Frequent commenter Map sent me a link to a Russian story she thought I’d enjoy, Р.В.С. by Arkadii Gaidar; she added that the author was the grandfather of Yegor Gaidar, briefly prime minister of Russia in 1992. I’d never heard of the author (which shocks Russians, who all read him in school), but I loved the story (about two young boys trying to save a wounded soldier during the Russian Civil War). Then I got some further background: Gaidar, whose real name was Golikov, was commander of a special unit of the Red Army, notorious for the brutal murder of deserters and civilian hostages (Russian links 1, 2). This, while distressing to learn, is not exactly LH material, but his pseudonym is. It seems Golikov’s unit served in Khakassia (a small region northwest of Tuva; the Turkic Khakass are now a small minority of the population), and the locals were so terrified of their depredations they were constantly asking “Khaidar Golikov?”: ‘where’s Golikov headed?’ (khaidar meaning ‘to where’). Golikov thought “Khaidar” was some sort of honorific and adopted it as his pseudonym. OK, that story sounds suspiciously like urban legend; I tried to check it out at the Introduction to the Khakas Vocabulary, but they haven’t added the words beginning with x (kh). In the unlikely event someone out there can confirm or deny the Khakass meaning, be my guest; otherwise I’ll regard it as not proven.

The other thing I’m wondering about is how the pseudonym became an actual family name; lots of Russian writers took pen names, but they didn’t pass them on to their offspring—Maxim Gorky‘s son, for instance, was Maxim Peshkov.


  1. I can look it up for you tomorrow, I have quite a bit of Central Asian Turkic stuff in my office.

  2. There are other accounts of his pen name’s origin — for one, his son’s memoirs. Also, ayda or, less commonly, gayda is a Russian interjection meaning “let’s go!” or “forward!” In addition, isn’t Geydar a common name in Turkic-speaking areas in and around Russia?

  3. Yes, Geydar/Heydar is a common name, but if that were the origin, why would the other stories have arisen? I myself had assumed that that was the origin of Yegor Gaidar’s name (though why not Gaidarov?), but the available evidence doesn’t support it — his son mentions the Turkic name but doesn’t suggest it’s the source. His story, on the other hand, seems pretty unbelievable:
    “Г” – первая буква фамилии Голиков; “АЙ” – первая и последняя буквы имени; “Д” – по-французски – “из”; “АР” – первые буквы названия родного города. Г-АЙ-Д-АР: Голиков Аркадий из Арзамаса.
    [G – the first letter of the name Golikov; AI – the first and last letters of his given name; D – ‘of’ in French; AR – the first letters of his native city. G-AI-D-AR: Golikov Arkadii from Arzamas.]
    That’s reminiscent of the tortured explanations of The Bible Code.
    Claire: Thanks!

  4. right, here we go.
    I was sure I had the Lincom Khakas sketch but can’t find it. But the pronouns are all pretty cognte in that area, so Uzbek’ll have to do.
    The Uzbek is қаерда in the locative (where қ is IPA /q/ – sorry I know I should be writing in the Roman alphabet now but I learnt it in the modified Cyrillic and don’t know the transliterations). The allative is қаерга “to where”. I don’t have Khakas material but I remember from comparative work that most of the Khakas cases are cognate, if not all of them. So if it is true, someone metathesised the r
    Gayirda > Gaydar (assuming Russification of the uvular)
    and misinterpreted the locative as an allative. Possible but rather unlikely. Folk etymology is much more likely.

  5. According to the official version we were taught in school, “Gaidar” means “horseman who gallops ahead [of the column]”. Now is there any ground for this version?

  6. We need not assume Gaidar knew, or thought he knew, or cared about the meaning of the word in any language. (Timur G. says his father avoided answering these kinds of questions.) To the Russian ear, “Gaidar” sounds youthful, dynamic, reminiscent of tne “ayda!” call, and vaguely but not completely foreign. (It may even have a tenebrous Asiatic allure.) Gaidar is the ideal scout leader; neither Khaidar with its sinister “kh” nor, say, “Aydarov” (an actual surname) would do the trick.
    At this point, another brilliant literary pseudonym of “Tatar” origin comes to mind —

  7. i am a persian girl. i want to know what ayda means. some people say it’s turkish and some say it’s arian.i hope you tell me what it means and what back ground does it have.

  8. It’s from Arabic ‘ā’ida ‘benefit, advantage’ (from the verb ‘āda ‘to return’).

  9. Charles Perry says

    I believe ayda/gayda is a Laz word. The Turks have also adopted it as haydi.

  10. Hey Ayda, my name is Ayda (and I’m Persian) as well. I know why you are confused about the meaning of our name. This is because Ayda has so many different spellings and meanings from around the world, but the actual name ‘Ayda’ that we refer to in Persian, should really be spelled as ‘Aida’, which is the most common way of spelling the name in Persia. As posted by ‘language hat’, one of the meanings for ‘Ayda’ is benefit, or advantage, from the Arabic ada; but the pronunciation of it is not as we say it in Persian I-DAA. So I think you should look up for Aida instead.
    This is a list of meanings for Aida (I-DAA):
    Origin: Old English, meaning: wealthy
    Origin: Italian, meaning: happy
    Origin: Turkish, meaning: 1) face of (like) a moon, (Like the name Mahroo in Persian) /and 2) over the moon!!!
    >>>This name was used in Verdi’s opera ‘Aida’, where it belongs to an Ethiopian princess held captive in Egypt!
    Anyway I prefer the A-y-d-a, as it looks better on my signature!!!

  11. Thanks, AYDA, that’s a great comment!

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