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Eastern Slavic naming customs

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Title: Eastern Slavic naming customs  
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Eastern Slavic naming customs

An example of an ID document of a citizen of Russia. The lower page includes the lines: Имя ("Name"), Фамилия ("Family name") and Отчество ("Patronymic").

Eastern Slavic naming customs are the traditional ways of determining a person's name in countries influenced by East Slavic linguistic tradition, mainly Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and also in some Southern Slavic languages like in Macedonia and Bulgaria and the non-Slavic Kazakhstan.

The standard structure of the full name is the following:

Name Example (Cyrillic) Example (Romanized)
First name (given name) Илья́ Ilyа́
Patronymic Алекса́ндрович Aleksа́ndrovich
Family name (surname) Ежо́в Yezhо́v

This customary name structure is similar to Gujaratis and Marathis in India (see Gujarati and Marathi names), however in languages other than Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian, the ordering is not as strict.


  • Given first name 1
    • Common male first names 1.1
    • Common female first names 1.2
    • Forms of first name 1.3
      • Short forms 1.3.1
      • Diminutive forms 1.3.2
        • Affectionate diminutive
      • Colloquial diminutives 1.3.3
      • Slang forms 1.3.4
    • Given names derivation in Early Soviet Union 1.4
  • Patronymic 2
    • Meaning 2.1
    • Derivation 2.2
    • Historical grounds 2.3
    • Legal basis 2.4
  • Family name (surname) 3
    • Derivation and meaning 3.1
    • Grammar comments 3.2
    • Social features 3.3
  • Cross-cultural communication 4
    • Germanization of East Slavonic names 4.1
    • Slavicization of foreign names with no patronyms 4.2
    • Slavicization of foreign names with patronyms of other forms 4.3
  • Forms of address 5
    • Common rules 5.1
    • Adjectives 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading (in Russian) 8
  • External links 9

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, although some also come from Turkic languages.

All the first names are single, non-doubled. Doubled first names (as in, e.g., French) are a very rare foreign-influenced instance.[1] Most doubled first names are spelled with the dash (e.g., Mariya-Tereza).

Common male first names

Russian variant Ukrainian variant Latin typing Russian / Ukrainian transliteration Origin Comments
Ива́н Іва́н Ivа́n Hebrew equivalent to John
Никола́й Мико́ла Nikolа́y / Mykо́la Greek equivalent to Nicholas, meaning "Victory Of The People"
Бори́с Бори́с Boris / Borys Turkic (Bulgar) meaning uncertain
Влади́мир Володи́мир Vladimir / Volodymyr Slavonic meaning "The Lord of the World / Peace"
Пётр Петро́ Pyо́tr / Petrо́ Greek equivalent to Peter
Андре́й Андрій Andrе́y / Andriy Greek equivalent to Andrew
Александр Олександр / Олекса Aleksandr / Oleksandr / Olexa Greek equivalent to Alexander
Дмитрий Дмитро Dmitry / Dmytro Greek meaning "Of Demetra"
Серге́й Сергій Sergе́y / Sergiy Latin from the Roman nomen (patrician family name) Sergius, and this from a more ancient Etruscan name
Леони́д Леонід Leonid Greek from Greek "Leonidas", meaning "The Son of the Lion"
Ви́ктор Віктор Viktor Latin meaning "(He who) Conquers"
Гео́ргий Гео́ргiй Geо́rgy Greek the analogues are Егор (Yegor), Юрий (Yury), equivalent to George
Па́вел Павло́ Pа́vel / Pavlо́ Latin equivalent to Paul
Константи́н Костянти́н Konstantin / Kostyantyn Latin equivalent to Constantine
Кири́лл Кири́ло Kirill / Kyrylo Greek equivalent to Cyril
Васи́лий Васи́ль Vasily / Vasyl / Vassili Greek equivalent to Ваsіl
Poма́н Poма́н Romа́n Latin -
Владисла́в Владисла́в Vladislа́v / Vladyslav Slavonic meaning "The Lord Of The Fame"
Вячесла́в В'ячесла́в Vyacheslа́v Slavonic meaning "The Growing Fame"
Михаи́л Миха́йло Mihail / Myhа́ilo Hebrew equivalent to Michael
Олег Олег Olе́g / Olе́h Old Norse derivative from Scandinavian "Helgi"
Игорь Ігор Igor / Ihor Old Norse derivative from Scandinavian "Ingwar"
Макси́м Макси́м Maxim / Maksym Latin meaning "The Greatest"
Тимyр Тимyр Timur / Tymur Turkic (Tatar) meaning "Iron". Non-Slavonic / Christian
Русла́н Русла́н Ruslа́n Turkic (Tatar) meaning "Lion". Non-Slavonic / Christian

