Tatyana, an always welcome contributor here at LH, has sent me a link to a very funny discussion (in Russian) of the decline of Russian newspaper names, from the lively variety of the early days (eg, Severnaya pchela ‘Northern Bee’) to the monotony of today’s News and Gazette (and of course the omnipresent Pravda ‘Truth’) in every town. The author, Olga Lukas, compares this to a class she was in once with three Olyas (besides herself) and two Smirnovs, in which the poor physics teacher would say “Smirnov to the blackboard — no, not that one, not Masha but Olya — not that Olya, dammit, not Kuznetsova, the other one…” There was also a girl with the unique name of Nurlana, admired for her unordinariness. “It would be better if there were more Nurlanas among newspapers, and fewer Olyas.” And there’s a great riff on a drunk locating himself by his town paper that I’m not even going to try to reproduce.


  1. Garrigus Obasanjo says

    Ya ne govoryu po-russki, but if anyone would like to email me a translation, out of boredom or a desire to practice or something, I’d love to read this.

  2. In grade school I studied with 8 Lenas. Happy birthday, Steve 🙂

  3. Renee, lucky you: anywhere I went I usually had at least 3 other Tatyanas as classmates or coworkers (even in kindergarten).
    Your Hattinness!
    S Dneom Varenia!

  4. Northern Bee? Isn’t that an Ancient Egyptian Newspaper?

  5. I noticed the repetitiveness of Russian names when half my ESL class came from the Soviet Embassy (and when it broke up, to diplomats from what used to be called the republics of the USSR.) All the charming and smart Lenas, Svetas, Olyas, Lyubas, Tanyas, Natashas, Mashas, Valentinas and Ritas. But my favorite name was from a Russian Jewish emigrée, not a member of the nomenclatura: her name was Ninel, or Lenin spelled backwards. She became an enemy of socialism and led from it.

  6. Michael Farris says

    Many folks in the same place with the same name is also found in other Slavic speaking countries. A friend who’d taught in Slovakia said half his female students were named Jana.
    I once had a group with 12 or so female students including 6 Agnieszkas and 4 Magdas (and three of the four guys were named Przemysław). This was followed by a flood of girls name Patrycja (and Rafał and Łukasz for the guys). My solution was to start using last name only although I still manage to get two Kaczmareks out of 8 in a translation group.

  7. Michael, two Kaczmareks – what a nightmare!
    But what about newspapers in Poland? Are they all named “Dziennik” or “Viedomosczi”(sp?)?

  8. Michael Farris says

    Well Poznan where I live is full of Kaczmareks, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a class without one or three, none of whom appear to be related.
    The period of rapid newspaper expansion and creation has passed. The only two local papers where I live are Gazeta Poznańska and Głos Wielkopolski.
    Gazeta, Dziennik (daily) and Głos (voice) are the more common local paper names (maybe Ekspres, too) but national papers have been squeezing them for some time now (Wiadomości is pretty much reserved for TV and radio news).
    And what percentage of women in Ukraine are named Oksana? Is Ksenia a common name there (or Russia?)

  9. scarabaeus stercus says

    Why not use the Welsh solution [under the ****wood] Evan the beef, Evan the hat, Evan the twitch etc., The Public go bonkers over one name that seems to represent the best. In my neck of the woods it was John,Geo, ‘enery. Of course If I ,had a decent education I could ‘ave said Sean,Ian,Evan,Juan,Johahn,Iian,Ivan and on and on. I guess that is why in England, we all had nicknames or ‘ay you [L***** B******]. oh well “a rosa” etc.

  10. Oksana is mostly Ukranian name, Ksenia is the same name but in Russian and considered somewhat old-fashioned and therefore rare. Of course, there are some people who LIKE to give their kids rare and old-fashioned names, so Ksenias still exist (as well as Anastasias, Cyrills and EgOr instead of Igor’) On the other hand, Oksana at some time sounded almost foreign for Russian ear, so Oksanas are in abundance in Russia, too. This attraction to foreign-sounded names is widely spread in other former Soviet Republics: in my HS class in Tataria there were Venera Gilmukhamedova and Albert Nuriev, among others.

  11. Michael Farris says

    “Oksana is mostly Ukranian name, Ksenia is the same name but in Russian and considered somewhat old-fashioned and therefore rare.”
    Thank you, I did not know that and never would have guessed (I’m obviously no Slavicist). Poles, unfortunately don’t go in much for original or exotic names. I’m hoping for a revival of old favorites like Jadwiga, Leokadia, Pelagia and Salomea but I’m sure to be disappointed.

  12. I would call Ksenia not too common, rather than rare, as I have heard of several of my Russian-speaking adults having daughters named as such. Oksana is not rare either: I knew a Bolivian/Russian girl with that name, her father a foreign student in the USSR. As for Jadwiga, I knew a delightful wife of a Polish general with that name. She was so kind to me when I told her my grandfather had been Polish-Jewish.

  13. Growing up, I was dying to be named Tatyana or Olga, instead of Larissa (sigh), or Alisa V Strane Chudes. It would have made me feel so normal…

  14. my new wifes name is Jana thats how i landed on your site just putting in her name with random words. Im very inrerested in the subject matter. From Oklahoma in America . Would love a reply.

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