UNITED NATIONS GROUP OF EXPERTS
ON GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES (UNGEGN)
New York, 17-28 January 2000
Item No. 14 of the Provisional Agenda: Toponymic guidelines for map editors and other editors
Submitted by the Place Names Board of Estonia
Ministry of Internal Affairs
EE-15065 Tallinn, Estonia
At the Seventh United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names held in New York in January 1998 the Estonian delegation presented a report on a law on place names adopted in Estonia in 1996 (Document E/CONF.91/L.2). It has now become possible to present to the experts of UNGEGN the translation of the full text of the law, prepared by the Estonian Translation and Legislative Support Centre (http://www.legaltext.ee/).
Passed on 11 December 1996
(RT = Riigi Teataja [State Gazette] I 1997, 1, 3),
entered into force 18 January 1997,
amended by the following Acts:
17.06.98 entered into force 10.07.98 - RT I 1998, 59, 941.
20.01.1999 - RT I 1999, 10, 155, § 44
§ 1. Purpose of Act
This Act provides the bases for the official standardisation and use of Estonian place names.
§ 3. Official place names
A place name is official if it is established pursuant to this Act or has been established pursuant to other legislation in force.
STANDARDIZATION OF PLACE NAMES
§ 5. Competence to establish place names
(1) Names of administrative units shall be established by the Government of the Republic.
(2) Names of settlement units shall be established pursuant to the procedure established by the Government of the Republic.
(3) Names of rural municipality and city districts, cadastral units registered in the cadastral land register and small places shall be established pursuant to the procedure established by the local government council.
(4) Names of railway stations and stops, ports, lighthouses, water area features, airports, airport terminals and highways belonging to the state and traffic facilities thereon shall be established by the Minister of Transport and Communications.
(5) Names of natural features registered in the state cadastre or a state register shall be established by the Minister of the Environment.
(6) Names of immovable monuments and heritage conservation areas registered in a state register shall be established by the Minister of Culture.
(7) Before establishing an official place name, the responsible minister shall ask the opinion of the corresponding local government body and the Place Names Board. Place names registered in a state register shall be established in accordance with legislation established for the corresponding register.
(8) When establishing the name of a cadastral unit which is in private ownership and has been entered in the cadastral land register, or the name of a place located within such unit, the opinion of the owner shall be asked.
§ 6. Place Names Board and membership thereof
(1) The Government of the Republic shall establish the Place Names Board (§§ 7-9) within the area of government of the Minister of Internal Affairs, which consists of eleven to fifteen members and is governed by statutes.
(2) The members of the Place Names Board, including the chair, shall be appointed by the Government of the Republic for up to five years.
§ 8. Rights of Place Names Board
(1) The Place Names Board has the right to obtain documents, certificates and other information necessary for performing its functions from state agencies and local government agencies.
(2) The Place Names Board may demand a written justification for the selection of a place name from the minister who or the local government council which established the place name.
§ 9. Office of Onomastic Expertise
(1) The functions of the Office of Onomastic Expertise with regard to place names are to provide expert opinions concerning names, and to organise ad hoc studies commissioned by the Place Names Board or bodies responsible for the establishment of place names.
(2) The Government of the Republic shall, on the proposal of the Minister of Internal Affairs, designate a research institution with scientific staff specialising in onomastics as the Office of Onomastic Expertise.
§ 11. Information on establishment of place names
(1) A local government council shall publish a prior notice concerning the establishment of a place name pursuant to the procedure provided for in the statutes of the city or rural municipality at least thirty days before the establishment of the place name.
(2) A minister responsible for the establishment of a place name shall publish a prior notice concerning the establishment of the place name in a national newspaper at least thirty days before the establishment of the place name.
§ 12. Publication of establishment of place names
(1) Regulations of the Government of the Republic and ministers concerning the establishment of place names shall be published in the Riigi Teataja pursuant to the procedure provided by law.
(2) The legislation of a local government body concerning the establishment of place names shall be published pursuant to the procedure provided for in the statutes of the city or rural municipality (remaining part repealed: 20.01.1999, RT I 1999, 10, 155, § 44).
(3) Legislation concerning the establishment of official place names which has entered into force shall be immediately sent to the registrar of the Place Names Register and to the Place Names Board.
§ 13. Name disputes
(1) Name disputes between government agencies shall be resolved by way of subordination. A body responsible for resolving a dispute concerning the selection or use of a name shall ask the opinion of the Place Names Board before resolving the dispute.
