Data journalism

Data visualization: 89% of Budapest streets that are named after people commemorate men

There are more than two thousand public spaces named after historic or fictitious people in Budapest. The names that these places are given tell us a lot about who are the people that our society wants to remember. It also tells us a lot about which era of our history we consider the most important. The latest project of our data team, Atlo, explores what the names given to public spaces in Budapest tell us about how we remember our past.

The names that streets and squares are given tell us a lot about the society that inhabits those spaces. This is a reason why, for example, new regimes and governments often change the names of public spaces when they gain power: the names of public spaces become a battleground for ideologies. In Eastern Europe, names of streets have changed several times in the past century, reflecting the ideologies of those in power at any given moment.

The latest project of Atlo explores street names in Budapest in depth. We look at how many of them have names of real or fictitious people. We look at how many streets have names of men or women, or how many were given names of Hungarians or foreigners.

Explore the project here:

Terek és nevek – Budapest utcanevei

Budapesten közel kétezer olyan közterület van, amely valós vagy fiktív személyről lett elnevezve, esetleg valamely keresztnevet viseli. A névadási szokások sokmindent elárulnak arról, hogy az utókor kiket és miért tart emlékezésre méltónak, mely korszakokat véli saját történelme kiemelkedő és fontos időszakának.

Just like with monuments and sculptures, women are in minority in Budapest when it comes to names of streets and squares. We found that 89 percent of public spaces are named after men and only 11 percent are named after women. The most ’popular’ woman, when it comes to street and square names, is Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph’s wife, known as Sissi in Hungary.

However, 94 percent of all male names are names of historic men. When it comes to women, it is only 52 percent of the names that came from women who once lived. All others are just Christian names or characters from literature.

Streets named after men (blue) and women (pink) in Budapest

If we look at history, we find that 40 percent of the names come from between 1848 and 1945. This means that the era between the 1848-49 revolution and the end of the second world war gets the most attention when it comes to street names.

There are also many public spaces that were given the names of members of the two most important royal families that ruled Hungary over the centuries: the Árpád dynasty and the Habsburgs.

There are also several streets in Budapest that are named after heroes who fought against Nazism or communism and were executed for their activities. Most of them are everyday people: workers, activists or street fighters.

Written by Attila Bátorfy

English version by Anita Kőműves. You can read the original, Hungarian-language story here.