Eastern Slavic naming customs

A Russian citizen's (Yevgeniy Aleksandrovitch Imyarek) internal passport. The lower page includes the lines: Фамилия ("Family name"), Имя ("Name") and Отчество ("Patronymic").

Eastern Slavic naming customs are the traditional way of identifying a person's given name and patronymic name in Russia and some countries formerly part of the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union.

They are commonly used in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and to an extent in Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. It is named after the East Slavic languages group that the Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian languages belong to. They are also found occasionally in the Balkans among older generations.

NameBelarusian exampleRussian exampleUkrainian example
First name (given name)Belarusian: Уладзімір, romanizedUladzimirRussian: Владимир, romanizedVladimirUkrainian: Володимир, romanizedVolodymyr
PatronymicBelarusian: Антонавіч, romanizedAntonavichRussian: Антонович, romanizedAntonovichUkrainian: Антонович, romanizedAntonovych
Family name (surname)Belarusian: Іваноў, romanizedIvanoŭRussian: Иванов, romanizedIvanovUkrainian: Іванів, romanizedIvaniv

Given names

Eastern Slavic parents select a given name for a newborn child. Most first names in East Slavic languages originate from two sources:

Almost all first names are single. Doubled first names (as in, for example, French, like Jean-Luc) are very rare and are from foreign influence. Most doubled first names are written with a hyphen: Mariya-Tereza.


Belarusian variantRussian variantUkrainian variantLatin-alphabet transliteration[note 1]
(Belarusian / Russian / Ukrainian)
Іван, ЯнИванІван, ЯнIvan, Jan / Ivan / IvanHebrewequivalent to John
Якуб, ЯкаўИаков, ЯковЯківYakub, Yakau / Iakov, Yakov / YakivHebrewequivalent to James or Jacob
ІлляИльяІлляIlla / Ilia / IlliaHebrewequivalent to Elijah
Мікалай, МіколаНиколайМиколаMikałaj, Mikoła / Nikolai / Mykola, MykolaiGreekequivalent to Nicholas, meaning "Victory (of the) People"
БарысБорисБорисBarys / Boris / BorysBulgarunclear, possibly "wolf", "short" or "snow leopard"
УладзімірВладимирВолодимирUładzimir / Vladimir / VolodymyrSlavonicmeaning "great/famous lord" ( -мир comes from мѣръ and is not related to міръ or миръ, see also the name's etymology)
Пётр, Пятро, ПятрусьПётрПетроPiotr, Piatro, Piatru / Petr, Pyotr / PetroGreekequivalent to Peter
АндрэйАндрейАндрійAndrej / Andrei / AndriyGreekequivalent to Andrew
АляксандрАлександрОлександр, ОлексаAlaksandr / Aleksandr / Oleksandr, OleksaGreekequivalent to Alexander
ПіліпФилиппПилипPilip / Filipp / PylypGreekfrom Greek Φίλιππος (Phílippos), meaning "fond of horses". Equivalent to Philip.
Дзмітры, ЗміцерДмитрийДмитроDzmitry, Zmicier / Dmitrii / DmytroGreekfrom Greek Δημήτριος (Demétrios), meaning "of Demeter"
СяргейСергейСергійSiarhiej / Sergei / SerhiiLatinfrom the Roman nomen (patrician family name) Sergius, itself from a more ancient Etruscan name
Леанід, ЛявонЛеонидЛеонідLeanid, Lavon / Leonid / LeonidGreekfrom Greek Leonidas, meaning "Son of the Lion"
ВіктарВикторВікторViktar / Viktor / ViktorLatinmeaning "Conqueror"
ГеоргійГеоргийГеоргiйHieorhij / Georgii / HeorhiiGreekthe analogues are Егор (Yegor), Юрий (Yury), equivalent to George
Павел, Павал, ПаўлоПавелПавлоPavał, Paŭło / Pavel / PavloLatinequivalent to Paul
Канстанцін, КастусьКонстантинКостянтинKanstancin, Kastuś / Konstantin / KostiantynLatinequivalent to Constantine
Кірыл, КірылаКириллКирилоKirył, Kiryła / Kirill / KyryloGreekequivalent to Cyril
Васіль, БазыльВасилийВасильVasiĺ, Bazyl / Vasilii / VasylGreekequivalent to Basil
РаманРоманРоманRaman / Roman / RomanLatin-
УладзіслаўВладиславВладиславUladzisłaŭ / Vladislav / VladyslavSlavonicmeaning "Lord of Fame"
ВячаслаўВячеславВ'ячеславViačasłaŭ / Viacheslav / ViacheslavSlavonicmeaning "Growing Fame"
Матвей, МацвейМатвейМатвійMatviej, Macviej / Matvei / MatviiHebrewequivalent to Matthew
Міхал, МіхасьМихаилМихайлоMichał, Michaś / Mikhail / MykhailoHebrewequivalent to Michael
АлегОлегОлегAleh / Oleg / OlehOld Norsederivative from Scandinavian "Helgi"
ІгарИгорьІгорIhar / Igor / IhorOld Norsederivative from Scandinavian "Ingvar"
МаксімМаксимМаксимMaksim / Maksim / MaksymLatinmeaning "Greatest"
ФёдарФёдорФедiрFiodar / Fedor / FedirGreekequivalent to Theodor
ЗахарЗахарЗахарZachar / Zakhar / ZakharHebrewmeaning "Remembered”
АляксейАлексейОлексійAlaksej / Aleksei / OleksiiGreekmeaning "Defender”
МакарМакарМакарMakar / Makar / MakarGreekmeaning "Blessed”
  1. ^ The same romanization system is used for all three languages for comparative purposes. For the official romanization systems Of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian, which will be used throughout the rest of the article, see romanization of Russian, romanization of Ukrainian, and romanization of Belarusian, respectively.