Common female first names

Russian variant Ukrainian variant Latin typing Russian / Ukrainian transliteration Origin Comments
Анна Анна/Ганна Anna / Hanna Hebrew equivalent to Anne or Hannah
Еле́на, Алёна Oле́нa Yelе́na, Alyо́na / Olе́na Greek equivalent to Helen, in Russian Alyо́na can be both the short name for Yelena and the separate name
Ната́лья/Наталия Наталя/Ната́лія Natа́l'ya / Nataliya Latin equivalent to Natalie
Ольга Ольга Olga/Olha Old Norse derivative from Scandinavian Helga
Алекса́ндра Олекса́ндра Aleksа́ndra / Oleksandra Greek equivalent to Alexandra
Ксе́ния Окса́на Kseniya / Oksа́na Greek in Russian Oksana is the separate name of the same origin
Екатери́на Катери́на Yekaterina / Kateryna Greek equivalent to Catherine
Татьяна Тетяна Tatyana / Tetiana Latin derivative from the Latinized name of Sabin king
Людми́ла Людми́ла Lyudmila/Lyudmyla Slavonic meaning "Dear to the People"
Светла́на Світла́на Svetlа́na / Svitlа́na Slavonic meaning "The Shining One"
Юлия Юлія Yulia Latin equivalent to Julia or Julie
Ве́ра Віра Vе́ra / Vira Slavonic meaning "Faith". Calque from Greek Πίστη
Наде́жда Надія Nadе́zhda / Nadiya Slavonic meaning "Hope". Calque from Greek Ελπίς
Любо́вь Любо́в Lyubо́v' / Lyubо́v Slavonic meaning "Love". Calque from Greek Αγάπη
Софи́я, Со́фья Софія Sofia, Sо́fya / Sofia Greek equivalent to Sophia, meaning "Wisdom".

Forms of first name

Being highly synthetic, Eastern Slavic languages treat personal names as grammatical nouns, applying the same rules of inflection and derivation to them. Consequently, it is possible to create many forms with different degree of affection and familiarity ad-hoc by adding corresponding suffixes to the special auxiliary stem derived from the original name. This auxiliary stem may be identical to the word stem of the full name (e.g. full name Жанна Zhanna can have the suffixes added directly to the stem Жанн- Zhann-, such as Жанночка Zhannochka,)while most names have it derived unproductively (e.g. the name Михаил Mikhail has the auxiliary stem Миш- Mish- which produces such name-forms as Миша Misha, Мишенька Mishenka, Мишуня Mishunya etc., not *Михаилушка Mikhailushka).

Unlike English, where the use of diminutive forms is optional even between close friends, in East Slavonic languages such forms are obligatory in certain contexts due to the strong T–V distinction, specifically, T-form of address requires short form of the counterpart's name. Also, unlike other languages with prominent use of name suffixes, such as Japanese, the use of derived name forms is limited to the T-addressing, i.e. there is no way to make the name more formal than the plain unsuffixed full form, and no suffixes can be added to the family name.

Most commonly, Russian philologists distinguish the following forms of given names:

Name form Example Formation Comments
Full Анна Anna full name stem + case ending -
Short Аня (Anya) short name stem + II declension ending most common for informal communication, comparable to Western name-only form of address (Ann, John), or Japanese surname-only, or surname/name -kun
Diminutive Анька (Anka) short name stem + -к- -k- + II declension ending expresses familiarity, may be considered rude when used between people who are not close friends. Comparable to English diminutive (Annie, Willy) or Japanese unsuffixed name
Affective diminutive Анечка (Anyechka) short name stem + -ечк/очк/оньк/усь/юсь/уль/юль- -echk/ochk/on'k/us/yus/ul/yul- + II declension ending most intimate and affectionate form, comparable to German diminutive (Ännchen) or Japanese -chan suffix

Short forms

Marina Tsvetaeva, a Russian poet. The name "Marina" traditionally has no short form.
Руслан (Ruslan), a character in Alexander Pushkin's poem Ruslan and Ludmila. The short form for Руслан (Ruslan) is Руся (Rusya).
Николай II (Nicholas II), the last Russian emperor. In private communication, his wife called him in the German manner, "Nicky", instead the East Slavic short variant Коля ("Kolya").

