The first four multilingual signs with the historical names of streets and squares were unveiled in Kobler Square in downtown Rijeka on 13 May 2019.
As of today, all passers-by can learn that Kobler Square used to be named Piazza Grande / Piazza del Magistrato and Piazza (dei) Frutti in the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively, then Piazza delle Erbe from 1870 to 1910 and again from 1919 to 1948, that it was first named after Kobler (Piazza Kobler) from 1911 to 1919, after which it was known as Market Square (Piazza delle Erbe) from 1948 to 1952, before finally acquiring its current name in 1952.
This project will add signs with the historical names to the signs with the current official names in some of the streets and squares in the historic centre of Rijeka. Since Rijeka is a city with an exceptionally tumultuous history, during which it has been a part of several different countries, the historical names will be written in various languages that represent the various historical periods.
The sign with the historical names of Kobler Square was unveiled by the Mayor of Rijeka Vojko Obersnel. Besides Kobler Square, the multilingual signs were also placed in three streets that lead to the square – Stara vrata (Old Gate), Užarska Street and Medulićeva Street.
The project of placing multilingual signs with the historical names of streets and squares in downtown Rijeka is being carried out as part of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture project with the aim of honouring the rich historical tradition of the city.
Mayor Obersnel pointed out that this project, which took somewhat longer to prepare than initially planned, aims to showcase the layered and turbulent history of Rijeka, during which street names were often changed, even if the country remained the same.
“The project was simultaneously initiated by two different sides. Since Rijeka has been named the European Capital Culture, we thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to use one of the flagships as a platform for portraying the layered and turbulent history of Rijeka in a graphic way by showing the changing names of Rijeka’s streets, in addition to an array of other programmes. Around the same time, the Italian Community in Rijeka launched its own street sign initiative. We were faced with the dilemma of what bilingualism meant in the present day. Would it be more prudent to translate the present-day street names from Italian to Croatian or to engage in this complex and demanding project? We ultimately decided on the latter“, Mayor Obersnel said, reiterating that this is not an initiative to introduce bilingualism, but to tell the history of Rijeka through the changes of its street names.
The project was supported by the Italian Community in Rijeka and the Society for the Historical Research of Rijeka from Rome (Società di Studi Fiumani), which had published a book entitled “Il stradario di Fiume“ (“Rijeka Street Map”) listing the names of streets in Rijeka throughout history – when Rijeka was a part of Italy and during other periods.
“I think that this project is a prime example of what Rijeka – the Port of Diversity exemplifies and that is the acknowledgement of the history we have lived through and that has had its share of shining and darker moments. I consider it to be our joint duty to display and save from oblivion all these historical moments, regardless of whether or not we like them“, Mayor Obersnel said, announcing that approximately 30 streets will receive signs with their historical names by the end of this year and in the beginning of the next one.