Belarusian variantRussian variantUkrainian variantLatin-alphabet transliteration
(Belarusian / Russian / Ukrainian)
Настасся, НастаАнастасияАнастасіяNastassia, Nasta / Anastasiya / AnastasiiaGreekfrom Greek Ἀναστασία (Anastasia) meaning "she of the Resurrection"
АнгелінаАнгелинаАнгелінаAnhelina / Angelina / AnhelinaGreekFrom Greek Ἀγγελίνα (Angelina) meaning "messenger"
ГаннаАннаАнна, ГаннаHanna / Anna / Anna, HannaHebrewequivalent to Anne or Hannah
АленаЕлена, АлёнаOленaAlena / Yelena, Alyona / OlenaGreekequivalent to Helen; in Russian Alyona can be both a pet version of Yelena and a name in its own right
МарыяМарияМаріяMaryja / Mariya / MariiaHebrewequivalent to Mary
НаталляНаталья, НаталияНаталя, НаталіяNatalla / Natalya / Natalia, NataliiaLatinequivalent to Natalie
ВольгаОльгаОльгаVolha / Olga / OlhaOld Norsederivative from Scandinavian Helga
АляксандраАлександраОлександраAlaksandra / Aleksandra / OleksandraGreekequivalent to Alexandra
Ксенія, АксанаКсенияОксанаKsienija, Aksana / Kseniya / OksanaGreekin Russian, Oksana is a separate name of the same origin
КацярынаЕкатеринаКатеринаKaciaryna / Yekaterina / KaterynaGreekequivalent to Catherine
ЛізаветаЕлизаветаЄлизаветаLizaveta / Yelizaveta / YelyzavetaHebrewequivalent to Elizabeth
Тацяна, ТаццянаТатьянаТетянаTacciana / Tatyana / TetianaLatinderivative from the Latinized name of the Sabine king Titus Tatius
ЛюдмілаЛюдмилаЛюдмилаLudmila / Lyudmila / LiudmylaSlavonicmeaning "Dear to the People"
СвятланаСветланаСвітланаSviatłana / Svetlana / SvitlanaSlavonicmeaning "The Shining One"
ЮліяЮлияЮліяJulija / Yuliya / JuliiaLatinequivalent to Julia or Julie
ВераВераВіраVera / Vera / ViraSlavonicmeaning "Faith"; a calque of the Greek Πίστη
НадзеяНадеждаНадіяNadzeja / Nadezhda / NadiiaSlavonicmeaning "Hope"; a calque of the Greek Ἐλπίς
ЛюбоўЛюбовьЛюбовLuboŭ / Lyubov / LiubоvSlavonicmeaning "Love"; a calque of the Greek Ἀγάπη
Соф'яСофия, СофьяСофіяSofja / Sofiya, Sofya / SofiiaGreekequivalent to Sophia, meaning "Wisdom".


