Russian Names

How Tatiana Becomes Tanya – Russian Names Explained

I recently changed jobs. And my new boss asked me – whether I prefer to be called Tatiana or Tanya. He noticed that I use Tanya for this blog and Tatiana at work. I replied that I prefer Tatiana for work, since I know that having several versions of name confuses people in a Western work environment. But I thought that explanation of how Russian names work is a great topic for a post!

Russian Names 101

  • Full name in Russia consists of a first name, a patronymic and a last name (my full name would be Tatiana Gennadyevna Golubeva)
  • Patronymic is a derivative from the father’s name
  • All Russian names also have multiple diminutive versions
  • The most tricky part for a foreigner is to learn in which situations it is proper to use just the first name, first name with patronymic, just the last name or the diminutive version of the name

I am going to give a guide on how to address your Russian counterparts in this post, but let’s look at the origins of Russian names first as it is quite interesting. I must make a disclaimer first though – I am not a specialist in the subject of etymology of names, so there may be inaccuracies in this part my text (and I look forward to learn more on the subject from your comments and correct all possible mistakes or add new information).

Origins of Russian Names

Pagan times in Russia

Pagan times in Russia

In pre-Christian times people named kids based on season they were born in, the order of birth in the family or based on distinguishing features or personality traits. Most of these names, such as Tretyak (third child born in a family) or Molchoon (the quiet kid) or Vesna (Spring) do not exist now or exist as last names or their roots.

From the end of 10th century and adoption of Christianity, Russia started to use names from the church calendar. These names have come from a variety of origins, but most Russian names took their origin from Byzantine. For most names it is possible to trace the meaning and origin – such as my name, according to Google, comes from the Roman name Tatianus, a derivative of the Roman name Tatius. This was the name of a 3rd-century saint who was martyred in Rome under the emperor Alexander Severus. But most names have lost their initial meaning now (unlike for example Japanese names) and are just words (with exception of some names, such as Vera (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope) and Lyubov (Love). 

Olga Kurilenko, The Bond Girl

Olga Kurilenko, The Bond Girl

Up until the October Revolution of 1917, when a baby was born, family typically looked into a church calendar for that day and chose the name of the Saint, whose day that was, so the name day usually coincided with the birthday and people celebrated name days.  The language is fluid, so the better sounding names (Olga, Elena, Ilya, Alexander etc.) were more popular and those names that were hard to pronounce were modified or eliminated from the language. Some names were used by noble people, some by peasants, so the name often reflected the social status.

To add the other level of complexity – some names were adopted from Western Europe, especially in the 17th-19th centuries. At that time a lot of French names came to Russia together with French language. Later, in the beginning of Soviet times, many German names, such as Roza (after Roza Luxemburg) and Klara (after Klara Tsetkin) came to Russia.

Tatiana Larina by M.Clodt (1886)

Tatiana Larina (main female character from Eugene Onegin by A. S. Pushkin) by M.Clodt (1886)

In addition to that, political changes influenced kids’ naming a lot. After October revolution and for 70 years of Soviet period, church was banned. People still named their kids using traditional names, but a few new names were “invented”. The example of such name – Vladlen, which is the abbreviation of Vladimir Lenin. Every 4 years there are more and more kids named after Olympics (“Olimpiada” would be a girls’ name)

Despite all the multicultural roots and varieties of names origins the pool of most popular names is not large. 15-30 names  top the lists and altogether – there are no more of 300-400 names which people use. When I went to school there were always several Tatianas, Natashas, Olgas, Annas, Elenas, Andreys, Alexanders etc. in class.

 

Anton Chekhov

Anton used to be a popular name when Anton Chekhov – our famous writer was born

Change to the free market economy in the 90s led to a new phenomena – many parents wanted their kids to be “unique” and named them like Hollywood stars name their kids – by inventing new names. “The artists formerly named as Prince” really fades in comparison with such names as “Luka-Happiness-Sommerset-Ocean” or “Viagra” (not what you thought – a popular Russian girls band) or “Nikita-Kit” (Nikita-whale). These are all the registered names, boys and girls who own them will have to carry these names at least until they are 16 years old and have a right to change them. Some names such as USDMX720 or similar were refused from registering(for the benefit of a poor fellow).

