2022, Volume 19, Issue 1

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Evgeny V. Pchelov
Russian State University for the Humanities
Moscow, Russia

The Name Alexander in the Anthroponymy of the Pre-Revolutionary Russian Nobility

Voprosy onomastiki, 2022, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp. 9–29 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2022.19.1.001

Received on 25 May 2021

Abstract: The paper aims to evaluate the incidence of the name Alexander among the oldest families of the Russian nobility during the 14th — early 20th centuries. One of the key questions is whether the tradition of this name’s popularity in the ruling dynasties in Russia was related to the historical memory of Alexander Nevsky, his canonization and the prominence of his figure in the first quarter of the 18th century. The study is based on the corpus of genealogies of the Russian aristocracy and ancient noble families that allows the author to track the naming trends over several centuries. With reference to the name Alexander, the following patterns were revealed: it was established that the personality of Alexander Nevsky influenced the popularity of his name among the princely dynasties of Russia, including those distantly related to the prince himself. In the Muscovite dynasty, the name disappeared, while in separate branches of the Rurik dynasty, it was preserved thanks to the historical memory of its other bearers. In the 15th –16th centuries, the name Alexander was relatively popular among the elite but the all-Russian canonization of Alexander Nevsky in the 1540s had no significant impact on it. In the early 17th century, the name is barely mentioned in the genealogies, but since the last quarter of the century it regains its former popularity. It is booming all through the first half of the 18th century which only partially correlates with the relevance of the image of Alexander Nevsky during Peter the Great’s rule. By that time, this name had become a trend among Russian nobility, and there was nothing extraordinary about the future emperor getting the name Alexander Pavlovich. Another peak in the popularity of the name occurred in the late 18th — early 19th century, which is largely due to the success of the reign of Alexander I. During the 19th century, the name became one of the most common among the Russian nobility.

Keywords: personal name, genealogy, naming, nobility, Alexander, Ruriks, Romanovs, aristocracy.


The article was prepared at the Russian State University for the Humanities, State assignment of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia, project FSZG-2020-0019 (registration number AAAAAA-A20-120070890028-5).


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