Being highly synthetic languages, Eastern Slavic treats personal names as grammatical nouns and apply the same rules of inflection and derivation to them as for other nouns. So one can create many forms with different degrees of affection and familiarity by adding the corresponding suffixes to the auxiliary stem derived from the original name. The auxiliary stem may be identical to the word stem of the full name (the full name Жанна Zhanna can have the suffixes added directly to the stem Жанн- Zhann- like Жанночка Zhannochka), and most names have the auxiliary stem derived unproductively (the Russian 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, in which the use of diminutive forms is optional even between close friends, in East Slavonic languages, such forms are obligatory in certain contexts because of the strong T–V distinction: the T-form of address usually requires the 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 mostly limited to the T-addressing: 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 formExampleFormationComments
FullАнна (Anna)full name stem + case ending-
ShortАня (Anya)short name stem + II declension endingmost common for informal communication, comparable to Western name-only form of address (Ann, John), or Japanese surname-only, or surname/name -kun
DiminutiveАнька (Anka)short name stem + -к- -k- + II declension endingexpresses familiarity, may be considered rude when used between people who are not close friends. Comparable to English diminutives (Annie, Willy) or Japanese unsuffixed names
Affective diminutiveАнечка (Anyechka)short name stem + -ечк/очк/оньк/усь/юсь/уль/юль- -echk/ochk/on'k/us/yus/ul/yul- + II declension endingmost intimate and affectionate form, comparable to German diminutives (Ännchen) or Japanese -chan suffixes

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, his wife addressed him as Nicki, in the German manner, rather than Коля (Kolya), which is the East Slavic short form of his name.

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

Some names, such as Zhanna (Jeana) and Mark have no short forms, and others may have two (or more) different forms. In the latter case, one form is usually more informal than the other.