Use of Diminutives in Russian Names

But although origins of names may be confusing, the most confusing part is in the usage of full vs. short (diminutive) forms of the Russian names.

Say – you meet me at the workplace. I say that I am Tatiana. You work with me for 2-3 months, we get along well. And suddenly I say that you can call me Tanya from now on. What??!! Did you change your name? What happened? And if you did – why do some other people in the office still call you Tatiana?

It is confusing. But here is how it works. It is similar to how you first formally greet a new acquaintance, but later can address him or her with Hey and finish your message with Cheers. Or it is like calling your friend David – Dave.

In the US a person usually sticks to one name – you either like David or Dave and you go with the version you like most. Here – I will always be Tatiana for people I have just met in formal setting, Tanya for my co-workers and most of my friends and, either Tanusha or Tanechka or Tata for my spouse and other people I know for ages and who are really close to me.

It is incredibly hard for foreigners to understand this concept and guess when you switch and start calling a Russian person with seemingly different name, which is just a more personal version of his/her name. To make matters even worse – I may call my colleague Alexander – Sasha in personal encounters, but will refer to him as Alexander in the business meetings.

Is there a golden rule? Yes and no. The key is to see and accept “name changes”. If a person offers you to call him/her a diminutive either in person or via business correspondence – accept it and call him/her with a shorter name (except for meetings with third parties). Once you start calling me Tanya – do not switch back and forth and stick to that name.

What about other 100+ diminutive versions of my name? Unless there is a possibility we may get married in future – avoid them  (for native speakers it is easier to understand when to call a friend Katya and when to call her Katusha (when you want to do something nice to a friend or when it is a friend’s birthday or when you both started using super-diminutives for each other etc.) But if unsure – stick with safe options – Tatiana – Tanya, Ekaterina – Katya, Olga – Olya, Alexander – Sasha etc.

Some names might puzzle you – Alexander, Eugene and couple of others are unisex, add the “a” in the end when addressing a female (Alexander – Alexandra etc.)

Correspondence of Short and Long Versions of Russian Names

Asya

Asya is a main female character from Ivan Turgenev’s story

Ok, now you know that each Russian name has many diminutives (some names have 20-30 short versions). But what you do not know – some of the diminutives belong to different long versions of the name. For example – my niece Asya loves her name. It is a diminutive from Anna, but she uses Asya even at work. But guess what – Asya is also a diminutive for Anastacia and that is more common. I remember the day when I met Asya – she was a tiny newborn. My sister said – she is Asya and she hesitated for some days – what Asya’s full name will be. My sister went for Anna. But it is often impossible to guess what a person’s full name is based on the diminutive. Just ask if you need to fill out any legal papers.

Use Of Patronymics

If you think the earlier chapters are  crazy confusing – wait until the next level of complexity. My real full name consists of my first formal name and a derivative from my father’s name – Gennady. So, if you want to be real formal with me or if I am much older than you or am your doctor or your kids teacher or have a higher status (or we still live in the USSR)) – you have to call me Tatiana Gennadievna. Every time you address me in conversation!!!

Things do get simplified now though, especially in the Western companies environment. The new formal for people under 40 working in such companies is to use the full version of the first name + formal “you” if you talk in Russian.

How Bad Is It if You Make a Mistake in Russian Names

Well, as in the rest of the world – you better do not call Tatiana Olga and vice versa. But if you are a foreigner and you call Tatiana – Tanya or not use a patronymic or use the wrong version of the name – that is not the end of the world. When my foreign friends meet my mom – I tell them that her name is Irina. When my Russian friends meet my mom – I tell them that her name is Irina Ivanovna (with patronymic). It will be totally inappropriate for any of my Russian friends to address my mom with her first name only, but we do not expect the same from foreigners. It is similar to me not adding –san to my Japanese friends names.