The "short name" (rus. краткое имя kratkoye imya), historically also "half-name" (rus. полуимя poluimya), is the most simple and common name derivative. Bearing no suffix, it is produced suppletively and always bears declension noun ending for both males and females, making short forms of certain unisex names indistinguishable: for example, Sasha (rus. Саша) is the short name for both the masculine name Aleksandr (Alexander) and its feminine form Aleksandra (Alexandra).

Some names, such as Zhanna (Jeana), Mark, etc., do not possess short forms, while others may have two (or more) different forms. In the latter case, one form is usually more informal than the other.

Full name (Cyrillic typing) Full name (Latin typing) Short forms (Cyrillic typing) Short forms (Latin typing)
Александр Aleksandr (m) Саша, Саня, Шура, Сашко (укр.), Лесь (укр.) Sasha, Sanya, Shura, Sashko (ukr.), Les' (ukr.)
Александра Aleksandra (f) Саша, Шура, Леся (укр.) Sasha, Shura, Lesya (ukr.)
Алексей Aleksey (m) Алёша, Лёша Alyosha, Lyosha
Анастасия Anastasia (f) Настя, Стася (редко) Nastya, Stasya (rare)
Анатолий Anatoly (m) Толя Tolya
Анна Anna (f) Аня, Анюта, Нюта, Нюша Anya, Anyuta, Nyuta, Nyusha
Борис Boris (m) Боря Borya
Дарья Darya (f) Даша Dasha
Дмитрий Dmitry (m) Дима, Митя (редко) Dima, Mitya (rare)
Галина Galina (f) Галя Galya
Геннадий Gennady (m) Гена Gena
Георгий Georgy (m) Гоша, Жора Gosha, Zhora
Григорий Grigory (m) Гриша, Гриць (укр.) Grisha, Gritz (ukr.)
Иван Ivan (m) Ваня Vanya
Константин Konstantin (m) Костя Kostya
Ксения Ksenya (f) Ксюша Ksyusha
Лариса Larisa (f) Лара Lara
Леонид Leonid (m) Лёня Lyonya
Лев Lev (m) Лёва Lyova
Лидия Lidiya (f) Лида Lida
Любовь Lyubov' (f) Люба Lyuba
Людмила Lyudmila (f) Люда, Люся, Мила (редко) Lyuda, Lyusya, Meela (rare)
Мария Mariya (f) Маша, Марічка (укр.) Masha, Marichka (ukr.)
Михаил Mihail (m) Миша Misha
Надежда Nadezhda (f) Надя Nadya
Наталья Natalya (f) Наташа Natasha
Николай Nikolay (m) Коля Kolya
Ольга Olga (f) Оля Olya
Павел Pavel (m) Паша Pasha
Полина Polina (f) Поля Polya
Пётр Pyotr (m) Петя Petya
Роман Roman (m) Рома Roma
Сергей Sergey (m) Серёжа Seryozha
София Sofia, Sofya (f) Соня, Софа Sonya, Sofa
Светлана Svetlana (f) Света Sveta
Станислав Stanislav (m) Стас Stas
Тамара Tamara (f) Тома Toma
Татьяна Tatyana (f) Таня Tanya
Валентин / Валентина Valentin (m) / Valentina (f) Валя Valya
Валерий Valery (m) Валера Valera
Валерия Valeriya (f) Лера Lera
Василий Vasily (m) Вася Vasya
Виктор Viktor (m) Витя Vitya
Виктория Viktoriya (f) Вика Vika
Владимир Vladimir (m) Вова, Володя Vova, Volodya
Вячеслав Vyacheslav (m) Слава Slava
Елена Yelena (f) Лена, Алёна Lena, Alyona
Елизавета Yelizaveta (f) Лиза Liza
Екатерина Yekaterina (f) Катя Katya
Евгений / Евгения Evgeniy (m) / Evgeniya (f) Женя Zhenya
Юлия Yuliya (f) Юля Yulya
Юрий Yury (m) Юра Yura

Diminutive forms

Veruschka, a German model, actress, and artist. The name "Vera" is of Slavic origins and literally means "Faith". "Veruschka" is one of the typical diminutive variants for the name.