Full name (Cyrillic script)Full name (Latin script)Short forms (Cyrillic)Short forms (Latin)
АлександрAleksandr (m)Саша, Саня, Шура, ukr. Сашко, ЛесьSasha, Sanya, Shura, ukr. Sashko, Les
АлександраAleksandra (f)Саша, Шура, ukr. ЛесяSasha, Shura, ukr. Lesia
АлексейAleksey (m)Алёша, ЛёшаAlyosha, Lyosha
АнастасияAnastasia (f)Настя, СтасяNastya, Stasya (rare)
АнатолийAnatoly (m)ТоляTolya
АндрейAndrey (m)Андрюша, Дюша, АндряAndryusha, Dyusha, Andrya (rare)
АннаAnna (f)Аня, Анюта, Нюта, НюшаAnya, Anyuta, Nyuta, Nyusha
БорисBoris (m)БоряBorya
ДавидDavid (m)ДаваDava
ДаниилDaniil (m)Данила, ДаняDanila, Danya
ДарьяDarya (f)ДашаDasha
ДмитрийDmitry (m)Дима, МитяDima, Mitya
ГалинаGalina (f)ГаляGalya
ГеннадийGennady (m)ГенаGena
ГеоргийGeorgy (m)Гоша, ЖораGosha, Zhora
ГригорийGrigory (m)ГришаGrisha
ИванIvan (m)ВаняVanya
ИммануилImmanuil (m)МоняMonya
ИринаIrina (f)ИраIra
КириллKirill (m)Кира, КиряKira, Kirya
КонстантинKonstantin (m)КостяKostya
КсенияKsenya (f)КсюшаKsyusha
ЛарисаLarisa (f)Лара, ЛёляLara, Lyolya (rare)
ЛеонидLeonid (m)ЛёняLyonya
ЛевLev (m)ЛёваLyova
ЛидияLidiya (f)ЛидаLida
ЛюбовьLyubov' (f)ЛюбаLyuba
ЛюдмилаLyudmila (f)Люда, Люся, МилаLyuda, Lyusya, Meela (rare)
МарияMariya (f)Маша, Маня, Маруся, Машуля, Машенька, Марийка, Маняша, МарічкаMasha, Manya, Marusya, Mashulya, Mashеnka, Mariyka, Manyasha (rare), Marichka (ukr.)
МатвейMatvey (m)МотяMotya
МихаилMihail (m)МишаMisha
НадеждаNadezhda (f)НадяNadya
НатальяNatalya (f)НаташаNatasha
НиколайNikolay (m)КоляKolya
ОльгаOlga (f)ОляOlya
ПавелPavel (m)Паша, ПавликPasha, Pavlik
ПолинаPolina (f)Поля, ЛинаPolya, Lina (rare)
ПётрPyotr (m)ПетяPetya
РоманRoman (m)РомаRoma
СемёнSemyon (m)СёмаSyoma
СергейSergey (m)СерёжаSeryozha
СофияSofia, Sofya (f)Соня, СофаSonya, Sofa
СветланаSvetlana (f)Света, ЛанаSveta, Lana
СтаниславStanislav (m)СтасStas, Stanko
ТамараTamara (f)ТомаToma
ТатьянаTatyana (f)ТаняTanya
ВадимVadim (m)Вадик, ДимаVadik, Dima (rare)
Валентин / ВалентинаValentin (m) / Valentina (f)ВаляValya
ВалерийValery (m)ВалераValera
ВалерияValeriya (f)ЛераLera
ВасилийVasily (m)ВасяVasya
ВикторViktor (m)ВитяVitya
ВикторияViktoriya (f)ВикаVika
ВладимирVladimir (m)Вова, ВолодяVova, Volodya
Владислав, ВладиславаVladislav (m), Vladislava (f)Влад, ВладаVlad, Vlada
ВячеславVyacheslav (m)СлаваSlava
ЯрославYaroslav (m)ЯрикYarik
ЕленаYelena (f)Лена, АлёнаLena, Alyona
ЕлизаветаYelizaveta (f)ЛизаLiza
ЕкатеринаYekaterina (f)КатяKatya
Евгений / ЕвгенияYevgeniy (m) / Yevgeniya (f)ЖеняZhenya
ЮлияYuliya (f)ЮляYulya
ЮрийYury (m)ЮраYura
ЯковYakov (m)ЯшаYasha

Diminutive forms

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

Diminutive forms are produced from the "short name" by means of various suffixes; for example, Михаил Mikhail (full) – Миша Misha (short) – Мишенька Mishenka (affectionate) – Мишка Mishka (colloquial). If no "short name" exists, then diminutive forms are produced from the full form of the respective first name; for example, Марина Marina (full) – Мариночка Marinochka (affectionate) – Маринка Marinka (colloquial). Unlike the full name, a diminutive name carries a particular emotional attitude and may be unacceptable in certain contexts. Depending on the nature of the attitude, diminutive name forms can be subdivided into 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. It generally emphasises a tender, affectionate attitude and is roughly analogous to German suffixes -chen, -lein, Japanese -chan and -tan and 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 the honorific plural to address a younger female colleague.

Full formShort formDiminutive form
Colloquial diminutives
In the Soviet film Чапаев Анка-Пулемётчица (Anka the Machine Gunner) is depicted as a bold, active, and resolute girl who takes part in the Russian Civil War, shoulder-to-shoulder with her male comrades-in-arms. In this case, Анка (Anka) is a colloquial diminutive of the name Anna, emphasizing that she is "one of the guys".

