- Eastern Slavic naming customs
The Eastern Slavic naming customs are the traditions for determining a person's name in countries influenced by East Slavic linguistic tradition. This relates to modern Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan. For exact rules, differences and historical changes, see respective languages and linguistics-related articles.
In such locations, it is obligatory for people to have three names: a given name, a patronymic, and a family name (surname). They are generally presented in that order, e.g. Владимир Семёнович Высоцкий (Vladimir Semyonovich Vysotsky), where "Vladimir" is a first name, "Semyonovich" is a patronymic (after his father's name Semyon), and "Vysotsky" is a family name. The ordering is not as strict in languages other than Russian.
Given first name
As with most cultures, a person has a given name chosen by the parents. First names in East-Slavic languages mostly originate from two sources: Orthodox church tradition (which is itself of Greek origin) and native pre-Christian Slavic lexicons e.g. Vladimir.
- Common male first names
If two variants of a name are given, generally the first variant is Russian, and the second is Ukrainian.
- Иван/Іван (Ivan, equivalent to John, of Hebrew origin)
- Николай/Микола (Nikolay/Mykola, equivalent to Nicholas, of Greek origin meaning "victory of the people")
- Борис (Boris/Borys, a pre-Christian Slavic diminutive of Borislav, meaning "Fighter for Glory")
- Владимир/Володимир (Vladimir/Volodymyr, a pre-Christian name of Slavic origin that can be interpreted as "The Lord of the World" in Russian)
- Пётр/Петро (Pyotr/Petro, equivalent to Peter, of Greek origin)
- Андрей/Андрій (Andrey/Andriy, equivalent to Andrew, of Greek origin)
- Александр/Олександр/Олекса (Aleksandr/Oleksandr, equivalent to Alexander, of Greek origin)
- Дмитрий/Дмитро (Dmitry/Dmytro, of Greek origin)
- Сергей/Сергій (Sergey/Serhiy, of Latin origin)
- Леонид/Леонід (Leonid, from Leonidas, of Greek origin)
- Алексей/Олексій (Aleksey/Oleksy, of Greek origin)
- Виктор/Віктор (Viktor, of Latin origin)
- Юрий/Юрій, Георгий/Георгій (Yuri, Georgy, equivalent to George, of Greek origin)
- Павел/Павло (Pavel/Pavlo, equivalent to Paul, of Latin origin)
- Константин/Костянтин (Konstantin/Kostyantyn, of Latin origin)
- Кирилл/Кирило (Kirill/Kyrylo, of Greek origin)
- Василий/Василь (Vasily/Vasyl, equivalent to Ваsіl, of Greek origin)
- Poмaн (Roman, of Latin origins)
- Cтaниcлaв/Станіслав (Stanislav, of Slav origin)
- Михаил (Mikhail, equivalent to Michael, of Hebrew origin)
- Игорь/Ігор, Егор/Єгор (Igor/Ihor, or Yegor, from Ingvar, old Norse)
- Максим (Maxim/Maksym, from Latin, meaning "greatest")
- Non-Slavic/Christian male first names
- Булат (Bulat, of Turkish (Tatar) origin, originally from Persian, means "steel")
- Тимyр (Timur, of Turkish Tatar origin, means "iron")
- Рycлан (Ruslan, of Turkish Tatar origin, means "lion")
- Common female first names
- Анна (Anna, equivalent to Ann, of Hebrew origin)
- Елена/Алёна (Yelena/Alëna, equivalent to Helen, of Greek origin)
- Наталья/Наталія (Natalya/Nataliya, equivalent to Natalie, of Latin origin)
- Мария/Марія (Mariya, equivalent to Mary, of Hebrew origin)
- Ольга (Ol'ga, a pre-Christian name derived from Varangian Helga)
- Александра/Олександра (Aleksandra/Oleksandra, equivalent to Alexandra, of Greek origin)
- Ксения/Оксана (Kseniya/Oksana, Oksana is the most common Ukrainian female name, Kseniya is from Greek Xenia)
- Екатерина/Катерина (Yekaterina/Kateryna, equivalent to Catherine, of Greek origin)
- Татьяна/Тетяна (Tatyana/Tetiana, of Latin origin)
- Анастасия/Анастасія (Anastasiya, of Greek origin)
- Светлана/Світлана (Svetlana/Svitlana, meaning "Shining One;" although it looks like a pre-Christian Slavic name, it was invented by Alexander Vostokov in 1802 and became popular when Vasily Zhukovsky published his ballad Svetlana in 1813).
