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TASS takes Russia's oldest news service back to the U.S.S.R.

TASS takes Russia's oldest news service back to the U.S.S.R.
Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin addresses the new Soviet Army in Moscow's Red Square in this May 25, 1919, photo by the TASS news agency. The post-Soviet ITAR-TASS service reverted to its communist-era name on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency has shorn itself of a post-Soviet moniker and gone Back to the U.S.S.R.

The Moscow-based information empire, with 70 national news bureaus and correspondents in 63 other countries, announced late Tuesday that it would be reverting to the name TASS effective Wednesday.

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TASS was the acronym taken by the news agency created by decree of the Communist Party Supreme Soviet in 1925, standing for the Cyrillic-letter abbreviation for Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union. ITAR, which stood for Information Telegraph Agency of Russia, was added after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union to identify the agency with independent Russia.

In its dispatch explaining the name change, TASS said the Soviet-era brand was "a symbol of professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment to maintain and develop its best traditions."

The agency published a history of the news organization tracing its origins to 1904, when the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency was created by the czar's finance, interior and foreign affairs ministries.

After Czar Nicholas II changed the name of the capital to Petrograd in 1914, the government-run news service amended its name to Petrograd News Agency, or PTA. Its headquarters office was seized by Bolshevik revolutionaries three years later and used to transmit news around the world of the proletarian takeover.

The name change is probably seen by some Kremlin critics as reflective of Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to restore Russian influence over its former Soviet neighbors, most notably in Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have seized a dozen towns and cities in the eastern regions. Putin has rejected accusations that he is fomenting the unrest, although NATO satellite images of Russian troops and tanks crossing the border into Ukraine have documented some of the intrusions.

In keeping with its historic propensity to deny reality, TASS insisted that its old name "is not an abbreviation."

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