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

Full formShort formColloquial diminutive form
Slang forms
(c) Mikhail Popov, CC BY-SA 3.0
Колян (Kolyan), a character in the sitcom Реальные пацаны (Realnye patsany, Real Guys). Kolyan shows viewers the ridiculous side of the life of gopniks, a social group similar in many ways to British chavs.

Slang forms exist for male names and, since a few decades ago, female names. They are formed with the suffixes -ян (-yan), -он (-on), and -ок/ёк (-ok/yok). The suffixes give the sense of "male brotherhood" that was once expressed by the patronymic-only form of address in the Soviet Union. Originating in criminal communities, such forms came into wide usage in Russia in the 1990s.

Full formShort formSlang form

Early Soviet Union

During the days of the October Revolution, as part of the campaign to rid Russia of bourgeois culture, there was a drive to invent new, revolutionary names. As a result, many Soviet children were given atypical names, often being acronyms/initialisms besides many other names above.

Ksenya Kimovna Borodina, presenter of the TV reality show Dom-2. Her patronymic, "Kimovna", refers to the name of her father, "Kim", which is atypical for East European languages and is an acronym of Коммунистический интернационал молодёжи (Kommunistichesky Internatsional Molodyozhi, "Young Communist International").
Name (Cyrillic)Name (Latin)OriginComments
Вил, Вилен, Владлен, ВладленаVil, Vilen, Vladlen (m) / Vladlene (f)Владимир Ильич Ленин (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin)-
Мэл(c)Mel(s)Маркс, Энгельс, Ленин Сталин) (Marx, Engels, Lenin (and Stalin))-
БаррикадаBarrikada-"Barricade" - refers to the revolutionary activity
Ревмир, РевмираRevmir (m) / Revmira (f)Революция мира (Revolyutsiya mira)Means "The World Revolution"
ГертрудаGertrudaГерой труда (Geroy truda)Means "The Hero of Labour"
МарленMarlenМаркс и Ленин (Marx and Lenin)-
СтэнStenСталин и Энгельс (Stalin and Engels)-
КимKimКоммунистический интернационал молодёжи (Kommunistichesky Internatsional Molodyozhi)Means "Young 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 patronymic name is obligatory when addressing a person of higher social stance and/or on special occasions such as business meetings; for example, when a pupil addresses a teacher, they are obliged to use both first and patronymic names – Russian: Марья Ивановна, могу я спросить..., lit.'Marya Ivanovna, may I ask...'. Not using patronymic names in such situations is considered offensive.[1]

Addressing a person by patronymic name only is widespread among older generations (more often – "blue collar"-male coworkers) and serves as a display of close relationship based on not only sympathy but also mutual responsibility.[2]


NameMasculine patronymFeminine patronym

The patronymic is formed by a combination of the father's name and suffixes. The suffix is -ович (-ovich) for a son, -овна (-ovna) – for a daughter. For example, if the father's name was Иван (Ivan), the patronymic will be Иванович (Ivanovich) for a son and Ивановна (Ivanovna) for a daughter.

If the suffix is being appended to a name ending in a й ("y") or a soft consonant, the initial o in the suffixes -ович (-ovich) and -овна (-ovna) becomes a е ("ye") and the suffixes change to -евич (-yevich) and -евна (-yevna). For example, if the father is Дмитрий (Dmitry), the patronymic is Дмитриевич (Dmitrievich) for a son and Дмитриевна (Dmitrievna) for a daughter. It is 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; for example, Фока Foka (father's first name) – Фокич Fokich (male patronymic) – Фокична Fokichna (female patronymic); Кузьма Kuzma (father's first name) – Кузьмич Kuzmich (male patronymic) – Кузьминична Kuzminichna (female patronymic).

