2019, Volume 16, Issue 4

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Albert K. Baiburin
European University in Saint Petersburg
Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the RAS
St Petersburg, Russia

Element Sequence in the Name Formula in Russian Tradition

Voprosy onomastiki, 2019, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp. 74–82 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2019.16.4.045

Received 14 October 2019

Abstract: The purpose of the article is to identify historical and ideological implications of the shift from the traditional Russian sequence: name — middle name — surname to an inverted one: surname — name — middle name. The shift began in 1930–1940s in the Soviet official communication (first of all, in passport data and other documents) and later extended to informal communication. Apart from the spread of multiple rosters and lists, the change in the official naming standard was also caused by the cardinal shift in attitude to a person, a sharp decrease of the status of individuality with the associated decline of respect. Presently, in the informal sphere both naming expressions co-exist (name — middle name — surname and surname — name — middle name), which induces spontaneous norm-setting rules for their use. The current study is based on the related discussions in social media. The common semantics is the same: name — middle name — surname formula is used for the respectful treatment, while the surname — name — middle name formula is regarded as belonging to bureaucratic style. At the same time, it is generally thought that name — middle name — surname sequence should be applied to the living, friends, esteemed persons with high profile, people with no criminal record. The surname — name — middle name sequence is more suitable for the dead, foreigners, people of low status or with a criminal record. These unwritten “conventions” may be regarded as “friend or foe” identity markers in different social contexts. The opposition of the official and unofficial persists, but it is not as acute as before. The rules are “elaborated” through specification and concretization of this opposition. Supposedly, such constructions are aimed further than preventing possible communication failures when choosing a particular naming formula; ultimately, these are a means of identity policies delimitation in various social settings.

Keywords: Russian language, onomastics, Russian name formula, first name, middle name, patronymic, last name, cultural anthropology.