Seventh United Nations Conference on the
Standardization of Geographical Names
New York, 13-22 January 1998
Document E/CONF.91/L.6
Item 4
of the Provisional Agenda


The Baltic Division of the United Nations Group of Experts was established in pursuance of Resolution 1 of the Sixth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names in 1992. The Division comprises of experts from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Russian Federation.

The work of the countries of the Division has mainly focused on the national programmes of the onomastic, cartographic and geographic institutions of the countries concerned. The reviews and results of the work are discussed in detail in the national reports of the individual countries.


By the invitation of the Governmental Place Names Committee of Estonia the First Meeting of the Baltic Division was held in Tallinn, 26-27 October 1995, attended by 33 experts from 8 countries (Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, United States), including observers. Participants discussed national standardization of place names, policy on exonyms and the implementation of United Nations resolutions on names standardisation. Particular emphasis was put on legislation concerning geographical names, as there had been drafts of laws compiled in Estonia and Latvia, dealing with the subject. Experts of the Division were also pleased to have reviews on names standardization activities in countries that sent observers to the meeting. Discussing organization of the Division, it was agreed that Estonia would coordinate the activities of the Division until the Seventh Conference. Experts elected Peeter Päll (Estonia) Chairman and Oja¯rs Bus^s (Latvia) Vice-Chairman of the Division.

A working meeting of the Division was held in Ri¯ga on 6 May 1996, attended by 20 experts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Besides having usual reports on the development of national standardization programmes the plan of actions for the future was discussed. It was decided to research into the possibilities of organizing toponymic training courses for the region in 1997. Also the importance of toponymic guidelines for map and other editors was emphasized. Lively discussion took place on the role of dialects in standardizing place names.

The State Land Service of Latvia hosted the Second Meeting of the Baltic Division in Ri¯ga, on 25 April 1997. The meeting followed successfully held international toponymic courses, and it was attended by 36 experts from 10 countries, including 29 participants from the four member countries of the Division (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russian Federation) and 7 observers from 6 other countries (Canada, Finland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, United States). Reports presented dealt with activities of national mapping authorities and onomastic institutions in the field of geographical names standardization. Preparations for the Seventh United Nations Conference were also discussed. It was agreed that Latvia would coordinate the activities of the Division for the next inter-conference period. Experts elected Jurg`is Kavacs (Latvia) Chairman and Vidas Garliauskas (Lithuania) Vice-Chairman of the Baltic Division.


Experts from Estonia and the Russian Federation attended the 17th and 18th sessions of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, on 13-24 June 1994 and 12-23 August 1996, respectively. Reports on the activities of the Baltic Division were presented at both sessions.

Representatives of Estonia and Lithuania were guests at the First Meeting of the Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia Division of UNGEGN, held in Kiev, Ukraine in October 1994. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were represented as observers also at the Second Meeting of the same division, held in Moscow in July 1996.

A representative of Estonia participated at the meeting of the Norden Division of UNGEGN in Oslo, May 1997. Both that and earlier participations by the Norden Division experts at meetings of the Baltic Division should be considered as an example of fruitful cooperation between various divisions of UNGEGN.


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 Ri¯ga the International Training Courses in Toponymy of the Baltic Division of UNGEGN that was attended by 74 participants from 10 countries.

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.


Following the establishment of the homepage by the Place Names Board of Estonia, one of its pages

also displays documents related to the activities of the Baltic Division of UNGEGN. Currently all reports of the Division presented at UNGEGN sessions, and reports of the divisional meetings have been published. It is hoped that in the future a number of other documents will be added, thus giving effective new means for divisional cooperation.

Addendum: Standardization of geographical names in Lithuania