And in general – do not stress out too much about names. It is always good to have a sense of that subject, but for us, Russians, it is more important to see that you are open, sincere, like to spend time with us and are interested in things that matter to us.

Let me know if you have any other questions about names. Please do not hesitate to correct or add any thoughts to this article or share the experiences you had with either Russian names or names in your countries! 

Leave a Reply

  • Nina - 5 years ago

    This post happened to come during a time that I was wondering about Russian names! I’m in the middle of reading Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and notice there are many different ways the narrator names the characters and different names that the characters use among themselves when addressing each other. Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov also goes by Alexey, Alyosha, and Alexey Fyodorovitch, for example.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 5 years ago

      Hi Nina,
      I hope you enjoy reading Dostoevsky! He is one of the best Russian writers!
      You are absolutely right – Alexey is the full name, but there are multiple versions of that name – both really formal – Alexey Fyodorovich (patronymics, showing that Alexey’s father name was Fyodor), and diminutives such as Alyosha, Alyoshenka, Lyosha etc. All that still exists in real life!

  • hungryandhappy - 5 years ago

    When I was young I was constantly asked if I was Russian (I am not-I am American) which they said they assumed from my name which is spelled Tonya, not Tanya. Is Tonya in anyway Russian, perhaps from the patronymic of Antonia? I think all versions of your name are beautiful, and the naming conventions are endearing. I realize the popularity (and prevalence) of certain names depends on many factors but my great grandmothers name was Olga.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 5 years ago

      Hi Tonya!
      You have such a beautiful name and it is Russian (diminutive from Antonina, not Antonia). Very rare name now, I don’t know why))
      Olga is another traditional Russian and very beautiful name. Diminutives from Olga would be Olya, Olechka etc. Olga is still a very popular name in modern Russia.

  • Matt Campbell - 5 years ago

    Interesting article. As long as you tell people when to make the switch, it doesn’t sound too confusing, at least for the first name. The formal “you” sounds a lot like “sir/ma’am” in the US, “uncle/auntie” in India, and “po” in Philippines.

    Are personalized nicknames popular there (i.e. not necessarily diminutive versions of your actual name, but invented)? I’ve always gone by Matt but friends in college called me Junior (since there were two Matts and I was youngest) and my volleyball team called me (affectionately) Matty.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 5 years ago

      Hi Matt,
      Thanks a lot! I love that my friends read my posts))
      Each Russian names has so many diminutives that you always can find a special version for your friend (aka Matty for Matt). You do not even have to invent them – for each name there are 20+ versions of already invented versions of names.
      But people do invent nicknames for their friends a lot. For example my best friend is Lisa Koshkina and Koshkina comes from Koshka (cat), so I always call her Kisa (kitty). Inventing nicknames for friends (if a zillion of diminutives is not enough) is mostly based on modification of the last name.
      And of course, people invent names for their spouses, but I do not see much difference here compared to the States (Babe or Sunny etc. have direct equivalents. Most popular would probably be diminutives from animal names though – suck as baby mouse, baby hare etc.)

  • kathy - 4 years ago

    I as a third generation Canadian and raised in a Russian Immigrant/refugee community. My full name is a mouth full. I have a standard Canadian name and a Russian name. As do my siblings and surprisingly even though my spouse is of English/Irish/Welsh decent, our children also have Canadian and Russian names. My son is Jason (Yahon, to Yasha to Yashka} my daughter Holly (Hallayah) and Rachel (roll the rrrr Rachalla) A Russian friends mother decided thats what both the girls Russian name should be. As soon as your child is named their is a sort off gathering of the elderly to throw out possible Russian names that coincide with Canadian name. Though we have never used their russian names they still had to have them. Im Katherine (Kathy) Georgina (my fathers name) so my middle name and my derivative name are the same. Hrehorowhicha….something like that. Its the closest I can come to writing it out. Ive been reading your blog don’t know how I came upon it, but it’s entertaining. Ive started reading it from your first post. Thanks for the interesting background info.
    Ive sent a link to my mother I hope she reads it. Your russian terms are still used in my community of former Russians. In North America one is always a hyphenated////Canadian