Historical grounds

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

Historical Russian naming conventions did not include surnames. A person's name included that of his father: e.g. Иван Петров сын (Ivan Petrov syn) which means "Ivan, son of Peter". That is the origin of most Russian -ov surnames.

Modern -ovich- patronyms were originally a feature of the royal dynasty (Рюриковичи, Ruerikovichi, Rurikids, which makes the East Slavic patronym in its original meaning being similar to German von. From the 17th century, the second name with suffix -ович (-ovich) was the privilege given by the tsar to commoners. For example, in 1610, Tsar Vasili IV gave to the Stroganovs, who were merchants, the privilege to use patronyms. As a tribute for developing the salt industry in Siberia, Pyotr Stroganov and all his issues were allowed to have a name with -ovich. The tsar wrote in the chart dated on 29 May, "... 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]"[3] In the 18th century, it was the family of merchants to have patronyms. By the 19th century, the -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. Single mothers may give their children any patronym, and this does not have any legal consequences. Foreigners who adopt Russian citizenship are exempted from having a patronym. Now, an adult person is entitled to change patronyms if necessary,[4] such as to alienate themselves from the biological father (or to show respect for the adopted one) as well as to decide the same for an underage child.

Family names

Family names are generally used like in English.

Derivation and meaning

In Russian, some common suffixes are -ов (-ov), -ев (-yev), meaning "belonging to" or "of the clan of/descendant of", e.g. Petrov = of the clan of/descendant of Petr (Peter), usually used for patronymic surnames—or -ский (-sky), an adjectival form, meaning "associated with" and usually used for toponymic surnames. Historically, toponymic surnames may have been granted as a token of nobility; for example, the princely surname Shuysky is indicative of the princedom based on the ownership of Shuya. Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski had the victory title 'Tavricheski', as part of his surname, granted to him for the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, -off was a common transliteration of -ov for Russian family names in foreign languages such as French and German (like for the Smirnoff and the Davidoff brands).

Surnames of Ukrainian and Belarusian origin use the suffixes -ко (-ko), -ук (-uk), and -ич (-ych). For example, the family name Писаренко (Pisarenko) is derived from the word for a scribe, and Ковальчук (Kovalchuk) refers to a smith.

Less often, some versions of family names will have no suffix, e.g. Lebed, meaning swan, and Zhuk, meaning beetle (but see also Lebedev and Zhukov).

Hyphenated surnames like Petrov-Vodkin are possible.


The Coat of Arms of the Романовы (Romanovs), the last Russian royal dynasty. The family name Романов (Romanov) means "pertaining to (the name) Roman".

Eastern Slavic languages are synthetic languages and have grammatical cases and grammatical gender. Unlike analytic languages like English, which use prepositions ("to", "at", "on" etc.) to show the links and relations between words in a sentence, Eastern Slavic suffixes are used much more broadly than prepositions. Words need the help of some suffix to integrate them into the sentence and to build a grammatically correct sentence. That includes names, unlike in German. Family names are declined based on the Slavic case system.

The surnames that originally are short (-ov, -ev, -in) or full (-iy/-oy/-yy) Slavic adjectives, have different forms depending on gender: male forms -ov, -ev, -in and -iy/-oy/-yy correspond to female forms -ova, -eva, -ina and -aya, respectively. For example, the wife of Борис Ельцин (Boris Yel'tsin) was Наина Ельцина (Naina Yel'tsina); the wife of Leo Tolstoy was Sophia Tolstaya, etc. All other, i.e. non-adjectival, surnames stay the same for both genders (including surnames ending with -енко (-yenko), -ич (-ich) etc.), unlike in many West Slavic languages, where the non-adjectival surname of men corresponds to derivative feminine adjectival surname (Novák → Nováková). Note the difference between patronymics and surnames ending with -ich: surnames are the same for males and females, but patronymics are gender-dependent (for example, Ivan Petrovich Mirovich and Anna Petrovna Mirovich)

This dependence of grammatical gender of adjectival surname on the gender of its owner is not considered to be changing the surname (compare the equivalent rule in Polish, for example). The correct transliteration of such feminine surnames in English is debated: the names technically should be in their original form, but they sometimes appear in the masculine form.

