This article gives the general understanding of naming conventions in the Russian language as well as in languages affected by Russian linguistic Rusian Surnames tradition. First of all, this regards modern Russia, Ukraine Russan Surnames and Belarus. For exact rules, differences and historical changes, see respective languages and linguistics-related articles.
It is Russain Surnames obligatory for people to have three names: a given name, Russin Surnames a patronymic, and a family name (surname). They are generally presented in that order, although the patronymic Russina Surnames is sometimes omitted, just as English middle name or names are Rissian Surnames usually omitted.
- 1 Given first name
- 2 Patronymic
- 3 Family Rssian Surnames name (surname)
- 4 A comparison between Russian and other names
- 5 Exceptions for some post-Soviet countries
- 6 Early Soviet Union
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Given first name
As with most Western cultures, a person has a given name chosen by their parents. The given name comes first, the surname last, eg. Владимир Путин (Vladimir Putin), where "Vladimir" is a first name and "Putin" is a family name.
First names in East-Slavic languages mostly originate from two sources: Orthodox church tradition and native pre-Christian (pagan) lexicons.
Common male first names
- Николай (Nikolay, equivalent to Nicholas)
- Борис (Boris, possibly of non-slavic Bulgar origin)
- Владимир (Vladimir, a pre-Christian Slavic name meaning "the Lord of the World")
- Пётр (Pyotr, equivalent to Peter)
- Андрей (Andrey, equivalent to Andrew)
- Александр (Aleksandr, equivalent to Alexander)
- Дмитрий (Dmitry, of Greek origin)
- Сергей (Sergey, of Greek origin)
- Алексей (Aleksey, of Greek origin)
Common female first names
- Елена (Yelena, equivalent to Helen)
- Наталья (Natalya, equivalent to Natalie)
- Мария (Mariya, equivalent to Mary)
- Ольга (Ol'ga, a pre-Christian name derived from Varangian Helga)
- Александра (Aleksandra, equivalent to Alexandra)
- Оксана (Oksana, the most widespread Ukrainian female name)
- Ксения (Kseniya, from Greek Xenia)
- Екатерина (Yekaterina, equivalent to Catherine)
Diminutive forms (e.g. Tony for Anthony in English), exist for almost every name. Some common names and their diminutive forms are:
- Aleksandr (Александр) - Sasha (Саша), Shura (Шура), Aleks (Алекс): applied to the feminine form, Aleksandra (Александра)
- Nikolay (Николай) - Kolya (Коля), Nick (Ник)
- Vladimir (Владимир) - Volodya (Володя), Vova (Вова)
- Dmitriy (Дмитрий) - Dima (Дима), Mitya (Митя)
- Anastasiya (Анастасия) - Nastya (Настя), Asya (Ася)
Some 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 - Ksyushka, Mariya - Masha, Yekaterina - Katya, Ol'ga - Olya). The distinguishing feature of diminutive forms of Russian names is superlative, which represents the "-еньк" " ("-yen'k") suffix (e.g. Kolya - Kolen'ka, Sasha - Sashen'ka, Masha - Mashen'ka)
The patronymic of a person is based on the first name of his or her father and is written in all documents. It always succeeds the first name. A suffix (meaning either "son of" or "daughter of") is added to the father's given name—males generally use -ович -ovich, while females generally use -овна -ovna. If the suffix is being appended to a name ending in a soft consonant, the initial o becomes a ye (-евич -yevich and -евна -yevna). Suffix pronunciation varies with the ending of the name and the exact language.
As an example, the patronymic name of Soviet leader Никита Сергеевич Хрущёв (Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev) indicates that his father was named Сергей (Sergey). Similarly, the patronymic name of Светлана Иосифовна Сталина (Svetlana Iosifovna Stalina) indicates that her father was named Иосиф (Iosif) (in this case, Iosif (Joseph) Stalin).
The first name followed by the patronymic is usually used in formal or respective forms of address. In the media, the respected persons (e.g. leaders of the Soviet Union and Russia) are sometimes mentioned using their full names (first name + patronymic + family name).
There is also a special "patronymic-only" form used only among very close friends. For example, if Vasiliy Ivanovich Chapayev is a good friend of ours, we can call him just "Иваныч" (Ivan[ov]ich).
In most cases of local-to-English translation, using the patronymic is unnecessary and it is best to abbreviate it to an initial. E.g. "Viktor A. Yushchenko".
Family name (surname)
Surnames, like Путин (Putin), Ельцин (Yel'tsin) or Горбачёв (Gorbachyov), generally function in the same way that English surnames do. They are generally inherited from one's parents, although (as with English names) women may adopt the surname of their husband. Most Russian surnames 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 East 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). 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 more widely recognized).
Russian surnames usually end with -ov (-ova for female); -ev (-eva); -in (-ina). Ukrainian surnames generally end with -ko, -uk, and -ich (these endings do not change based on gender). The ending -iy (-aya) is common in both Russia and Ukraine.
The majority of Russian surnames is 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. Many other surnames have their origin in people's professions and crafts (Kuznetsov - Smith's son)
A comparison between Russian and other names
In the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian languages, non-Slavic patronymics and surnames 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. E.g. Irina Hakamada, a popular Russian politician of Japanese background, has a patronymic "Mutsuovna" (strange-sounding in Russian) since her father's 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).
However, such conversion of foreign names is unofficial and optional in many cases of communication and translation.
Exceptions for some post-Soviet countries
In local languages of the non-Slavic CIS countries, Russian rules for patronymics were either never used or abandoned after gaining independence. However, 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 an archaic native noble rank). This surname russification practice is not common, varying greatly by country.
Note that foreign information regarding CIS states comes often in Russian (and translated from it to English) using the above-mentioned rules.
Early Soviet Union
During the days of revolutionary enthusiasm, as part of the campaign to get rid of "bourgeois culture", there was a drive to invent new, "revolutionary" names. This produced a large number of Soviet people with names like "Vil", "Vilen/Vilena", "Vladlen/Vladlena" and "Vladilen/Vladilena", "Vilor" for Vladimir Ilyich Lenin — Organizer of the Revolution, i.e., initialisms of Vladimir Lenin. Some of these names have survived into the 21st century.
A number of books about this tendency mention some rather curious pearls, such as Dazdrapetrak (see "The First Tractor"), Revmir(a), for Revoluciya Mirovaya (World Revolution) and Oyushminald, for "Otto Yulyevich Shmidt na ldine" ("Otto Shmidt on the iceblock").
Some parents called their daughters the German name "Gertruda" (Gertrude), assuming that it stood for "Geroy Truda" (Hero of Socialist Labor).
A number of Russians with the name "Kim", and not of Korean descent, were named after the "Kommunistichesky International Molodyozhi", or "Youth Communist International".
- List of the most common Russian names
- Polish names
- Paul Goldschmidt's Dictionary of Russian Names -- discussion of patronymics.
Names in world cultures
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