Iskander, the Giraffe

_I’m not making this up._

*Kaliningrad Zoo giraffe nearly christened after Russian missile system.*

In response to a contest held by the Kaliningrad Zoo administration to name a baby giraffe, the city residents proposed to call it Iskander after the Russian missile system. The opinions were divided, Zoo staff said.

A RIA Novosti video is “available here”:

7 thoughts on “Iskander, the Giraffe

  1. Yossi, Jerusalem

    Beautiful animals but I’m afraid the place is too small for them.

    By the way, Iskander is a nice name with an exotic oriental sound. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it just the name “Alexander” in some eastern language?

  2. Anya

    Thanks for the comment, Yossi. Regarding Alexander, I believe you are right, though I am not quite sure why the name was picked. (Tochka and Oka might be easier to explain.) 🙂

  3. Yossi, Jerusalem

    Anya, thanks!

    I made a little web search and it seems that “Iskander” is the Arabic form of the name “Alexander”.

    Alexander the great is a well known historical figure who became a legendary military hero in Europe and Asia. It makes sense that such a name will be used for an exceptional weapon system but why choose the Arabic form? The missile is certainly not intended to be used only by Arabs.

    An etymological dictionary says it means “defender of men”, so maybe the Russians wanted to emphasize it would be used for defense, not offense. “Defender of men” reminds me of old Communist terminology, something like “the people defender” but I’m probably just imagining this.

  4. Yossi

    Wikipedia says the Iskander is manufactured or designed by the Russian “KB Mashinostroyeniya” (KBM), among many other interesting weapon systems.

    KBM have an official website and an email address: “”. The website is bi-lingual, Russian and English, you just click on the small flag at upper right to switch languages.

    I guess the best way to solve our name mystery is to write them a letter and ask.

  5. Yossi

    AA, I’m not sure that’s the end of our saga.

    Let’s assume the missile name is after the Persian version of Alexander the Great . This Greek has crushed the Persian empire. Of course they were not Muslims then but I guess he is not a very popular figure in Iran. What is the political wisdom of calling a Russian missile after an historical enemy of Iran, using the Persian version of his name? Maybe KBM forgot their history or were just not sufficiently politically sensitive so now they try to cover their mistake?

    By the way, I sent a letter to KBM but they didn’t answer, yet.

  6. Yossi

    KBM didn’t answer.

    I have a new theory. The hybrid Russian/Arabic name may have been chosen as a political gesture to the Muslim large minority. Russia takes care not to alienate its Muslims and an advanced weapon system with an Arabic name may give them pride and sense of belonging.

    The weak point of this theory is of course its identification of Islam and Arabic culture.


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