Dear All,

I have been in around 35 countries around the world and I noticed Belarus is the only country that appears on Openstreetmap in a different language than on-spot. To be more precise, all names appear in OSM in Russian (Островец, Осиновка, Ошмяны for example), but when you drive there, everything is written in Belarusian (Астравец, Асінаўка, Ашмяны for instance). I’ve got nothing against Russian language (which is definitely more spoken in Belarus than Belarusian). However, I think we should start ASAP to correct that mistake and make Belarusian village, town and city names the main ones. In some cases even street and public transport names (in Minsk these things appear in Belarusian). The purpose is simple: for instance when you use (a GPS app that uses OSM), if you drive to Asinaŭka. it appears “Asinaŭka” and, just below, the name in Russian (Оснивока). However, when you arrive to that village, you see “Асінаўка”. It is extremely confusing for travelers, especially if they don’t read cyrillic.

Another question: multilingual names in Europe. Numerous cities, towns, and villages appear with bilingual names on spot (but on OSM their main names appear only in one language). It would be good to make those names appear as they appear on spot.

How do you think?


Comment from tbicr on 29 April 2017 at 13:04

Issue in OSMs approach for languages. You can miss this issue for one language territories. All this names is correct but you should choice only one of it for name tag.

Another issue that you can use name tag for addr:streetname, so for non name tag languages you cannot find address in many applications (eg, addresses without related object (street) even cannot be marked with different language.

I see next solutions: - use truth on the ground rule (or use source name) - in this case in Belarus you can see belarusan, russian, english and other names in name tag on map and you should understand what exactly language used by tag content. Some times on signboards you can find same content on two languages. - use one of languages as default - described by topicstarter issue. - drop name tag and use name:LANG instead or think about more reliable usage of name tag.

Comment from ☆Finvenkulo on 29 April 2017 at 21:35

Estas ankaŭ alia grava problemo: multe da nomoj de interlandaj objektoj (kontinentoj, maroj) estas en la angla, malgraŭ tio, ke ili troviĝas ekster Anglujo.

Comment from escada on 2 May 2017 at 05:19

All towns in Belgium that are officially bilingual also show this on Same is true for Switserland.

So I wonder why you think that their names only appear in 1 language. Which map did you use ?

Comment from Jay May on 2 May 2017 at 06:33

@Escada: perhaps I explained myself badly. (perhaps because I had only 3 minutes to write)

What I meant is: in Belgium & Switzerland they appear with both names when they are bilingual, but it is not the case in all countries . In Poland, for instance, you’ve got a lot of bilingual names (Polish/Lithuanian, Polish/German, Polish/Kashubian, Polish/Belarusian, Polish/Rusyn …), in Czechia bilingual Czech/Polish names,in Slovakia bilingual Slovak/Hungarian, Slovak/German and Slovak/Rusyn names, etc. But those don’t appear on maps (ex.: Český Těšín / Czeski Cieszyn only appears as Český Těšín, Biała / Zülz appears only as Biała, etc.). My point is: I would like to do the same

@Malvolapukulo: that is a good point. However, it is a bit more complicated because we’d have to put a name in 30 languages or so:)

@ImreSamu: I know, I don’t need Wikipedia for that. My point is: in Belarus, ALL (no single exception) village/town/city names appear in Belarusian only (I drive there every 2 weeks during spring/summer/fall time). Thus, those names should appear in Belarusian only on openstreetmaps, as it is on-spot! (of course, I am not telling to eliminate Russian names, but to leave them as additional names in other languages, just like with Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian or English). In Minsk, metro stations and street names are also in Belarusian only. However, I am not telling to move all street, restaurant or shop names into Belarusian because in most places I’ve seen they are in Russian-only.

@tbicr: thanks for your advise. My point is to move Belarusian names frome “name:be” to “name”; and Russian names from “name” to “name:ru”.

Comment from tbicr on 2 May 2017 at 09:04

@meijerry, moving name:be<->name<->name:ru is a open question in Belarus, russian spoken mappers can be disagree with ground truth rule in Belarus that touch name tag and this change will not solve all multilingual issues on Belarus map. So my point that OSM should grow up in multilingual question.

Comment from Jay May on 2 May 2017 at 09:52

^^ Actually one of the perfect examples of what you write can be Astraviec (Астравец), which appears as Островец on the map. When you drive there, it is written in Belarusian (Астравец), which is why I would like to change the #name tag from Островец to Астравец. However, all the street names I’ve seen are in Russian. Thus, I think those street names should be left in Russian on OSM.