Diminutive forms are produced from the "short name" by means of various suffixes. Unlike the full name, a diminutive name carries a particular emotional attitude and may be unacceptable in certain contexts. Depending on the nature of this attitude, nameforms can be subdivided in three broad groups: affectionate, familiar and slang.

Affectionate diminutive

Typically formed by suffixes -еньк- (-yenk-), -оньк- (-onk-), -ечк- (-yechk-), -ушк (-ushk), as illustrated by the examples below. This form generally emphasizes tender, affectionate attitude, roughly analogous to German suffixes -chen and -lein, Japanese -chan and -tan, as well as affectionate name-derived nicknames in other languages. It is often used to address children or intimate friends.

Within a more official context, this form may be combined with honorific plural to address a younger female colleague.

Full form of first name (Cyrillic typing) Full form of first name (Latin typing) Short form (Cyrillic typing) Short form (Latin typing) Diminutive form (Cyrillic typing) Diminutive form (Latin typing)
Анна Anna Аня Anya Анечка Anyechka
Виктор Viktor Витя Vitya Витенька Viteneka
Дмитрий Dmitry Дима Dima Димочка Dimochka
Ольга Olga Оля Olya Оленька Olyenka
Степан Stepan Стёпа Styopa Степочка Styopochka

Colloquial diminutives

In Soviet movie Чапаев ("Chapaev") Анка-Пулемётчица (Anka the Machine Gunner) is depicted as bold, active and resolute girl who takes part in Civil War shoulder to shoulder with her male comrades-in-arms. In this case, Анка (Anka) is vernacular variant of the name Anna which emphasizes "being one of the guys".

Colloquial diminutives are derived from short names by means of -к- ("-k-") suffix. Expressing a highly familiar attitude, it may be considered rude or even pejorative outside of friendly context.

Full form of first name (Cyrillic typing) Full form of first name (Latin typing) Short form (Cyrillic typing) Short form (Latin typing) Colloquial diminutive form (Cyrillic typing) Colloquial diminutive form (Latin typing)
Анна Anna Аня Anya Анька Aneka
Виктор Viktor Витя Vitya Витька Viteka
Дмитрий Dmitry Дима Dima Димка Dimka
Ольга Olga Оля Olya Олька Oleka
Степан Stepan Стёпа Styopa Стёпка Styopka

Slang forms

Колян (Kolyan), a character in the sitcom Реальные пацаны (Realeniye patsany, The Real Guys). Kolyan shows to viewers the ridiculous sides of gopniks - special social class of Russian society which has some common features with London cockney in their social life.

Slang forms only exist for male names, being produced though suffixes -ян (-yan), -он (-on), and -ок/ёк (-ok/yok). These suffixes give off the sense of "male brotherhood" once expressed by patronymic-only form of address in Soviet Union. Originating in criminal communities, these forms came into wide usage in Russia in the 1990s.

Full form of first name (Cyrillic) Full form of first name (Latin) Short form (Cyrillic) Short form (Latin) Slang form (Cyrillic) Slang form (Latin)
Анатолий Anatoly Толя Tolya Толян Tolyan
Николай Nikolay Коля Kolya Колян Kolyan
Дмитрий Dmitry Дима Dima Димон Dimon
Владимир Vladimir Вова Vova Вован Vovan
Александр Alexander Саша Sasha Санёк Sanyok

Given names derivation in Early Soviet Union

During the days of revolutionary enthusiasm, as part of the campaign to rid Russia of bourgeois culture, there was a drive to invent new, revolutionary names. As a result, a large number of Soviet children were given unusual or atypical names. Commonly the sources were initialisms.

