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I as a Child with my family (l-r): Alexander, Natalya Alexandrovna, Victor Alexandrovich, and Tamara

What's in a Russian Name?

Did you ever notice a pattern to Russian middle names? Well, here's an explanation of how Russian names work.

As all Russian children, I was given only my first name by my parents. My middle name already existed even before my birth. The matter is that in Russia each child has a middle name that is constructed of their father's first name. This name is called a patronymic. Being a daughter of Alexander, my middle name or patronymic is Alexandrovna. This name was constructed by adding the ending "ovna" to my father's first name. This indicates that I am a female child of a man named Alexander. As for my brother Victor, his patronymic is "Alexandrovich" where the ending "ovich" indicates a male child of Alexander.

The photo of my family illustrates this naming system. From left to right in the photo is: Alexander (my father), Natalya Alexandrovna (me), Victor Alexandrovich (my brother), and Tamara Dmitriyevna (my mother). My mother's father was named Dmitri. Sometimes there are special rules for the spelling of patronymics.

Russians are proud of their patronymics. One of the most common forms af addressing people in Russia is to say their first and patronymic name. For instance, "Natalya Alexandrovna", "Ivan Petrovich", etc...

When answering the question, "What's you name", Russian people reply in a particular way according to their age or status. Children and students give their last name first, then their first name. (ex: Lebedev, Ivan). Adult people give their last name, then the first name and patronymic. (ex: Grishina, Natalya Alexandrovna). In both cases the last name is given first.

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