    I have a question though….There is a trend in North America to trace ancestry, My husbands family has gone back many generations in England etc, but mine left Russian 1899/1900. And the last names have been bastardised on entry through the port on arrival. I have always wondered about how records were kept in the different upheavals of Russia and all the generations of exile and family genocide over the 200 yrs. But that mostly happened after my ethnic group was exiled or expelled for refusing to take up arms for the Czar. But what about before 1900 , Do you know of anyone that was successful in tracing ancestry in Russia. Or is this practice not even attempted or done? Any info you could give me on this would be greatly appreciated. I’ve only got the ships manifest on arrival of passengers. It would be amazing to have anything before.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 4 years ago

      Dear Kathy!
      Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog! I am thrilled to know that you read my blog and find it interesting!
      Thank you so much about sharing your story about names – I learn so much from my readers!
      Have you been to Russia? If not – I think you would really enjoy visiting one day! I wrote a post about visiting Russia, but please do not hesitate to ask me any questions if you will plan to visit. It would be wonderful to meet with you when you will be in Moscow!

      The question you ask – about tracing ancestry is a great question and I wonder, why nobody asked it before! Unfortunately I do not know much about that subject. But I will try to find this information for you and will send what I find to your email. From what I see among my friends – it is not common to try to build a family tree for Russian people. Most families know the history of 3-4 generations (grandfathers and grandmothers usually tell about their parents + families have photo albums). My paternal grandfather was very interested in family history and he was researching that and his archive is now at my sister’s place, but I never read his notes (I should!). My maternal grandmother was interested in photography, so she documented her life in photos and she also kept a photo album, which she called “100 year album”. We also have it in the family archive and first photos there are from the beginning of the 1900s (she was born in 1913 and lived until the Spring of this year). But I do not know the history of my family before 1850 (still, I probably know more about my family than an average Russian).

      I checked in Yandex (Russian Google) now and it seems like there are many sites that specialize in building family trees. I do not know how good they are though and all of them are in Russian. I assume that you probably do not speak Russian. If you want – you can send me the names of your relatives via private email from this site and I will look at these sites if there is any information about them there. It will be important to have their dates of birth and place of birth. I will be happy to help! I will also research if there are any physical archives that allow visitors.
      Best regards,
      Tanya

  • Anonymous - 3 years ago

    This was really helpful! I am reading War and Peace right now and the character names were very confusing in the beginning. Thank you!

  • Grace Parish - 3 years ago

    I was wondering if I could ask what the..nicknames for the names Ilya (for a girl), Stasya (for a girl too) would be?

    • Tanya Golubeva - 3 years ago

      Hi Grace,
      Ilya is a man’s name in Russia.The short version would be Ilyusha. Stasya is actually already a short version of Anastasia.

  • Jennifer Aniston - 3 years ago

    I didn’t know that Russian names too have origin. I had the list of names of the Russian origin from my one of my preferred site Babynology. It’s good to know the concept in which the names have been done.