Ksenya Kimovna Borodina, the TV presenter of reality show Dom-2. Her patronymic "Kimovna" refers to the name of her father "Kim" which is atypical for East European languages and is the initialism from the phrase Коммунистический интернационал молодёжи (Kommunistichesky Internatsional Molodyozhi, "Youth Communist International").
Name (Cyrillic typing) Name transliteration (Latin typing) Origin Comments
Вил, Вилен, Владлен, Владлена Vil, Vilen, Vladlen (m) / Vladlene (f) Владимир Ильич Ленин (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin) -
Мэл(c) Mel(s) Маркс, Энгельс, Ленин Сталин) (Marx, Engels, Lenin (and Stalin)) -
Баррикада Barricade - Refers to the revolutionary activity
Ревмир, Ревмира Revmir (m) / Revmira (f) Революция мира (Revolyutsiya mira) Means "The revolution of the World"
Гертруда Gertrude Герой труда (Geroy truda) Means "The Hero of Labour"
Марлен Marlene Маркс и Ленин (Marx and Lenin) -
Стэн Stan Сталин и Энгельс (Stalin and Engels) -
Ким Kim Коммунистический интернационал молодёжи (Kommunistichesky Internatsional Molodyozhi) Youth Communist International



The patronymic name is based on the first name of the father and is written in all legal and identity documents. If used with the first name, the patronymic always follows it.


The signature of the Great Prince Dmitry Donskoy: "by Great Prince Dmitry Ivanovich".

The patronymic is formed by a combination of the father's name and suffixes. The suffix -ович (-ovich) is used for son, suffix -овна (-ovna) - for daughter. For example, if the father's name was Иван (Ivan), then the patronymic will be Иванович (Ivanovich) for a son, and Ивановна (Ivanovna) for a daughter. The standard rules for suffix formation on patronymics do have some exceptions, including:

  • if the suffix is being appended to a name ending in ("y") or a soft consonant, the initial o in the suffixes -ович (-ovich) and -овна (-ovna) becomes a е ("ye"), and the suffixes transform themselves into -евич (-yevich) and -евна (-yevna). For example, if the father was Дмитрий (Dmitry), then the patronymic will be Дмитриевич (Dmitrievich) for a son and Дмитриевна (Dmitrievna) for a daughter, but not Дмитрович (Dmitrovich) or Дмитровна(Dmitrovna), because the name Дмитрий (Dmitry) ends on "й" ("y");
  • for some names ending in a vowel the suffix is -ич (-ich) for a son and -ична (-ichna) or -инична (-inichna) for a daughter;
  • the patronymic for Яков (Yakov) is Яковлевич (Yakovlevich, male) or Яковлевна (Yakovlevna, female).
  • in the Ukrainian language the female patronymic is more likely to end with -iвна (-ivna) rather than -евна (-evna).


Father's name (Cyrillic typing) Father's name (Latin typing) Patronym for son (Cyrillic typing) Patronym for son (Latin typing) Patronym for daughter (Cyrillic typing) Patronym for daughter (Latin typing)
Анатолий Anatoly Анатольевич Anatolyevich Анатольевна Anatolyevna
Иван Ivan Иванович Ivanovich Ивановна Ivanovna
Владимир Vladimir Владимирович Vladimirovich Владимировна Vladimirovna
Дмитрий Dmitry Дмитриевич Dmitriyevich Дмитриевна Dmitriyevna
Николай Nikolay Николаевич Nikolayevich Николаевна Nikolayevna
Яков Yakov Яковлевич Yakovlevich Яковлевна Yakovlevna
Лев Lev Львович Levovich Львовна Levovna
Илья Ilya Ильич Ilyich Ильинична Ilyinichna
Савва Savva Саввич Savvich Саввична Savvichna
Владислав Vladislav Владиславович Vladislavovich Владиславовна Vladislavovna
Олег Oleg Олегович Olegovich Олеговна Olegovna
Константин Constantin Константинович Constantinovich Константиновна Constantinovna

Historical grounds

The name Rurik on a Viking Age runestone. All the kings of Rus' had the patronymic Ruerikovichi.

Historical Russian naming convention did not include surname, a person's name consisting of their and their father's name, e.g. Иван Петров сын (Ivan, son of Peter), later giving rise to most Russian -ov surnames. Modern -ovich- patronyms were originally a feature of the royal dynasty (Рюриковичи, Ruerikovichi, Rurikids), that makes the Russian patronym in its original meaning being similar to German von. As from the 17th century, the second name with suffix -ович (-ovich) was the privilege given by tsar to commoners. For example, in 1610, tsar Vasili IV gave to the Stroganovs who were merchants the privilege to use patronyms. As the tribute for developing of salt industry in Siberia he let Pyotr Stroganov and all his issue to have and write the name with -ovich. The tsar wrote in the chart dated by May 29, literally: "... to write him with ovich, to try [him] in Moscow only, not to fee [him] by other fees, not to kiss a cross by himself [which means not to swear during any processions]"[2] In the 18th century, Stroganovs were the only family of merchants who had patronyms. By the 19th century, -ovich- form eventually became the default form of a patronymic.

Legal basis

Everyone in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is supposed to have a tripartite name. Foreigners who adopt Russian citizenship are able not to have the patronym. Nowadays, an adult person is entitled to legally change their patronymic if necessary[3] for any reason, for instance in order to alienate from the biological father (or show respect for the adopted one) as well as to decide the same for their underage child.

Family name (surname)

Family names generally function in the same manner that English family names do.

Derivation and meaning

Eastern-Slavonic languages being rather synthetic languages than analytic languages use special linguistic tools to make a surname. In Russian, these are suffixes -ов (-ov), -ев (-yev) or -ский (-sky) meaning "belonging to". For example, Медведев (Medvedev) conveys (but not equal to) belonging to bear, Разумовский (Razumovsky) conveys (but not equal to) belonging to mind etc. Ukrainian and Belorussian languages use a few other suffixes which convey the same sense; generally these are suffixes -ко (-ko), -ук (-uk), and -ич (-ych). For example, the sense of the surname Писаренко (Pisarenko) conveys (but not equal to) belonging to scribe, Ковальчук (Kovalchuk) - belonging to smith etc.

The general cases are described above, but sometimes the special models are used to make a surname. For example, the surname Лебедь (Lebed') being pure Slavonic means literally "swan" and lost its possessive sense.

Double surnames like Иванов-Петров (Ivanov-Petrov) are allowed as well, but are rare.

Grammar comments

The Coat of Arms of the Романовы (Romanovs), the last Russian royal dynasty. The surname Романов (Romanov) conveys belonging to Roman (name).

Eastern Slavonic languages are synthetic languages. The feature of the last are grammar cases and grammar gender. Unlike analytic languages which use prepositions (like "to", "at", "on" etc. in English) to convey the links and relations between words in a sentence, suffixes are used much more broadly rather than prepositions. It means that it is required to change the word with the help of some suffix to integrate it into the sentence and to build a grammatically correct sentence. Names are not the exceptions (in contradistinction to the German language which uses grammar cases and grammar genders too, but makes an exception for names due to its less synthetic nature). Family names are declined basing on the Slavonic case system.

As with all Slavic adjectives, family names have different forms depending on gender — for example, the wife of Борис Ельцин (Boris Yel'tsin) is Наина Ельцина (Naina Yel'tsina). The only surnames with neutral grammatical gender are non-changing (surnames which ends on -енко (-yenko) for example.)

Note that this change of grammatical gender 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).

Let's consider the phenomenon described above using the example of Иванов (Ivanov), a surname:

Grammar case Example of question Masculine form, Cyrillic typing Masculine form, Latin typing Feminine form, Cyrillic typing Feminine form, Latin typing
Nominative Who? Иванов Ivanov Иванова Ivanova
Genitive [to bear] Whom? Иванова Ivanova Ивановой Ivanovoy
Dative To whom? Иванову Ivanovu Ивановой Ivanovoy
Accusative Whom? Иванова Ivanova Иванову Ivanovu
Instrumental By whom? Ивановым Ivanovym Ивановой Ivanovoy
Locative (Prepositional) About whom? Иванове Ivanove Ивановой Ivanovoy

Social features

  • family names 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.
  • in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -off was a common transliteration of -ov when spelling Russian surnames in foreign languages such as French (e.g., the Smirnoff brand or the Davidoff brand.)

Cross-cultural communication

Germanization of East Slavonic names

Joseph Stalin with his daughter Svetlana. After immigration to the USA, she simplified her name to "Lana" which sounds like other American names. "Lana" is not a short form for the name "Svetlana" in Eastern European languages.

When translating Russian-styled names into English, the patronymic is not equivalent to an English middle name. While translating into English, 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). The variants like "Vladimir V. Putin" may be considered as suitable as well.

Slavicization of foreign names with no patronyms

Accordingly, the law, foreign persons who adopt Russian citizenship may have patronymic or not to have it.[4] Hence, there are non-Slavonic patronymics as well. For example, Irina Hakamada, a Russian politician whose father was Japanese, has a patronymic Муцуовна (Mutsuovna) since her father's given name was Mutsuo. The ethnicity of origin generally remains recognizable in russified names.

Bruno Pontecorvo, after he emigrated to the USSR, was known as Бруно Максимович Понтекорво (Bruno Maximovich 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 (Jil' Brunovich Pontecorvo), Антонио Брунович Понтекорво (Antonio Brunovich Pontecorvo) and Тито Брунович Понтекорво (Tito Brunovich Pontekorvo).

Vic Ivan Wild, the Olympic champion on slalom who adopted Russian citizenship beside his US citizenship, uses the slavicized form of his name Виктор Иванович Уайлд (Viktor Ivanovich Wild), with his second name forming the basis of his adopted patronymic.

Such conversion of foreign names is unofficial and optional in many cases of communication and translation.

Slavicization of foreign names with patronyms of other forms

Some Turkic languages also use patronymics, formed using the Turkic word meaning 'son' or 'daughter'. These languages were official in the countries which were in Russian Empire firstly and USSR later caused the necessity to sort these patronyms with Slavonic patronyms.

For example, Kazakh ұлы (ûlı; transcribed into English as -ulı, as in Nursultan Äbishulı Nazarbayev) or Azeri оглы/оғлу (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.)

Forms of address

Common rules

The common rules are the further:

  • the full three-name form (for instance, Иван Иванович Петров, Ivan Ivanovich Petrov) is used in official documents only. Everyone in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is supposed to have three names.
  • the form "first name + patronymic" (for instance, Иван Иванович, Ivan Ivanovich):
    • is the feature of official communication (for instance, students in schools and universities call their teachers in the form of "first name + patronymic" only);
    • may convey the speaker's respect for the recipient. Historically patronymic was the feature of the royal dynasty only (Рюриковичи, Ruerikovichi)
  • the surname only (Петров, Petrov) is used in formal communications, but much more rare. One instance where it is used commonly is by school teachers towards their students. There's some trend in informal Russian to call a recipient with his/her surname expressing the irony as well.
  • for informal communication two names are usually omitted and only the first name is used (for instance, Иван, Ivan). In the more informal registers, a diminutive (of which several can be formed from one name) is often used. In rural areas the patronymic name only (for instance, Петрович, Petrovich, Ивановна, Ivanovna) is used by aged people for informal communication between themselves, sometimes young people use such form expressing the irony.

The choice of addressing format is closely linked to the choice of second-person pronoun. Russian language distinguishes between:

  • informal ты (ty, "you");
  • formal вы (vy, "you"). Respectful Вы ("Vy", "You") may be capitalized, while plural вы ("vy", "you") is not.

Вы ("Vy") also being the plural of both forms, used to address a pair or group. Historically that feature was borrowed from German during the Peter the Great age (the full analogue is German addressing format "du - Sie".) Excluding the usage of patronymics, forms of address in Russian are very similar to the English ones.


Other Eastern Slavonic languages use the same adjectives of their literal translation, if they differ from Russian analogue. All the Eastern Slavonic languages are synthetic languages: therefore the grammar genders are used, which implies that the suffix of an adjective varies dependently on the sex of the recipient.

In Russian, adjectives before name are generally restricted to written forms of communication. Adjectives like Любимый / Любимая (lyubimiy / lyubimaya, "beloved") and Милый / Милая (miliy / milaya, "sweetheart") are informal, while Уважаемый / Уважаемая (uvazhayemiy / uvazhayemaya, literally "respected") is highly formal. Some adjectives, like Дорогой / Дорогая (dorogoy / dorogaya, "dear"), can be used in both formal and informal letters.

See also


Specific references:

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^

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»
    • Commentaries
      • Комментарии Е. В. Балановской, руководителя работы.
      • Комментарии в.н.с. лаборатории популяционной генетики человека МГНЦ РАМН Олега Балановского.
      • Комментарии н.с. лаборатории популяционной генетики человека МГНЦ РАМН Андрея Пшеничного.

External links

  • ; discussion of patronymics; also interesting historical exceptions to the current patternDictionary of Russian NamesPaul Goldschmidt's
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