2018, Volume 15, Issue 2

Back to the Table of Contents

Anna F. Litvina
Fjodor B. Uspenskij

National Research University
Higher School of Economics
Moscow, Russia

The Veneration of the Mother of God and Some Aspects of Naming Tradition in pre-Petrine Russia

Voprosy onomastiki, 2018, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp. 87–107 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2018.15.2.016

Received 9 January 2018

Abstract: The paper explores a specific name-giving pattern that came from the ban on appellation after Virgin Mary. In Russia, the name of the Mother of God could neither be given at christening nor, apparently, could it be acquired with the monastic tonsure, with this prohibition being strictly and rigorously observed from pre-Mongolian times to our days. Yet it is also well known that the name Mary could be given in honor of the multitude of saints sharing the same name as the Mother of God. The study illustrates that in the 16th–17th centuries the name Mary could be given on the day one of the numerous icons of the Mother of God was celebrated. Thus, the designated person became the namesake of one of the venerated images of the Mother of God while avoiding a direct violation of the prohibition on the name’s use. The cult surrounding the icons of the Mother of God was part of a complex system of significant dates which determined the choice of personal names for a single person, not only regulating their life from birth to death but also predisposing practices of their posthumous commemoration. It is worth noting that such pattern of naming by the icon did not in any way extend to the name of Christ; however, it may have played a particular role in the cult of St Nikolaos of Myra, whose name in Russia at that time was also included in nomina sacra.

Keywords: Medieval and Early Modern Russia, naming practices, name Mary, baptismal names, nomina sacra, veneration of icons, cult of the Mother of God, Virgin holidays, church calendar, cult of saints, friary and fodder books, traditions of commemoration, patron saints


Berezhkov, N. G. (1963). Khronologiia russkogo letopisaniia [The Chonology of Russian Chronicle Writing]. Moscow: Izd-vo Akad. nauk SSSR.

Chechulin, N. (1890). Lichnye imena v pistsovykh knigakh XVI v., ne vstrechaiushchiesia v pravoslavnykh sviattsakh [Personal Names Not Mentioned in Orthodox Christian Calendar in the 16th Century Cadastres]. Bibliograf, 7–8, 73–84.

Litvina, A. F., & Uspenskij, F. B. (2006). Vybor imeni u russkikh kniazei v X–XVI vv.: Dinasticheskaia istoriia skvoz’ prizmu antroponimiki [The Choice of Names among the Russian Princes in the 10th–16th Centuries. Dynastic History in the Anthroponymic Perspective]. Moscow: Indrik.

Litvina, A. F., & Uspenskij, F. B. (2018). Monasheskoe imia i fenomen svetskoi khristianskoi dvuimennosti v dopetrovskoi Rusi [Monastic Name and the Phenomenon of Double-Naming in Pre-Petrine Russia] Srednevekovaia Rus’ [Medieval Russia] (Iss. 13, pp. 241–280). Moscow: Indrik.

Mitterauer, M. (1993). Ahnen und Heilige: Namengebung in der europäischen Geschichte. München: Verlag C. H. Beck.

Panova, T. D. (2003). Kremlevskie usypal’nitsy. Istoriia, sud’ba, taina [The Kremlin Shrines. History, Destiny, Mystery]. Moscow: Indrik.

Petrov, N. I. (2017). O rasprostranenii imeni Nikolai i praktikakh khristianskogo imianarecheniia v domongol’skoi Rusi [On the Spread of the Name ‘Nikolai’ and Christian Name-giving Practices in Pre-Mongolian Rus’]. In Aktual’nye voprosy sovremennogo bogosloviia i tserkovnoi nauki [Topical Issues of Modern Theology and Clerical Science] (Vol. 2, pp. 144–175). Saint Petersburg: SPBDA.

Ryabinina, N. I. (2003). Traditsionnaia kul’tura staroobriadtsev Khabarovskogo kraia [Traditional Culture of Old Believers in the Khabarovsk Region] (Doctoral dissertation). Komsomolsk-na-Amure: Komsomolsk-na-Amure State University.

Shchennikova, L. A. (2002). “Blazhennoe chrevo” ikona Bozhiei Materi [Icon of the Mother of God “The Blessed Womb”]. In Pravoslavnaia entsiklopediia [Orthodox Encyclopedia] (Vol. 5, pp. 346–347). Moscow: Pravoslavnaia entsiklopediia.

Uspenskij, F. B. (2017). Khristianskaia dvuimennost’ na Rusi v XIV–XVI vekakh. Dogadki i zakonomernosti [Christian Double Names in Russia in the 14th–16th Centuries. Assumptions and Regular Patterns]. In N. M. Brusilovskii et al. (Eds.), Vspomogatel’nye istoricheskie distsipliny v sovremennom nauchnom znanii [Peripheral Historical Disciplines in Contemporary Scientific Knowledge] (pp. 41–44). Moscow: RGGU.

Uspensky, B. A. (1969). Iz istorii russkikh kanonicheskikh imen (Istoriia udareniia v kanonicheskikh imenakh sobstvennykh v ikh otnoshenii k russkim literaturnym i razgovornym formam) [From the History of Russian Canonic Names: History of the Stress in Canonic Personal Names in their Relation to Russian Literary and Conversational Forms]. Moscow: Izd-vo MGU.

Uspensky, B. A. (1982). Filologicheskie razyskaniia v oblasti slavianskikh drevnostei (Relikty iazychestva v vostochnoslavianskom kul’te Nikolaia Mirlikiiskogo) [Philological Research of Slavic Antiques: Pagan Relics in Eastern-Slavic Cult of St. Nicholas of Myra]. Moscow: Izd-vo MGU.

Uspensky, B. A., & Uspensky, F. B. (2017). Inocheskie imena na Rusi [Monastic Names in Russia]. Saint Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriia.

Uspensky, F. I. (1891). Konstantinopol’skii sobor 842 g. i utverzhdenie pravoslaviia [The Council of Constantinople of 842, and Authorization of Orthodoxy]. Zhurnal ministerstva narodnogo prosveshcheniia, 273, 73–158.