- Юлия/Юлія (Yulia, equivalent to Julia or Julie, of Latin origin)
- Вера/Віра (Vera/Vira, this name means "Faith," calque from Greek Πίστη)
- Надежда/Надия (Nadezhda/Nadiya, this name means "Hope," calque from Greek Ελπίς)
- Любовь/Любов (Lyubov (or Luba), this name means "Love," calque from Greek Αγάπη)
- Софья/Софія (Sof'ya/Sofiya, equivalent to Sophia, of Greek origin)
Diminutive forms (e.g. Danny for Daniel in English) exist for almost every popular name. Some common names and their diminutive forms are:
- Aleksandr (Александр) - Sasha (Саша), Sanya (Саня), Sashok (Сашок), Shura (Шура), Shurik (Шурик), Sashko (Сашко, Ukr.), Sanyok (Санёк), Oles (Олесь, Ukr.)
- Aleksandra (Александрa) - Sasha (Саша), Sanya (Саня), Shura (Шура), Olesia (Олеся, Ukr.)
- Aleksey (Алексей) - Alyosha (Алёша), Lyosha (Лёша), Lyokha (Лёха)
- Anastasiya (Анастасия) - Nastya (Настя), Asya (Ася), Stasya (Стася)
- Anatoliy (Анатолий) - Tolya (Толя), Tolik (Толик), Tolyan (Толян)
- Anna (Анна) - Anya (Аня), Nyura (Нюра), Nyusya (Нюся), Anyuta (Анюта)
- Boris (Борис) - Borya (Боря)
- Dar'ya (Дарья) - Dasha (Даша)
- Dmitriy (Дмитрий) - Dima (Дима), Mitya (Митя)
- Galina (Галина) - Galya (Галя)
- Gennadiy (Геннадий) - Gena (Гена)
- Georgiy (Георгий) - Gosha (Гоша), Goga (Гога), Zhora (Жора)
- Grigoriy (Григорий) - Grisha (Гриша), Hryts (Гриць, Ukr.)
- Il'ya (Илья) - Ilyusha (Илюша), Ilyukha (Илюха)
- Irina (Ирина) - Ira (Ира)
- Ivan (Иван) - Vanya (Ваня)
- Konstantin (Константин) - Kostya (Костя), Kostik (Костик)
- Kseniya (Ксения), Oksana (Оксана) - Ksyusha (Ксюша)
- Larisa (Лариса) - Lara (Лара)
- Leonid (Леонид) - Lyonya (Лёня)
- Lev (Лев) - Lyova (Лёва)
- Lidiya (Лидия) - Lida (Лида)
- Lyubov' (Любовь) - Lyuba (Люба)
- Lyudmila (Людмила) - Lyuda (Люда), Lyusya (Люся), Meela (Мила)
- Mariya (Мария) - Masha (Маша), Marusya (Маруся) , Manya (Маня)
- Mikhail (Михаил) - Misha (Миша)
- Nadezhda (Надежда) - Nadya (Надя)
- Natal'ya (Наталья) - Natasha (Наташа), Nata (Ната)
- Nikolay (Николай) - Kolya (Коля)
- Ol'ga (Ольга) - Olya (Оля)
- Pavel (Павел) - Pasha (Паша)
- Polina (Полина) - Polya (Поля)
- Pyotr (Пётр) - Petya (Петя)
- Roman (Роман) - Roma (Рома)
- Sergey (Сергей) - Seryozha (Серёжа)
- Sof'ya (Софья) - Sonya (Соня)
- Svetlana (Светлана) - Sveta (Света), Lana (Лана)
- Stanislav (Станислав) - Stas (Стас), Slava (Слава)
- Tamara (Тамара) - Toma (Тома)
- Tat'yana (Татьяна) - Tanya (Таня)
- Valentin/Valentina (Валентин/Валентина) - Valya (Валя)
- Valeriya (Валерия) - Lera (Лера)
- Vasiliy (Василий) - Vasya (Вася)
- Viktor (Виктор) - Vitya (Витя)
- Viktoriya (Виктория) - Vika (Вика)
- Vladimir (Владимир) - Volodya (Володя), Vova (Вова)
- Vyacheslav (Вячеслав) - Slava (Слава)
- Yakov (Яков) - Yasha (Яша)
- Yelena (Елена) - Lena (Лена)
- Yelizaveta (Елизавета) - Liza (Лиза)
- Yekaterina (Екатерина) - Katya (Катя), Katyusha (Катюша)
- Yevdokiya (Евдокия) - Dusya (Дуся), Dunia (Дуня)
- Yevgeniy/Yevgeniya (Евгений/Евгения) - Zhenya (Женя)
- Yuliya (Юлия) - Yulya (Юля)
- Yuri (Юрий) - Yura (Юра), Zhora (Жора)
Most names have several diminutive forms (e.g. Aleksey — Alyosha or Lyosha). Some diminutive forms can include colloquial variants (e.g.: Vanya — Van'ka, Alyosha — Lyokha or Alyoshka, Sasha — Sashka, etc.). Diminutive forms of feminine names mainly have either an "a" or "я" ("ya") ending (e.g.: Kseniya — Ksyusha, Mariya — Masha, Yekaterina — Katya, Ol'ga — Olya). The distinguishing feature of diminutive forms of Russian names is the affectionate suffix "-еньк" ("-yen'k") or "-юн" ("-yun") (e.g. Kolya — Kolen'ka, Kolyunya, Sasha — Sashen'ka, Masha — Mashen'ka).
