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Russian Names and Surnames

In modern Russia, names consist of a GIVEN NAME (imia), a PATRONYMIC (otchestvo), and a SURNAME (familiia).

It is customary in Russia to use patronymics as middle names. Patronymics are derived from the father's given name and end with -ovich or -evich. The female patronymics end in -ovna or -evna.

Most Russian surnames end in -ov or -ev. Surnames derived from given male names are common. Female forms of this type of surnames end in -ova or -eva.

History

Naming practices for early period are first name (baptismal name, usually that of a Biblical saint), followed by the everyday or common first name, patronymic, and rarely a surname.

Russian names started only as a given name, adding the patronymic around the 10th century, and finally the surname only in the late 15th or early 16th century. The surname did not become common, in fact, until the 18th century.

In Russian, linguists tend to differentiate between so-called "Christian" or "Canonical" names (khristianskii or kanonicheskii) and "Old Russian" (drevnerusskii) given names. The former are usually Biblical (like Ivan, Konstantin, and Pavel) while the others are traced to the Vikings or to earlier inhabitants of the steppes (like Oleg, Igor', and Ol'ga).

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