  • Reji kuruvilla - 2 years ago

    what about names after marriage?
    Do u have english prefix like Mr Mrs Ms Dr Late
    and how do u abbreviate it
    and how would i address ur mother- in english i will call her formally Mrs Irina, do russians not use equivalent for mrs and only would use Irina Ivanovna
    my observation is patronymic is dropped in international press, i never saw Vladimir Vladiromich Putin. is my observation right?
    so a foreigner says eg for welcome- dabropajalavat Vladimir Putin, a Russian will say dabropajalavat Vladimir vladimirovich? is it right
    and if we want to say dabropajalavat gaspadin eks president – is it right
    do russians address a person by his profession
    how do u address ur teacher, or a stranger
    as u say Some names were used by noble people, some by peasants, so the name often reflected the social status. – is it now too? do surname indicate status, profession, ethnicity –

    When I went to school there were always several Tatianas, Natashas, Olgas, Annas, Elenas, Andreys, Alexanders etc. in class. – so what additional info do russians prefer to make oneself clearer. Eg in one of the reply to this post it was Matt Junior

    is ur russian name observation – several Tatianas, Natashas, Olgas, Annas, Elenas, Andreys, Alexanders etc. in class. – does it hold true across Russia’s vast geography

    what equivalent to Matt Campbell’s comment – “sir/ma’am” in the US, “uncle/auntie” in India, and “po” in Philippines. Is it dyadya, tyotya or guspdin, guspdina or tavarish
    and for miss is it devushka

    tell me if the names are to be in Cases when addressing by letter or email, and do diminuitive names are also declined for case. I mean recipient in Datelni padez (Dative case) and sender in raditelni padez (Genitive case).

    and i never saw russian equivalents like in English Henri V, Vi, Vii- am i right, are there?

    Can u also provide us more information of your knowledge of japanese names
    in south india, traditionally names would indicate the address of residence of the person- is it there too?

    • Tanya Golubeva - 2 years ago

      Hi Reji,

      You are asking great questions! Please see my answers below:

      – what about names after marriage? – Most women change last name to husband’s name as in the West
      – Do u have english prefix like Mr Mrs Ms Dr Late – No, we do not have prefix
      and how do u abbreviate it
      – and how would i address ur mother- in english i will call her formally Mrs Irina, do russians not use equivalent for mrs and only would use Irina Ivanovna – Russians will only use Irina Ivanovna, that is very polite and appropriate
      – my observation is patronymic is dropped in international press, i never saw Vladimir Vladiromich Putin. is my observation right?
      so a foreigner says eg for welcome- dabropajalavat Vladimir Putin, a Russian will say dabropajalavat Vladimir vladimirovich? is it right
      and if we want to say dabropajalavat gaspadin eks president – is it right – Everything you say is correct, we will use patronymic when speaking to the president
      – do russians address a person by his profession – No
      – how do u address ur teacher, or a stranger – Addressing teacher using first name and patronymic would be appropriate. For addressing strangers we do not have a good way. In soviet time it used to be tovarisch (comrade), now it could be gospodin, but that sounds a bit strange. If I have to talk to stranger, I usually omit address, I would just say – Would you please do/tell smth?
      -as u say Some names were used by noble people, some by peasants, so the name often reflected the social status. – is it now too? do surname indicate status, profession, ethnicity –Today names do not indicate status or profession. Ethnicity – maybe, if the name is clearly not Russian

      – When I went to school there were always several Tatianas, Natashas, Olgas, Annas, Elenas, Andreys, Alexanders etc. in class. – so what additional info do russians prefer to make oneself clearer. Eg in one of the reply to this post it was Matt Junior – We still just use names. We do not use junior

      – is ur russian name observation – several Tatianas, Natashas, Olgas, Annas, Elenas, Andreys, Alexanders etc. in class. – does it hold true across Russia’s vast geography – Now parents like more exotic names for their kids, and some names are more in fashion than others. I do not know current stats, but for many years Artem, Nikita and Maxim were most popular names for boys and Sofia was the most popular girl’s name.

      – what equivalent to Matt Campbell’s comment – “sir/ma’am” in the US, “uncle/auntie” in India, and “po” in Philippines. Is it dyadya, tyotya or guspdin, guspdina or tavarish – I do not think there is an equivalent…

      – and for miss is it devushka – yes

      – tell me if the names are to be in Cases when addressing by letter or email, and do diminuitive names are also declined for case. I mean recipient in Datelni padez (Dative case) and sender in raditelni padez (Genitive case) – When you address somebody in the email, you use Nominative – Dobry Den Tatiana, but if you write on the envelope – To whom, you do use Dative – Tatiane Golubevoi/ Same for diminutive

      – and i never saw russian equivalents like in English Henri V, Vi, Vii- am i right, are there? – You are right, that does not exist in modern time

      – Can u also provide us more information of your knowledge of japanese names – I have close friends from Japan, so I know that each name has a meaning. I am not sure if average Russian person knows that.
      – in south india, traditionally names would indicate the address of residence of the person- is it there too? – I did not know that! How interesting! No, we do not have that here.

      Thank you very much for your questions, I enjoyed answering them!

    • flannan - 2 years ago

      > as u say Some names were used by noble people, some by peasants, so the name often reflected the social status. – is it now too? do surname indicate status, profession, ethnicity –

      Things got really mixed up after the revolution and communist rule. The name “Vladimir” means “owns the world”, and used to be a name fit for a knyaz (like Vladimir the Red Sun, who brought Christianity to Ancient Russia). Nowadays, anybody can have such a name. I had a classmate with such a name. Even before revolution, Lenin was from a middle-class family, yet he was Vladimir.
      Many people have family names that indicate a profession. For example, “Kuznetsov”, similar to English “Smith” or “Black”, indicates that some ancestor of the person used to be a blacksmith. There are very few blacksmiths now, so most of these people have a different job. It’s no longer common to have the same job as your parents.
      Other family names don’t indicate anything like this. The article’s author’s family name “Golubeva” is derived from “golub’ “, which means “pigeon”, a kind of bird. I have a bird family name too. Other people have family names derived from personal names.

      >and i never saw russian equivalents like in English Henri V, Vi, Vii- am i right, are there?
      Russian tzars often have numbers after their names. Peter I the Great, Nicolai II, and so on. They are often written out: Petr Perviy (Peter the First), Nicolai Vtoroi (Nicolai the Second), but might be left as numerals.
      Many of them have nicknames too. Few people know what Ivan the Terrible’s number was. (it was IV, by the way)
      Nobody who isn’t a tzar has a name like this.

      • Tanya Golubeva - 2 years ago

        Dear Flannan,

        Thank you very much for great questions, my answers are below:

        > as u say Some names were used by noble people, some by peasants, so the name often reflected the social status. – is it now too? do surname indicate status, profession, ethnicity –

        Things got really mixed up after the revolution and communist rule. The name “Vladimir” means “owns the world”, and used to be a name fit for a knyaz (like Vladimir the Red Sun, who brought Christianity to Ancient Russia). Nowadays, anybody can have such a name. I had a classmate with such a name. Even before revolution, Lenin was from a middle-class family, yet he was Vladimir.

        – Any names are now free to take, so names do not reflect social status or role.

        Many people have family names that indicate a profession. For example, “Kuznetsov”, similar to English “Smith” or “Black”, indicates that some ancestor of the person used to be a blacksmith. There are very few blacksmiths now, so most of these people have a different job. It’s no longer common to have the same job as your parents.
        Other family names don’t indicate anything like this. The article’s author’s family name “Golubeva” is derived from “golub’ “, which means “pigeon”, a kind of bird. I have a bird family name too. Other people have family names derived from personal names.

        – Yes, my last name is indeed derived from pigeon. None of the known relatives (4 generations) had any connections with pigeons. But it is possible, that my ancestors had, I am just not aware. Kuznetsov is the most common last name in the country, more common than Ivanov, according to the stats. I know several people with that last name and they are not smiths

        – Re Peter The First, Nicolai the Second etc – that does not exist yet as tsars do not exist too. Sad, but true. If a person has the same name as his father (i.e. Maxim Maximovich) – he just has the same patronymic as his last name.