The patronymic of a person is based on the first name of the father and is written in all documents. If it is mentioned, it always follows the first name. As an example, the patronymic name of Soviet leader Никита Сергеевич Хрущёв (Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev) indicates that his father was named Сергей (Sergey).
A suffix (meaning either "son of" or "daughter of") is added to the father's given name—in modern times, males use -ович -ovich, while females use -овна -ovna. If the suffix is being appended to a name ending in й (y) or a soft consonant, the initial o becomes a ye (-евич -yevich and -евна -yevna). There are also a few exceptions to this pattern; for example, the son of Ilya is always Ilyich, not Ilyevich (likewise the daughter of Ilya is Ilyinichna).
Historically, the -ovich (-ovna) form was reserved for the Russian aristocracy, while commoners had to use -in, -yn, -ov, -ev, etc. (for a son; e.g., Boris Alekseev, Dmitri Kuzmin) and -eva, -ova, -ina, etc. (for a daughter; e.g., Sofiya Alekseeva, Anastasiya Kuzmina). Over time, the -ovich (-ovna) form spread to commoners favored by the tsar, high-ranking bureaucrats, and during the 19th century, to all segments of Russian society.
In Ukrainian language the female patronymic always ends with -ivna and the male always ends with -ovych. Example: the Ukrainian patronymic for Ilya is Illich.
When translating Russian-style names into English, it is important to remember that the patronymic is not equivalent to an English middle name and follows different abbreviation conventions. The patronymic can be omitted (e.g. Vladimir Putin or V. Putin); both the first name and the patronymic can be written out in full (Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin); or both the first name and the patronymic can be abbreviated (V. V. Putin). However, writing out the first name and abbreviating the patronymic (e.g. Vladimir V. Putin), although something that one occasionally encounters in translations, is incorrect.
Family name (surname)
Family names, like Путин (Putin), Ельцин (Yel'tsin) or Горбачёв (Gorbachyov), generally function in the same manner that English family names do. They are generally inherited from one's parents. On marriage, women usually adopt the surname of their husband (as with English names), or (very rarely) vice versa; both choices are voluntary. Another uncommon practice for married women is creating a double surname (for example, Mr. Ivanov and Miss Petrova in their marriage may take family names Ivanov-Petrov and Ivanova-Petrova, respectively).
Grammatically, most Russian surnames are possessive adjectives; the surname-nouns (Lebed' - literally "the swan") or attributive adjectives (Tolstoy - literally "fat" in an archaic form) are infrequent, they are mainly adopted from other languages. The surnames ending in -ov, -ev, -in are short forms of possessive adjectives, the ones ending in -sky are full forms.
The ending -enko is of Ukrainian origin, and used in both genders. The Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko is an example.
As all Russian adjectives, they have different forms depending on gender—for example, the wife of Борис Ельцин (Boris Yel'tsin) is Наина Ельцина (Naina Yel'tsina). Note that this change of grammatical gender is a characteristic of Slavic languages, and is not considered to be changing the name received from a woman's father or husband (compare the equivalent rule in Czech or Polish). The correct transliteration of such feminine names in English is debated: sometimes women's names are given in their original form, sometimes in the masculine form (technically incorrect but now more widely recognized).
