that traditional names in a minority language for localities, physiographic objects and streets may be used as “additional names” alongside geographic names established in the Polish language. The names of uninhabited localities, physiographic objects as well as streets, squares etc in minority languages may be established only for communes in which a name to be established constitute at least 20% of the inhabitants. In the case of inhabited localities, minority names may be set also for communes which do not satisfy the quantitative requirement of minorities residing therein. For such places an additional name in the minority language may be introduced if in consultations more than a half of its residents were in favor of the establishment of an additional name. Names of localities and physiographic objects in minority languages may be introduced throughout a whole commune or its part.

 

Names in minority languages may not be used independently and must also appear following the official name in Polish. Contradictory to names in Polish, names in minority languages are not official names only “additional names” (“auxiliary names”). Names in minority languages may not refer to names between 1933 and 1945 granted by the Third German Reich or the Soviet Union. All names proposed by Commune Council must receive a positive opinion of the Commission for Names of Localities and Physiographic Objects.


To date, additional names have been introduced in 1240 localities and parts of them located in 59 communes (the introduced ones involve Belarusian, German, Kashubian, Lemko and Lithuanian names), however, no additional names for physiographical objects and streets have been introduced (as of 18th July 2016).

List of minority names

 

Legal base for establishing minority names: