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Why Are Russian Names So Long?

27. September 2010 by Michelle 0 Comments

Introduce yourself to OlgaAn!

Russian names are typically comprised of three parts. As with most cultures, the first name, or given name, is chosen by the parents. They mostly originate from two sources: Orthodox church tradition like Saint’s names, and native pre-Christian Slavic names like Vladimir, Nadia, Slava, etc.


Some of the most common Russian women’s names are Elena, Olga, Anna, Svetlana, and Natalia. Name specialists predict the traditional girls’ name Olympiada will become popular again during the next few years due to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.


Patronymic Name

The second part, which some may consider the middle name, is called the patronymic name, since it is derived from the father’s name. Boys’ patronymic names end in either –evich or –ovich (meaning “son of”), while Russian girls’ middle names end with -ovna or -evna (meaning “daughter of”). So, if her father’s name is Mikhail, her patronymic name will be Mikhailovna. Ukrainian girls’ middle names end in -ivna, rather than -ovna/-evna.


Family Name

Russian last names, also known as family names or surnames, were first given during the census of 1897. Like patronymic names, they were derived from the father. For example, if the father’s name was Peter, the surname assigned to the family would be Petrov. Last names take different forms based on gender as well, so daughters of Peter would have the surname of Petrova or Petrovina.


Some of the most popular Russian surnames are Smirnov (“quiet man’s”), Ivanov (“John’s”), Kuznetsov (“smith’s”), Popov (“preist’s”), and Sokolov (“falcon’s”). Last names that end in -enko are originally from Ukraine.



When translating Russian names into English, it’s important to remember that the patronymic is not equivalent to an English middle name and follows different abbreviation rules. The patronymic name can be omitted, such as Anna Kournikova; both the first name and patronymic can be written out completely, such as Anna Sergeyevna Kournikova; or they both can be abbreviated, such as A. S. Kournikova. However, writing out the first name and abbreviating the patronymic, such as Anna S. Kournikova, is incorrect.


What’s the Proper Way to Address Russian Brides?

When in Russia or Ukraine, the most polite and formal way to address people is by using both their first and patronymic names. There is no way to identify a Russian woman’s marital status by a title such as Mrs., Ms., or Miss. While it was unusual in the Soviet era to refer to Russian ladies as Mrs., followed by their family name, it is more acceptable now but is only used to show respect.


Family and friends who know each other well often use the short, intimate form of the first name, by adding suffixes like -enka, -echka, -ochka, -ushka, and -yusha.


In the beginning, Russian brides may share only their first names, and then reveal the rest as you get to know each other. Your best bet is to politely ask them what they prefer to be called, and perhaps share some of your acquired knowledge about Russian names!