MathOverflow is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm trying to get an idea of Drinfeld's Zastava space. It seems to be an infinite-dimensional version of the flag variety, for affine Lie algebras.

But, first of all, why is it called Zastava (Застава)? Sadly I don't understand Russian and I don't understand the connotation. Googling gave me this Wikipedia article about a car company first. But I don't think a car company has much to do with these spaces, or does it?

Apparently it means "outpost" in Russian. But why an outpost? Drinfeld seems to be Ukrainian (again, from Wikipedia) and zastava means "pledge"?

Is it an outpost to a greater understanding of these spaces? Is it a pledge of mathematicians to understand more???

share|cite|improve this question
+1 for trying all the obvious things first! – José Figueroa-O'Farrill Dec 30 '10 at 10:09
I've never heard about the Ukranian meaning "pledge" for "zastava" (which is, BTW, an old word in Slavic). My dictionary returns "1) (histor.) gate, turnpike; 2) (military) outpost; picket, security detachment." To my taste, "turnpike" is better than "outpost" and you may count flags as pikes. – Wadim Zudilin Dec 30 '10 at 13:47
The word "zastava" means "flag" in Croatian (or Serbian). I. Mirkovic is Croatian, so maybe that's the explanation. – Antun Milas Dec 30 '10 at 13:53
Antun, that's indeed a nice etymologic reason. I would suggest you putting your comment as answer. – Wadim Zudilin Dec 30 '10 at 14:03
@Wadim: all my Slavic is based on ... Please blame google:p What did zastava mean in proto-Slavic, say in the church Slavonic? @Antun; thanks! I'll accept your answer once you post it below. So it just meant the flag space ... – Yuji Tachikawa Dec 30 '10 at 14:12
up vote 26 down vote accepted

The term was coined by one Michael de Finkelberg during his visit to Croatia. The word is indeed Croatian and means ``flag''. I was happy to have a Croatian word in mathematics. The strategy of giving a new notion an old name but in a different language is not perfect.

share|cite|improve this answer
I've certainly heard of worse naming strategies.... – Ben Webster Jan 10 '11 at 1:40
Now, how do you translate "flag variety" in Croatian? – Laurent Moret-Bailly Jan 10 '11 at 7:58

The word "zastava" means "flag" in Croatian (or Serbian). I. Mirkovic, one of the authors of the paper linked by Yuji, is Croatian, so maybe that's the explanation.

share|cite|improve this answer
I've heard that zaszlo is "flag" in Hungarian, but didn't think it had any relation to my name (probably originally Zaslowski and Ukrainian) -- Uralic vs. Slavic. In any case I will now try harder to understand flag varieties. – Eric Zaslow Jan 10 '11 at 1:52
Whatever the case, the Hungarian word "zaszlo" is of Slavic origin. – Péter Komjáth Oct 19 '11 at 17:50

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.