        >and i never saw russian equivalents like in English Henri V, Vi, Vii- am i right, are there?
        Russian tzars often have numbers after their names. Peter I the Great, Nicolai II, and so on. They are often written out: Petr Perviy (Peter the First), Nicolai Vtoroi (Nicolai the Second), but might be left as numerals.
        Many of them have nicknames too. Few people know what Ivan the Terrible’s number was. (it was IV, by the way)
        Nobody who isn’t a tzar has a name like this.

  • Sabine - 2 years ago

    Hello Tatiana, I hope you will get my message. I would be highly interested in knowing the origin of the name “Tatochka”. I did not even understood if it is a name or a family name. Do you have any clue for me ?
    Thank you in advance for your help

    • Tanya Golubeva - 2 years ago

      Hello Sabine,
      Tatochka is also a diminutive, short name from my name Tatiana (see TATiana-TATochka). Other version is Tata.
      Tatochka sounds super nice, a very very close friend (or boyfriend/husband/mother/sister etc) may call Tatiana – Tatochka.
      And even they will probably only call a person Tatochka from time to time – to express love, gratitude and other similar feelings.
      Or maybe a small girl (a toddler) with a name Tatiana could be called Tatochka. Ending is similar to devochka (girl), same suffix.
      Loved your question, thank you!
      Best,
      Tanya

  • Paul - 2 years ago

    My mother’s name was Olga. Very unusual name in Southwestern Illinois. For some reason it prompted me to study Russian history. I became addicted. Emotionally speaking, I became attrached to all things Russian except for the brutal Soviet Era. The Czarist Era was no bed of roses but I’ve always believed if the Czarist era would have evolved into a true democracy it would have developed into the most powerful nation in the world. Their scientists and inventors are second to none. And I doubt that we would experience such animosity between the East & West. I’ve read many Russian writers including many mention in this blog, but Gorky (snarky) will never be on my reading list. If Stalin while walking would have made a sharp turn, Gorky would have suffered a broken nose.

  • cyril - 2 years ago

    what would be your mother’s reaction, if some teens or very young students addressed her by first name + using Russian “Ty”? (i mean a typical reactions of Russian-speaking people to such weird situations that go against the cultural mainstream code.)

    • Tanya Golubeva - 2 years ago

      Hi Cyril,

      That would be a very unusual situation to start with. Cultural norm is to use name and patronymic or, if you don’t know it – to address somebody, who is more senior without a name, just using “Vy”. Young people would also be very uncomfortable to do otherwise.

      However, when my mom meets my foreign friends, she is completely ok if they call her Irina.

      Thanks for the great question!

  • Tatiana Reis - 1 year ago

    My name is Tatiana and I am Brazilian :) (and it is not an unusual name here, I know some other Tatiana’s as well).
    Nicknames or short names for Tatiana here in my country it is just Tati. And Tanya (Tania) it is another name with no nickame or short name, now I know the reason.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 1 year ago

      Hi Tatiana,

      We also have a short version of Tatiana – Tati, but it is quite rare. In general, there are so many versions of short names for almost any Russian name.
      For example for Tatiana it could be Tanya, Tanusha, Tanechka etc. And some friends even call me Tanik. I like all the versions – usually when a friend calls you with a nickname, it is a sign of very close friendship.

      Best,
      Tanya (Tatiana)

  • Tanya Novinska - 1 year ago

    Great post about how Tanya comes fromTatiana, as well as other Russian names. My formal name is Tanya, (pronounced Tahn-ya, not the Americanized version, Tan-ya). When was young, my name was mispronounced quite often and I was always correcting people. It was actually suggested to my parents to change the spelling to Tonya or Tawnya, which thankfully they didn’t.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 1 year ago

      Hi Tanya,

      I also often hear that people mispronounce my name. It is especially bad, when they say Tatanya (I guess it is a mix of Tanya and Tatiana).
      Tonya is a beautiful name too, but here it is a short name from Antonina. I agree with you – it is very good that your parents did not change the spelling of your name!