The example of Иванов (Ivanov), a family name, will be used:

Example of questionMasculine formFeminine form
DativeTo whom?ИвановуIvanovuИвановойIvanovoy
InstrumentalBy whom?ИвановымIvanovymИвановойIvanovoy
Locative (Prepositional)About whom?ИвановеIvanoveИвановойIvanovoy

The surnames which are not grammatically adjectives (Zhuk, Gogol, Barchuk, Kupala etc.) declines in cases and numbers as the corresponding common noun. The exclusion is when a woman has a surname which is grammatically a noun of masculine gender; in such case, the surname is not declined. For example, Ivan and Anna Zhuk in dative case ("to whom?") would be: Ивану Жуку (Ivanu Zhuku), but Анне Жук (Anne Zhuk).

Family names are generally inherited from one's parents. As in English, on marriage, women usually adopt the surname of the husband; the opposite, when the husband adopt the maiden surname of his wife, very rarely occurs. Rarely, both spouses keep their pre-marriage family names. The fourth, very rare but still legal way is the taking a double surname; for example, in marriage of Ivanov (he) and Petrovskaya (she), the spouses may adopt the family name Ivanov-Petrovsky and Ivanova-Petrovskaya, correspondingly.


When names are written in English, the patronymic is not equivalent to an English middle name. When the name is written in English, the patronymic may be omitted with the given name written out in full or abbreviated (Vladimir Putin or V. Putin), both the first name and the patronymic may be written out in full (Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin), both the first name and the patronymic may be abbreviated (V. V. Putin) or the first name may be written out in full with the patronymic abbreviated (Vladimir V. Putin).

Slavicisation of foreign names

By law, foreign persons who adopt Russian citizenship are allowed to have no patronymic.[5] Some adopt non-Slavonic patronymics as well. For example, the Russian politician Irina Hakamada's patronym is Муцуовна (Mutsuovna) because her Japanese father's given name was Mutsuo. The ethnicity of origin generally remains recognizable in Russified names.

Bruno Pontecorvo, after he emigrated to the Soviet Union, was known as Бруно Максимович Понтекорво (Bruno Maximovich Pontekorvo) in the Russian scientific community, as his father's given name was Massimo (corresponding to Russian Максим (Maksim)). His sons have been known by names Джиль Брунович Понтекорво (Gigl Brunovich Pontecorvo), Антонио Брунович Понтекорво (Antonio Brunovich Pontecorvo) and Тито Брунович Понтекорво (Tito Brunovich Pontekorvo).

Such conversion of foreign names is unofficial and often optional.

Some Turkic languages also use patronymics, with the Turkic word meaning 'son' or 'daughter'. The languages were official in the countries in the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union.

For example, Kazakh ұлы (uly; transcribed into Latin script as -uly, as in Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev), Turkmen uly (as in Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow), or Azeri оглы/оғлу (oglu) (as in Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev); Kazakh қызы (transcribed into Latin script as -qyzy, as in Dariga Nursultanqyzy Nazarbayeva). Such Turkic patronymics were officially allowed in the Soviet Union.

Some surnames in those languages have been Russified since the 19th century: the surname of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev has a Russian "-yev" suffix, which literally means "of Nazar-bay" (in which "bay" is a Turkic native noble rank: compare Turkish "bey", Uzbek "beg", and Kyrghyz "bek"). The frequency of such Russification varies greatly by country.