Comment from Ambush on 18 July 2017 at 09:57

@Jay May, I agree with you. Unfortunately Ground truth rule in Belarus was usurped by little group of OSMers and we have what we have. It makes problems even for russian speaking users, because in OSM they see “Oktyabrskaya” metro station (Russian transliteration of “Kastryčnickaja”), but in all information tables, metro schemas (on the ground) it written as “Kastryčnickaja” (Belarusian names used on metro schemas and voice notifications). It is very confusing for russians who don’t know Belarusian! There are many funny stories where people miss Kastryčnickaja because they are don’t know that it is Oktyabrskaya in Russian language.

I think we should apply only Ground rule here in OSM, but we should do it in some official way. What can it be? DWG decision, Wiki voting, something else?

Comment from Jay May on 19 July 2017 at 07:44

This is exactly my aim. It would be good to make this officially. And as you told yourself, Ambush, even Russian tourists complain on that when they use OSM-based maps like My only aim is to apply ground rule both for Belarus and Kazakhstan (and as you can see on my profile, not only) because otherwise it is a total mess. I don’t see why we shouldn’t do it, especially given the fact that Russian-speaking users will see the names in Russian additionally to the names that appear on spot anyway! You provided this example on Kastryčnickaja/Oktjabrskaja; I saw “Bol’šye” instead of “Vjalikaje”, names beginning with “O” instead of “A”. It is confusing even for Russian or Belarusian speakers, let alon non-Russian and non-Belarusian speakers!

Comment from Ambush on 19 July 2017 at 19:59

Yep, so what can we do for it? Just tagging those objects in Belarusian in ‘name’ tag is bad idea because many people are ruled by strange rules like this and it will cause edit wars. I think we strongly need support of world community or official OSM authority.

Comment from Jay May on 20 July 2017 at 09:31

This is what I want to avoid: wars. Because 1) Wars are never a solution, just an unnecessary waste of time 2) Neither I, neither many people have time for making wars with anyone here. We are not paid for correcting those maps either.

We need to change those rules. I also have a problem with the Slovak rules (only one language in places where bilingual names appear), but for the moment I will leave it aside because at least the names appear partly as on spot. In Belarus and Kazakhstan, it is totally confusing as it looks like there is an alternative reality. And this is contradictory with OSM’s primary rule on names (“The common default name. (Note: For disputed areas, please use the name as displayed on, e.g., street signs for the name tag.”) This map is made for everyone in the whole world and used in many languages by different apps.

Comment from Георгий Ильин on 1 September 2017 at 07:07

I am from Russia. I am quite new to this, but as Ambush said, this is confusing for me when I drive to Belarus (very often!) and OSM and OSM apps like show me only the Russian name, without its Belarusian equivalent. As Jay May said, even Yandex uses Belarusian names as main. I do not know who had decided about everything being in Russian, but if they are Russian, they only bring confusion to us …

Comment from Георгий Ильин on 1 September 2017 at 07:43

Guys, if you need help I will do that with you. I don’t promise I will do that quickly (you know, work …), but just give me a sign when you start and I will help.

Comment from LLlypuk82 on 7 September 2017 at 22:51

I think that is a problem of road signs installation staff. And we can’t solve it by adapting ‘name=’ tags. As was said above it can be using ‘name:be’ and ‘name:ru’ tags by apps. Or some kind of transliteration may be.

Comment from Ambush on 8 September 2017 at 05:29

By National Belarusian law, all geographical objects should be named and signed in Belarusian language. So actually, there is no problem with decision how to map names in Belarus because all OSM rules, Belarusian law and signs on the ground told us we should use Belarusian for name.

There is one problem with old incorrect decision to map it in Russian and with a lot of names described incorrectly in Russian.

And of course we should fill name:ru and name:be tags.

So, Георгий, this is the sign. I’ve started to name objects in Belarusian according to Ground rule since I moved to Belarus two years ago. You are free to do that too. :)

Comment from Jay May on 8 September 2017 at 06:46

Screenshot from made this morning from my computer:

I remember a couple of years ago, they had exactly the same issue as we have had so far on OSM: all names in Belarus were written in Russian. For already more than a year, they switched those main names to Belarusian, leaving the name in Russian or in English (depending on the version you use) above. That is exactly our aim for OSM - we want those maps to reflect the reality.

