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Fashion for names changes everywhere in the world, including Russia. There are names, however, which continue to be fashionable for hundreds of years. At the same time the names, which sound exotic for Russians, are getting more and more popular in this country.
Experts explain that the regular replacement of fashionable names with new ones comes from the main function of the name: to make a person different from anybody else. This is why a reserve of names is always needed, from which new names are taken. The reserve may include traditional names, which are not given to children too often, or names of other nations.
Revolutionary transformations in Russia were reflected in the names, which were given to nationals of the new country. Between the 1920s and the 1940s of the 20th century children, born in the Soviet Union, were named after popular Communist leaders, and new names were invented, which reflected the achievements of those times. For instance, Soviet boys and girls were given the names of Industrializatsia (the Russian for “industrialization”), Disizara (the abbreviation, which stands for the Russian version of “child, follow the Revolution without fear”), Myuda (“International Youth Day”), Zheldora (“Railway”), Pyatvchet (“Five-year plan to be fulfilled in four years”), Pofistal (“Joseph Stalin, who defeated fascism”), Perkosrak (“first space rocket”) and Kukutsapol (“corn, queen of farm lands”).
Late in the 20th century old, almost forgotten names became fashionable: Anastasia, Sofia, Mark, Matvey, Savely and Euphrozine. It became fashionable to look for a name for the baby in the Church Calendar, or to consult an astrologist.
The names of Alexander and Anastasia have been the most popular ones in Russia over the past years. The name of Alexander has been one of the ten most popular names for about a century. In the past the most popular name in Russia was Ivan.
The most popular names for boys in Russia in 2011 were Alexander, Maxim, Dmitry, Artyom, Nikita and Ivan, and for girls – Anastasia, Maria, Darya, Sofia, Elizaveta and Anna.
Of course, the simplest way to choose a name for the child is to follow the fashion. Experts believe, however, that it is hardly the best way. If the child is given a very popular name, some day he will have to be called by his surname, because half of children in the yard or in his nursery school will respond to the same name.
The other situation is quite the opposite. More and more people in Russia give their children rare foreign and even exotic names. Both old Slavonic names and the names, which were given only abroad, are getting popular. In the opinion of experts, this trend is connected with the changing of values in society. Besides, when choosing a name for their child, Russians began to consider a possibility of emigration in the future.
According to the information of the Moscow registry office, in 1996 three girls born in Moscow were given the old Slavonic name of Miroslava, and 15 girls were given the old Slavonic name of Lada. The figures for 2011 were 177 Miroslavas and 61 Ladas. In 1996 17 girls were given the name of Emily, 54 – the name of Angelica, and 124 – the name of Angelina. The figures for 2011 were 173 Emilies, 77 Angelicas and 362 Angelinas. All those names sound foreign in Russia.
Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the Analytical Center named after Yuri Levada, whose words are quoted by The Novye Izvestia, believes that the growth of popularity of rare names could be connected with the changing of public mentality. “People began to be less orientated towards norms and traditions, and began to pay more attention to self-expression,” he said.
Sergey Enikilopov, head of a department at the Mental Health Center under the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that a rare name could be given also “by the parents, who wish to stress that they are Russians, and stick to Russian traditions.”
Natalia Varskaya, a specialist in social psychology, whose words are quoted by The Novye Izvestia, is of the opinion that people often choose exotic names for their children because of their infantilism. “Twenty-year-old people are often like children today. This is why the giving of a rare name to their child is like a game for them,” she explained.
Ms. Varskaya said that the name of her own grandson was Odyssey (the Russian for Ulysses). “It turned out that my son had dreamed from childhood to give that name to his son, because he liked ‘Odyssey’ by Homer,” she explained.
Many people give names to their children, considering their plans for the future. “The name for our daughter was chosen by my husband. He hopes that someday our children will study or live abroad,” said Anastasia Dodonova from Moscow, the mother of one-year-old Emily.
According to the information of the Levada Center, 1.5 per cent of Russians are actively getting prepared for emigration. One could assume that one out of 100 Russian families, when choosing a name for their child, thinks of how it will sound for Europeans or Americans. Traditional Russian names, which are easily turned into foreign ones, are the best for them.
“We wanted to give European names to our children,” said Anastasia Melentieva, the mother of Emma, three years old, and one-year-old Fyodor. “No problem with Emma. It is one of the most popular names in Britain and the United States. As for Fyodor, it is the same as Theodor, Ted. This name is also popular abroad. So, if we change our place of residence, our children will find it easy to become part of international society.”
MOSCOW, January 27