Forms of address

Common rules

  • For informal communication, only the first name is used: Иван Ivan. Even more informally, diminutives (several can be formed from one name) are often used.
  • In rural areas, the patronymic name alone (Петрович Petrovich, Ивановна Ivanovna) is used by old people among themselves, but young people sometimes use the form for irony. Also, younger people can use the form for much older people for both respect and informality. For example, a much younger man with a very good relationship with his elder colleague may use a patronymic and the "ty" form, but using the first name alone is generally inappropriate. Using a diminutive (like in most informal communication) would nearly always be very impolite.
  • The family name alone (Петров, Petrov) is used, much more rarely, in formal communications. It is commonly used by school teachers to address their students. Informally, Russians are starting to call people by their surnames alone for irony.
  • 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, patronymics were reserved for the royal dynasty (Рюриковичи, Ruerikovichi)
  • The full three-name form (for instance, Иван Иванович Петров Ivan Ivanovich Petrov) is used mostly for official documents. Everyone in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is supposed to have three names. This form is also used on some very formal occasions and for introducing oneself to a person who is likely to write down the full name, like a police officer. Then, the family name is often placed first (Петров Иван Иванович, Petrov Ivan Ivanovich).

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

  • formal вы (vy, "you"); respectful Вы ("Vy", "You") may be capitalized in formal correspondence, but plural вы ("vy", "you") is not.
  • informal ты (ty, "you", "thou" in old English);

Вы ("Vy") is the plural of both forms to address a pair or group. Historically, it comes from German, under Peter the Great, which uses "du and Sie" similarly.

Other than the use of patronymics, Russian forms of address in Russian are very similar to English ones.

Also, the meaning of the form of address strongly depends on the choice of a V-T form:

Vy or tyFormMale exampleFemale exampleUse
Using "Vy"Full three-name formAnatoliy Pavlovich IvanovVarvara Mikhailovna KuznetsovaOfficial documents, very formal occasions (when necessary)
First name + patronymicAnatoliy PavlovichVarvara MikhailovnaGeneral formal or respectful form
SurnameIvanovKuznetsovaFormal. Often used by a person of a higher social position (like a teacher talking to a student)
Informal first name + informal patronymicTol' PalychVarvara MikhalnaRespectful but less formal
Full first nameAnatoliyVarvara
Diminutive first nameTolyaVaryaFriendly but still somewhat formal
Affectionate first nameVarechkaUsed almost exclusively towards women, showing fondness but still keeping some formality (like to a younger colleague)
Using "Ty"First name + patronymicAnatoliy PavlovichVarvara MikhailovnaCan be used between friends on semi-formal occasions or ironically
Informal patronymicPalychMikhalnaCombining familiarity and respect
SurnameIvanovKuznetsovaSimilar in use to a "vy" form but less formal
Full first nameAnatoliyVarvaraFriendly but with a tone of formality. If the name has no diminutive form (Yegor), also used informally
Diminutive first nameToliaVaryaGeneral informal form
Colloquial first nameTolikVar'kaVery familiar form
Slang first nameTolyanVaryukha
Affectionate first nameTolen'kaVarechkaTender, affectionate form

Using a "ty" form with a person who dislikes it or on inappropriate occasions can be an insult, especially the surname alone.


Other Eastern Slavic languages use the same adjectives of their literal translation if they differ from Russian analogue. All Eastern Slavic languages are synthetic languages, and grammatical genders are used. Thus, the suffix of an adjective changes with the sex of the recipient.

In Russian, adjectives before names are generally restricted to written forms of communication. Adjectives like Любимый / Любимая (lyubimiy / lyubimaya, "beloved") and Милый / Милая (miliy / milaya, "sweetheart") are informal, and 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


  1. ^ "Как обращаться к человеку в русскоязычной среде" [How to address a person in Russian-speaking community] (in Russian). Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Система обращений и речевой этикет" [System of addressing and speech etiquette] (in Russian). "СЕКРЕТАРСКОЕ ДЕЛО" № 02/2016. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  3. ^ писать его с вичем, судить только в Москве, излишних пошлин с товаров не брать, креста самому не целовать (in Russian). Собр. Гос. Грам. II, № 196.
  4. ^ Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Acts of Civil Statements, Clauses: 58, 59.
  5. ^ Family Code of the Russian Federation, Article 58.2 "A child's patronym is formed from the father's [first] name unless otherwise [decreed by] national custom".

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