At the Synoptic Hotel.

It’s a bit unfair of me to publicize one silly, supremely minor error in a book I’m thoroughly enjoying and highly recommend, Kotkin’s Stalin (as much a history as a biography), but I swear it’s not out of malice — it’s just so funny I have to pass it on. In discussing Trotsky’s unfortunate absence from Moscow at the time of Lenin’s funeral in January 1924, when everyone expected to see him and hear one of his magnificent speeches, Kotkin writes: “[Trotsky and his wife] were put up at a villa, the Sinop (Synoptic), located in the outskirts [of Sukhumi] on a hill enveloped by a botanical park with hundreds of varieties of flora and fauna that the prerevolutionary owner had imported from around the world.” I’m sure he found the idea of a hotel called “synoptic” so piquant he couldn’t resist including the translation; alas, it’s entirely a product of his imagination, since Sinop is just the Russian (and Turkish) name for Sinope, a port just across the Black Sea which would have been a frequent destination for boats from Sukhumi. (And it sounds like it was a good place to stay; Bulgakov, for instance, wrote in a 1936 letter: “The Sinop is a splendid hotel. It’s possible to have a really good rest here.”)


  1. Greg Pandatshang says:

    It’s funny: you say “synoptic” and I immediately think “gospels”. You say “Sinope” and I think “Marcion of Sinope” … and then I think “gospels” again!

  2. Good thing Trotsky didn’t think “gospels” — he might not have been able to enjoy his stay so much.

  3. You didn’t think “Tertullian” in between ?

  4. J. W. Brewer says:

    From the wiki article on Sinop I am told (probably “reminded” because not for the first time as I expect I’d seen it before and just forgotten) that the adjective derived from “Trebizond” is “Trapezuntine,” which seems a little too baroque (much more so that Sinop->Synoptic) but I admit I don’t have a simpler alternative at the tip of my tongue. But it’s not like “Trebizondine” would be an obviously less-cromulent possibility; it’s equally consistent with English phonotactic constraints, right?

  5. J. W. Brewer says:

    I guess the likely explanation is that the adjective is just a straight adaptation of the Latin “Trapezuntinus” whereas the toponym proper came into English separately via some route where it was (either in English or some intermediate conduit like medieval French) as it were phonetically approximated rather than transliterated.

  6. It’s reasonably normal for adjectives to be derived from Greek/Latin forms; cf. Naples: Neapolitan. The Ancient Greek name for the city was Τραπεζοῦς (Trapezous), from an -nt- stem (hence Modern Greek Τραπεζούντα).

  7. As you discovered while I was typing. By the way, in case “Sinop->Synoptic” wasn’t a joke, I should make it explicit that the two words have nothing to do with each other: Kotkin simply made the assumption that the Russian name had something to do with синоптический ‘synoptic’; presumably he wasn’t familiar with the Turkish city.

  8. As a matter of fact, there were quite a few Sinope-related toponyms in the Russian Empire, such as Синопская набережная in SPb. To my knowledge, they were to commemorate the 1853 battle of Sinope: the Sukhumi hotel might have been named after it as well rather than after the Turkish city itself.

  9. Ah, very likely! Now can you explain why синоптик means ‘weather forecaster’?

  10. George Grady says:

    Mr. Hat,

    I assume that синоптик derives from synoptic scale meteorology, which refers to a spatial scale on the order of 1000 km or so.

  11. The Sinop hotel in Sukhumi and the garden seem to still be there, though with a new building. (I tried adding a link and the comment was rejected.)

  12. I assume that синоптик derives from synoptic scale meteorology

    Thanks very much!

    The Sinop hotel in Sukhumi and the garden seem to still be there

    Yes, I saw there was a hotel of that name (the curious can google отель синоп сухум), but I wasn’t sure if it was a continuation or a new hotel of that name. It seemed unlikely it would have survived the last eighty years of history.

  13. The websites I found say “Hotel ‘Sinop’ is located on the territory of a former governmental residence in unique park” (advantour dot com) and “located in territory of the ex-governmental residence in unique dendropark on the bank of Black sea” (tury dot ru). This suggests it’s the same site. I can’t tell if the sixties-ish building in the pictures replaced the old building or is an addition.

  14. here are some photos of the old building, marked “Stalin’s cottage”, with some tropical trees. Looks nice.

  15. It does look nice! Lucky Trotsky!

  16. Sinop is an ancient city known in Hittite sources as Sinuwa.

    Could even be a Hattic name.

  17. Greek adjectives formed from city names confused even some of the most knowledgeable ancients. In one of his letters to his friend and publisher Atticus (6.2), Cicero asks him to correct his copy of De Re Publica: Cicero had called the inhabitants of Phlius Phliuntii, when they were actually Phliasii. He was probably thinking of the nearby city of Opus, whose inhabitants were Opuntii, rather than of Trebizond. As I recall, the correction didn’t make it into the texts that survived antiquity, so editors have to correct it all over again, though very confidently, having the author’s testimony on what he intended to write. If you’re wondering what the ancients called the inhabitants of Sinope, gives Sĭnōpensis, Sĭnōpeus, and Sĭnōpĭcus for the Latin adjective.

  18. Correction: I should not have said “nearby”. Phlius is not particularly close to Opus, though they are both on the Greek mainland. I was probably thinking of Phocis, which is near Opus. That doesn’t affect the main point of my previous comment, just delete “nearby”.

  19. dendropark! I see there’s a popular one in Stepanavan.

  20. It does look nice! Lucky Trotsky!

    Pros: Fantastic garden. Real butter at breakfast. Cons: While you are there, political enemies including Stalin will consolidate their position and lay the groundwork for your exile and, ultimately, gruesome assassination.

  21. When working in the post-Soviet space in the 90s, I was told several times that senior officials and managers tended not to go on extended vacations, as they were afraid they’d be out of a job when they returned. One of the more famous examples of such an experience is the August 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev, Happening while he was vacationing on Crimea; although the coup failed, it was one of the reasons for Yeltsin eclipsing Gorbachev and the dissolution of the USSR.

  22. Hans:
    Yeah well, cf. the “gardening leave” concept in Yes [Prime] Minister. Appears to be an internationally popular manoeuvre.

  23. There are even better Latinized adjectives from fully barbarian tongues, like Connecticutensian and Massachusettensian.

  24. Those are exceedingly rare, though. US states are weird that way – many, perhaps even most of them, have proper demonyms in common use, but some are forced to use nicknames like “Bay Stater” or “Nutmegger” even in formal contexts. And in all cases, state demonyms are generally confined to nominal rather than adjectival usages. (I was taken aback when, in a Civil War-era book, I saw discussion of “North Carolinian forces” or “Louisianian forces”, because no one would phrase things like that today.) Of course a simple attributive use of the state’s name can stand in for an attributive adjective, but if you want to use a predicate adjective you’ll have no such luck.

    New Zealand seems to be unique among the world’s nations in having this kind of limitation. An author from Barbados is Barbadian; an author from Australia is Australian; an author from New Zealand is…?

  25. an author from New Zealand is…?

    *waits for an Australian reader to chime in with an appropriate jest*

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Those are exceedingly rare, though.

    Unlike Texan and… Utahn.

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