(2) The conformity of establishment and use of official place names with legislation may be contested in an administrative court pursuant to the procedure provided by law.
REQUIREMENTS FOR PLACE NAMES
§ 14. Language of place names
(1) Estonian place names shall be in Estonian. The procedure for determining whether a place name is in Estonian shall be established by the Government of the Republic.
(2) Exceptions to the language of place names are permitted if they are justified by reasons connected with history or cultural history. To prevent corruption of indigenous place names and unjustified changes thereto, exceptions are made based on the language of the permanent settlers of the corresponding place as at 27 September 1939 (taking into account an indigenous non-Estonian language).
(3) The Minister of Internal Affairs grants consent to the local government council for the establishment of a place name in a non-Estonian language, having heard the opinion of the Place Names Board.
(4) In international professional and business communication, the cores and qualifying attributes of Estonian place names shall be identical to the ones used in Estonia. As an exception, translation of the country name "Eesti" [Estonia] and the names of interstate bodies of water may be used.
§ 15. Orthography of place names
(1) Place names shall be documented in Estonian-Latin alphabet. Place names in non-Latin alphabets shall be spelled in compliance with official character tables.
(2) The rules for transcription and transliteration of names shall be provided for in official character tables. The tables shall be approved by the Minister of Education.
(3) The spelling of a place name shall conform to the rules of Estonian orthography but may reflect the local (dialectal) sound structure of the name. The spelling of a non-Estonian place name shall conform to the rules of orthography of the language concerned and if the spelling of a place name originates from a non-Latin alphabet, it shall be in conformity with the official character table.
(4) The spelling of the same core of names shall be identical in all place names. The core of a place name is the name without the generic term (the word signifying the type of place) and the qualifying attribute (prefixed attribute distinguishing names with a recurrent core).
§ 18. Restrictions on use of identical place names
(1) Places have identical names if the full forms of the names (together with the generic term) are identical.
(2) Names of administrative units, settlement units located within a rural municipality or a city and of small places located within a settlement unit shall not be identical.
USE OF PLACE NAMES
§ 19. National Place Names Register and sets of data concerning place names
(1) Official place names shall be entered in the National Place Names Register pursuant to the procedure established by the Government of the Republic.
(2) The set of data concerning place names in the national cartographic database shall constitute the National Place Names Register. The statutes of the register shall be approved by the Government of the Republic.
(3) A local government shall maintain a set of data concerning the names of places located within the territory of the local government. Ministries shall maintain sets of data concerning place names the establishment of which falls within the competence of the corresponding minister.
(4) Information in the National Place Names Register shall be used pursuant to the statutes of the register. Information in the register and the sets of data of local governments and ministries concerning place names are public and the exchange of such information is without charge.
§ 21. Use of place names in texts, on signs and elsewhere
(1) Official place names shall be used in documents of state and local government bodies, on maps, in dissemination of information, on public signs, signposts and notices and in the addresses of legal persons.
(2) (Repealed - 17.06.98 entered into force 10.07.98 - RT I 1998, 59, 941)
(3) In research, reference books and textbooks, the official Estonian place name shall primarily be used, to which the unofficial or non-Estonian name may be added.
(4) If both the principal and alternative names (subsection 16 (2)) have been established for a place, both names shall be used in documents of state and local government bodies, on maps, public signs, signposts and notices in the order given in the legislation concerning the establishment of the place name. A name written according to the rules of orthography of an Estonian dialect with a separate literary standard may be used in the same manner and cases.
(5) In addition to subsections (1)-(4) of this section, the Government of the Republic may specify cases in which the use of an official place name is obligatory.
§ 22. Use of unofficial place names
(1) Unofficial place names may be used in all cases in which it is not required by law to use official place names or in which an official name has not been established for a place pursuant to the procedure provided by this Act.
(2) The use of unofficial place names in public information shall not be misleading.
(3) In order to enter an unofficial place name on the base map of Estonia, the opinion of the Place Names Board shall be asked and the requirements set out in §§ 14, 15 and 17 of this Act shall be taken into account.
§ 24. Revision of place names
(1) Official place names in use on the date of entry into force of this Act shall be brought into compliance with this Act before they are entered in the National Place Names Register.
(2) The bodies responsible for the establishment of place names shall bring place names into conformity with this Act.
§ 25. Supervision
(1) County governors shall exercise supervision over the implementation of this Act by local governments.
(2) A government agency designated by the Government of the Republic shall exercise supervision over compliance with the requirements for the use of official place names.
(3) In government agencies, the establishment and use of place names is monitored by way of supervisory control.