A Guide To ‘Russian Names’ in Russian Novels!



Ah Russian novels! What a glorious tradition! The names—Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekov, Sholokov, Pasternak, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn—they roll off our tongues, like drumbeats under a stormy sky!



But to properly appreciate Russian novels, you must know the following:


Russian names have three parts:

  1. First Name
  2. Patronymic
  3. Last name / Surname

So Ivan Yurievic Kolarov is a guy called Ivan, who is the son of someone called Yuri, who both have a surname called Kolarov. The female patronymic would be Yurievna (Natalia Yurievna), sister of Ivan, daughter of old Yuri.

First names have diminutives (nicknames, short, used with affection). Ivan could be at some point Vanya, Vanyusha, Vanka. Alexander could be Sasha, Sanya, Shurik, Shura…Shasha could refer to a man, Aleksandr or a woman, Aleksandra.

When people address each other, they could do so by just the surname, just the first name, or by first name and patronymic like,

“Ivan Yurievic, can you get me a cup of tea?”

So Yuri, Yura, Yurochka, Yuri Andreyevich and Zhivago are all the same person.



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Another Point Imperative to Note!

19th century Russia had a strong French influence, so sometimes they could use foreign (non-Russian) names. So Elena might shed her delicate Odenburg shawl, wear a Parisian dress, and become Helen at some point. Elisaveta could be Elisabeth, or even Betsy!

So if our friend Ivan, (son of Yuri) himself has a son called Yuri, then the boy would be called Yuri Ivanovic Kolarov, son of Ivan Yurievic Kolarov.

Pay close attention, because one of them is going to kill the other at some point, and you want to know which vic did away with the other. 🙂




Russian novels usually have a long cast of characters and family tree etc. right at the beginning. Bookmark these pages, for you’re going to need them! Once you’ve cracked the name thing, you can then really wallow in the rest of the misery!

NOW………….How Many Of You Are Ready To Grab A Russian Novel?




Sriram Subramanian

Sriram Subramanian, is a graduate of IIT Roorkee and IIM Calcutta is an ex-management consultant and founder of Mind Matters, a training firm. He has published two novels: Rain-A Survivor’s Tale (Readomania, 2016) and Centre Court – An Indian Summer at Wimbledon (Readomania, 2017).

The author can be contacted for further insights on his Facebook Account.



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