Russian surnames usually end in -ov (-ova for female); -ev (-eva); -in (-ina). Ukrainian surnames generally end with -enko, -ko, -uk, and -ych (these endings do not change based on gender). The ending -skiy or -sky (-skaya) is common in both Russia and Ukraine.
The majority of Russian surnames are produced from personal names (Sergeyev — Sergey's son; Vasilyev — Vasiliy's son; etc.). Many surnames originate from names of animals and birds (Lebedev — Swan's Son; Korovin — Cow's Son; etc.), which have long ago been used as additional personal names or nicknames. Many other surnames have their origin in people's professions and crafts (Kuznetsov — Smith's son). In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -off has been commonly used in place of -ov when spelling Russian surnames in foreign languages such as French (e.g., the Smirnoff brand).
Forms of address
Although everyone in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is required to have three names, the full three-name form is virtually never used in direct communication and is generally reserved for documents and public speeches. In the media, the three-name form could be used for highly respected persons (e.g. leaders of the Soviet Union and Russia). In most circumstances, one or two names are usually omitted. Different combinations of names denote varying levels of respect. In speech, common forms of address include:
- <First name, diminutive form> — familiar.
- <Patronymic, diminutive form> — can be used to refer to men among close friends. The diminutive is formed by turning -ovich into -ych. For example, if Vasiliy Ivanovich Chapayev is a good friend, one can call him just Ivanych (from Ivan[ov]ich). Some patronymics are abbreviated even further: Pavlovich becomes Palych and Aleksandrovich turns into Sanych.
- <Patronymic> — familiar but respectful. Could only be used to address a well-known adult (esp. aged) person.
- <First name, full form> — formal. This form emerged in last 20 years due to Western influence; it is now gradually superseding the next one, especially in business practice.
- <First name> <Patronymic> — formal and respectful, could be used to address an older colleague or a mentor.
- <Prefix> <Last name> — highly formal. During the Soviet era, a prefix 'tovarishch' (comrade) was universally used. Nowadays, common prefixes are gospodín (господин, Rus.) or pan (пан, Ukr.) for sir, and gospozhá (госпожа, Rus.), or páni (пані, Ukr.) for ma'am. In some situations (e.g. by police officers) grazhdanín/grazhdánka (citizen) has been used since Soviet time.
The third person in speech can be referred to in all the previous ways. Naturally, the first four are used only for persons who are present or well-known in a group (one exception is modern performers, such as Dima Bilan and Natasha Koroleva, who often adopt a diminutive form of their first name as part of their stage name). There are several additional forms which can be used to refer to third persons:
- <First name > <Last name> — formal.
- <First name > <Patronymic> <Last name > — used either to provide full name of not previously mentioned person (e.g. to introduce him/her to the auditory), or to show very high respect (this is quite rare now even for President of Russia).
Finally, there is the <Last name > <First name > <Patronymic> (sometimes without patronymic) form, which is used for alphabetical sorting purpose in legal and official documents, data bases, government paperwork, and the like. Such form is commonly referred to as FIO (short for familiya, imya, otchestvo, i.e. "last name, first name, patronymic").
Comparison between Russian and other names
In the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian languages, non-Slavic patronymics and family names may also be changed according to the above-mentioned rules. This is widespread in naming people of ethnic minorities and citizens of Central Asian or Caucasian republics of the former Soviet Union, especially if a person is a permanent resident and speaks the local language. For example, Irina Hakamada, a popular Russian politician whose father was Japanese, has a patronymic "Mutsuovna" (strange-sounding in Russian) since her father's first name was Mutsuo.
Bruno Pontecorvo, after he emigrated to the USSR, was known as Бруно Максимович Понтекорво (Bruno Maksimovich Pontekorvo) in the Russian scientific community, because his father's given name was Massimo (corresponding to Russian Максим (Maksim)). Pontecorvo's sons have been known by names Джиль Брунович Понтекорво, Антонио Брунович Понтекорво and Тито Брунович Понтекорво (Dzhil/Gil Brunovich, Antonio Brunovich, Tito Brunovich Pontekorvo).
In several Tom Clancy novels, Sergei Nicolayevich Golovko calls his American counterpart, John Patrick Ryan, "Ivan Emmetovich," because his father was Emmet Ryan: as an Irish-American, Ryan had not had a patronymic before.
Such conversion of foreign names is unofficial and optional in many cases of communication and translation.