      Best,
      Tanya

  • Michelle - 1 year ago

    What happens with illegitimate children? Do they still get the name of the man who isn’t in their life? When a child is adopted, do they get the father’s patronymic name the way a child would get his last name in the west? Also, if a child’s father is western and the child is born and Russia, to a Russian mother, how do they get a patronymic? I mean, I’d assume if he was Mike, the child would become Mikhailovich or Mikhailovna but what if it’s something off the wall? Would you ever give no patronymic at all in that case? Would you throw one together?

    • Tanya Golubeva - 1 year ago

      Hi Michelle,

      Sorry for not replying earlier.
      In case of illegitimate children – if a father is not willing to give his last name, mother would usually use her last name. Actually I did not know what happens with the patronymic, so I had to read the family laws and found out that in such case mother decides on the patronymic.
      I am also not sure, what happens if the father is foreign. I tried to google it, but could not find a law about such case. Reading the forums, I saw that most families do not register any patronymic in such case.
      Great questions! It is very rare that I do not know answers to questions about Russia :-)

      Best,
      Tanya

  • Janice - 1 year ago

    This post is really old but I found it and it’s really helpful! I’m curious, how do you think of yourself? In your head do you call yourself Tatiana or Tanya or something else? And if you are talking about someone to another person, for example talking to your mother about a friend named Dmitriy, would you refer to him as Dmitriy or Dima?

    • Tanya Golubeva - 1 year ago

      Hi Janice,

      Thanks for the really great questions!
      I am calling myself Tanya. And if I am talking to my mom about somebody, the way I refer to this person would reflect the relationship – i.e. if he is a close friend, I would say Dima, if the relationship is more distant – Dmitriy and if I am talking about a professor or a doctor – I would use a patronymic as well – Dmitry Ivanovich.

      Best,
      Tanya

      • Janice - 1 year ago

        Thank you! That’s really helpful. Have a great day :)

  • Jane - 1 year ago

    Same as Janice, I stumbled across this post and also found it really helpful! It answered a lot of questions I had and also gave me more to think about.

    In Russia, is it typical for one speaker to invite another to use the diminutive as you mentioned in your post? (For example, should I wait for my co-worker Ekaterina to say that I can call her Katya? Or can I call her Katya to signal that I think of her as a friend as well as a co-worker?)

    I also was wondering if you had any recommendations for how foreigners like myself can learn more about Russian diminutives and what’s appropriate. E.g., Let’s say I’m dating a Dimitry and am comfortable calling him Dima, but I want to call him something cute that isn’t babyish or embarrassing–so not necessarily something that he’d be called as a toddler/by his grandmother/etc. How would I know which diminutive would ‘sound right’ for an adult versus for a child? (Not sure if that’s even a concern I should have!)

  • Yasjka - 1 year ago

    Dear Tanya,
    My official name is Yasjka. My mother is Dutch and liked this name during her pregnancy. She said she was reading a Russian novel and came across it. She thought it was “The brothers Karamazov” from Dostojevski. I would be very curious to learn more about my own name. Its origin and use in Russia.
    Thanks in advance,
    Yasjka.

  • Tanya Novinska-Lawler - 10 months ago

    Very informative. I always knew my name, Tanya was Russian but only recently found out it was actually a diminutive name for Tatiana. I’ve always hated it when people mispronounce it Tan-ya or spell it Tonya. I always correcting people, it seems.

    On a side note, when my youngest child was born, had he been a girl, her name would have been Tatiana
    ( this was before I knew about the connection)

  • Anonymous - 9 months ago

    This makes so much sense. I moved into a community where there are varying cultures and tenure. I introduced myself and asked one neighbor when garbage pickup was and she told me about how long all the other neighbors had lived there mentioning how she and “Tanya” had been some of the longest. Meanwhile “Tanya” was quick to correct me that it is “Tatyana” when I spoke with her about our boys playing together in the neighborhood. I honestly thought I had misheard the other neighbor and offended her.