P.S.: Георгий Ильин, I sent you a pm with questions :)

Comment from Георгий Ильин on 8 September 2017 at 07:20

Приветик ))

I’ve received quite a lot of messages in various languages. I will reply to them later. Sorry guys. )))

I am a user and a Galileo user. I use those apps in Russian. On, I see names only in Russian. Although I drive quite often to Belarus, I couldn’t see the names in Belarusian. I do not speak Belarusian at all, so I cannot figure out how it is written.

I discovered only recently that is based on Openstreetmap, and that you can edit that. I found Jay May’s comment, and I talked to a couple of other (Russian) users and they encountered the same problem. That is why I decided to participate, although I am quite slow with this kind of things )))

The names in Russian have to be let in name:ru. If you notice the name in Russian does not appear at all, please add it if it exists. But “name:be” and “name” must be the same.

@LLlypuk82 - neither you neither I can change roadsign installation in Belarus, so our mission is to reflect that how it looks in reality. The tag “name:ru” allows all users like me (Russian) to look for the places in Russian. Once we find the village/town name in Russian, we can see them immediately in Belarusian whatever the app. If the main name appears in Belarusian, OSM-based apps do not show the Belarusian names appearing on the roadsigns, and that confuses everyone who is not from Belarus.

Comment from Maturi0n on 24 September 2017 at 15:46

Hello guys, please don’t start this before any general consensus is reached. And please don’t try to do this manually. This is a natural thing for bots to do. Doing it manually will take months and will result in a huge tagging chaos, it’s a waste of time. A bot can change names quicker and more consistently than any human ever could.

There are certain reasons why Russian was chosen over Belarusian by the Belarusian OSM community. Most notably because Russian is also an official language in the country, and because it is much more widely used than Belarusian. You can verify this by using Wikipedia usage stats, less than 2.3% of Belarusian Wikipedia traffic goes to Belarusian-language Wikipedia, almost 88% goes to the Russian-language one. Language preferences for average OSM users might be similar. However, I am not arguing for or against the usage of either language on OSM.

But please join the discussion at , because changing a country’s main mapping language is something that should be discussed with all of its mapping community, not just on a blog post.

And again, if the decision to use Belarusian will be made, this should be done by bots to get a consistent naming pattern.

Comment from Jay May on 24 September 2017 at 17:29

Hello Maturion. Over 50 people are discussing this on Telegram Openstreetmap Belarus. Most people are either for the change either neutral. I am in close touch witb the DWG. Our aim is clear: reflecting the reality (and not focusing on one language). It is not currently the case because all toponyms and almost all tourist attractions and infrastructure or transport related spots are signed in Belarusian on the spot. I’m afraid the reason for which Russian was chosen over Belarusian was wrong. Openstreetmap is not an ethnographic, nor a linguistic map. If everyone chooses according to his/her own language preferences, OSM is going to be a bigger mess than now. You imagine the number of territories where names on-spot and the language spoken don’t match?…Anyway, as it was already stated, the 2009 consensus clearly violates OSM’s main rule on name=* tagging. The statistics you mentioned above do not prove everything. Remember there are still a lot of people in Belarus who do not have any Internet access (mostly those who speak Belarusian at home, the village population), and the fact they use mostly Russian wikipedia can be explained because simply it is more complete than the Belarusian one. Anyway, some people who support the switch to Belarusian are… Russian themselves. Because of the reasons mentioned above by Ambush. I also personally know quite a couple of Belarusians, Russians and EU people who are not map freaks like us, but use OSM-based maps and who told me +/- the same as a couple of users: the current names do not reflect the reality. Anyway, do not worry, despite the big mess there was at some point, we will manage it ;) A couple of users and I do agree with you on the principle of an automated change. This is one of the things we are working on right now! I just do not understand what you mean by “done by bots” Cheers!

Comment from Polyglot on 25 September 2017 at 07:12

I don’t think it should be done by bots, but having a tool that changes the name of a whole street in one go would probably be beneficial to the result. Fully automated is almost never how things are done on OpenStreetMap, but it would be good that all objects with the same name, change at the same time.


Comment from Jay May on 25 September 2017 at 07:37

Hmmm.. I think I understand +/- what Maturi0n meant by “bots”.

Actually, at some point, Ambush and some of the other guys were suggesting an automated check, and checking only afterwards if everything is O.K. It would be a bit of proofreading work rather than reading, so it would probably make it easier than changing everything manually.

I am not (yet) as technical as you guys are anyway :) Hence, don’t be surprised if I ask you a lot of questions in private :)

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