Exceptions for some post-Soviet countries
In the local languages of the non-Slavic CIS countries, Russian rules for patronymics were either never used or abandoned after gaining independence. Some Turkic languages, however, also use patronimics, formed using the Turkic word meaning 'son' or 'daughter'. For example, Kazakh ұлы (ûlâ; transcribed into English as -uly, as in Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev) or Azeri oğlu (as in Heydər Əlirza oğlu Əliyev); Kazakh қызы (transcribed into English as -qyzy, as in Dariga Nursultanqyzy Nazarbayeva). Such kinds of patronymic for Turkic peoples were officially allowed in the Soviet times.
Some surnames in those languages have been russified since the 19th century and remain so; e.g. the surname of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev has a Russian "-yev" suffix, which literally means "of Nazar-bay" (where "bay" is a Turkic native noble rank - compare Turkish "bey", Uzbek "beg", and Kyrghyz "bek"). This surname russification practice is not common, varying greatly by country.
Some ethnic groups use more than one name, one official, another unofficial. Official names are made with Russian patronymics, unofficial names are noble or tribal names, which were prohibited after the revolution. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some people returned to using these tribal or noble names as surnames (e.g. Sarah Naiman — a Kazakhstan singer, whose surname means that she is from Naimans). Some Muslim people changed their surnames to an Arabic style (e.g. Tungyshbay Zhamankulov — famous Kazakhstan actor who often plays role of Khans in movies, changed his name to Tungyshbay al-Tarazy).
News and other information regarding CIS states is frequently written in Russian (and then translated to English) with names using the Russian patronymics, regardless of the person's preference or common usage.
Early Soviet Union
During the days of revolutionary enthusiasm, as part of the campaign to get rid of "bourgeois culture" (and, specifically, of religious heritage, manifest in many Russian first names), there was a drive to invent new, "revolutionary" names. This produced a large number of Soviet people with bizarre names. Commonly the source were initialisms, as "Vil", "Vilen(a)", "Vladlen(a)" and "Vladilen(a)" for Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. A common suffix was -or, after the October Revolution as seen in "Vilor(a)" or "Melor(a)" (Marx Engels Lenin). Sometimes children were given names after aspects as Barrikada ("barricade") or Revolutsiya ("revolution"). Some of these names have survived into the 21st century.
This tendency was referenced in Polar Star, the second book of the Arkady Renko series by Martin Cruz Smith. The character Dynama (from dynamo) was so named by her father to celebrate the 1950s electrification of her native Uzbekistan. By the 1980s, however, this name was colloquially used refer to opportunistic women who cultivated serial lovers for financial gain - a practice utterly alien to the faithfully married and traditionally-minded Dynama of the novel.
A number of books about this tendency mention some other unusual names such as Dazdrapertrak for Da Zdravstvuet Pervy Traktor ('Hail The First Tractor!'), Dazdraperma Da Zdravstvuet Pervoe Maya ('Hail May Day!') (May Day - International Workers' Day), Revmir(a), for Revolutsiya Mirovaya ('World Revolution') and Oyushminald, for Otto Yulyevich Shmidt na Ldine" (Otto Schmidt on the ice floe').
Some parents called their children the German female names "Gertrud(a)" (Gertrude), reanalyzing it as "Geroy/Geroinya Truda" ('Hero of Labour'), "Marlen(a)" (Marlene), reanalyzing it as "Marx and Lenin", or "Sten" (Stan), reanalyzing it as "Stalin and Engels".
A number of Russians with the name "Kim", were not of Korean descent, but rather were named after the "Kommunistichesky International Molodyozhi" ('Youth Communist International').
- List of surnames in Russia
- Romanization of Russian
- Russian own name
- Slavic names
- Slavic surnames
- Ukrainian name
Further reading (in Russian)
- Балановская Е. В., Соловьева Д. С., Балановский О. П. и др. «Фамильные портреты» пяти русских регионов / Медицинская генетика. 2005.№ 1. С. 2-10.
- Таблицы и рисунки к статье «Фамильные портреты» пяти русских регионов
- Подробный популярный пересказ Report in the journal «Химия и жизнь»
- Article in «Коммерсантъ ВЛАСТЬ» № 38 от 26 сентября 2005 г. и реакция на нее авторов работы.
- Article in «Коммерсантъ ВЛАСТЬ»"Лицо русской национальности". 2005. pp. 54–60. http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=611986.
- Paul Goldschmidt's Dictionary of Russian Names; discussion of patronymics; also interesting historical exceptions to the current pattern
Personal names in world cultures
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