Sowjetrussische Vornamen: Ein Lexikon, by Herwig Kraus, looks like a very interesting book about “first names that were inspired by the communist ideology,” but at that price I’m not about to order a copy. I do have to pass on an amusing bit from the publisher’s page: “Often only specialists recognize that the name ‘Melor’ for example stands for the initials of Marx, Engels, Lenin and October Revolution. And ‘Trolebuzin’ has nothing to do with the trolleybus, but originated from the first letters of Trotsky, Lenin, Bukharin and Zinov’ev.” Thanks, Paul!


  1. Jeffry House says

    I wonder if the book mentions Stalin Gonzalez. He is a very decent social democratic legislator in Venezuela, whose parents were Communist Party militants. The only mystery is that they named their babe Stalin long after the Original Stalin was no longer officially admired in the Party.

  2. Were Stalin Gonzalez’ parents friends of the parents of the Venezuelan terrorist known as ‘The Jackal’? His real name is Ilych Ramirez Sanchez, which makes much more sense when you know that he was the middle brother of three and the other two’s first names are Vladimir and Lenin. Come to think of it, does Stalin Gonzalez have older brothers named Josef and Visarrionovich?

  3. petygrinder says

    And Mels stood for Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, as in the film ‘Стильяги’ the Komsomol lady stipulated.

  4. Jeffry House says

    @Michael: I don’t know much more than that about Stalin Gonzalez. Venezuelans often use revolutionary names, as this times article attests.
    My friend Glamourbetsi says it is accurate.

  5. Ecuadorians must be similarly predisposed — note the odd combination of the first and middle names of Ecuador’s outgoing vice-president, Lenín Voltaire Moreno Garcés.

  6. And of course Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng was born Deng Wen Ge, 邓文革 or Cultural Revolution.

  7. Tom Recht says

    In a class roster of an indigenous school in the Peruvian Amazon I was once startled to discover a boy named Hitler. I don’t know if this was a political statement; I got the impression that the locals were in the habit of giving their sons important-sounding names out of world history, more or less indiscriminately (there was an American president or two on the list as well, I think).

  8. Those with a catholic taste in the more extreme sorts of socialist might call a child Ahstlem (Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao). I wonder whether there are any little Polpots around?

  9. Very interesting! Here‘s a direct link.

  10. You don’t have to be a socialist to be named for the cause.

  11. Trond Engen says

    I was thinking of Rand Paul. But it’s a sick thing for parents to do to their child, no matter what ideology they are committed to.
    The case of the Andean village is probably different. In a society where the history of despotism of the northern hemisphere is a tale of a distant game of thrones (Hey, I can use it too!), the names of the principal agonists may be picked for a general ring of power or success, or just euphony and sound symbolism, much like Europeans have picked names of kings and despots from ancient history.

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    FWIW, Senator Paul was named Randal Howard Paul by his parents and was reputedly known as “Randy” as a kid. (Not that uncommmon a U.S. male nickname in that cohort, and not as salacious as it would sound in BrEng.) The official story per wikipedia is that he lost the -y in adulthood because his wife preferred the clipped version on aesthetic rather than ideological grounds.

  13. J.W. Brewer says

    In addition to confirming my recollection of the nickname of Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi (1949-2001), a somewhat controversial figure in Zimbabwean politics, wikipedia informs me that there’s currently a working state-level politician in India (way up in the hill country of Meghalaya, formerly part of Assam) named Adolf Lu Hitler Marak.

  14. Rodger C says

    Perhaps Adolf Lu Hitler Marak was born when the Japanese were in the vicinity?

  15. My favourite of the revolutionary names is Dazdraperma – Да здравствует Первомай – Long live Mayday.
    Melor/Melsor has variant interpretations, including Organisers of the Revolution. And Wikipedia claims that the journalist Melsor (later Melor) Sturua’s name meant Marx-Engels-Lenin-Ordzhonikidze-Radek!

  16. If we’re going to talk about politicians named after novels that some have loved but most find tedious if not downright repulsive, the number-two man in city government of Washington DC some years ago was named Ivanhoe Donaldson.

  17. rootlesscosmo says

    Engels Pedroza was a Venezuelan prizefighter.

  18. In the Netherlands, two generations ago, it was not allowed for parents to give their offspring names that were peculiar, made-up or unheard-of. Then, there was this modernist poet who wanted to name his daughter Marihuana. Of course this was totally unacceptable. So the child was given the name Marie-Johanna, a combination of two traditional old-fashioned Dutch names which it was impossible to find fault with.

    Thank you. J.W.Brewer, for the information on Rand Paul. I suppose I was not the only one who assumed he had been named after Ayn. And I’d never looked him up.

  19. If we’re going to talk about politicians named after novels that some have loved but most find tedious if not downright repulsive, the number-two man in city government of Washington DC some years ago was named Ivanhoe Donaldson.
    I tried to read Ivanhoe last year and had to give up—it felt like slogging through an endless muddy field.

  20. I’m sorry you didn’t like Ivanhoe, LH: it’s not wonderful, but as famous 19th century adventure novels go it’s better than, eg, Kidnapped, in which all the hero does is constantly fall ill.
    On the subject of weird names, let us not forget Armand Hammer, named by his father after the “arm and hammer” symbol of the Socialist Labor Party of America.

  21. And I always wondered why any parents would name their child after baking soda…Thank-you.

  22. bruessel says

    I only know the actor Armie Hammer, who played both Winklevoss twins in The Social Network and is going to be the new Lone Ranger. The Wikipedia article linked by Zytophile tells me he is the great-grandson of Armand Hammer.

  23. marie-lucie says

    But Armand is a real name, rather old-fashioned in French these days but still very recognizable. I had an older colleague called Armand. Earlier, at one time in my family there was someone referred to as Tonton Armand ‘Uncle Armand’ but I must have been very small as I can’t even remember who it was. My father had a great-aunt called Armandine. The resemblance with “arm and” is coincidental.

  24. SFReader says

    There is a character in Russian fantasy series “Svarog” – an old Mongol named Melsdorj.
    With “Mels” being Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and “dorj” a common Tibetan name deriving from Sanskrit “vajra”, meaning “thunderbolt, diamond, weapon of god Indra”.
    It’s hard to find a more improbable mix!

  25. Jean-Michel says

    And of course Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng was born Deng Wen Ge, 邓文革 or Cultural Revolution.
    And 红旗 Hóngqí (“red flag”) was a rather common given name in the ’60s and ’70s.

  26. And 红旗 Hóngqí (“red flag”) was a rather common given name in the ’60s and ’70s.
    Can one red-flag a Red Flag?

  27. Armand Borel was a very distinguished mathematician. I met him once twenty-six years ago. When I told him I was spending the semester in Edinburgh, he groaned, pulled a long face, and said “Ugh, how can you stand the food!?”

  28. J.W. Brewer says

    The claim is not that Hammer pere coined the name “Armand,” which was current (albeit never wildly popular, although a little bit more so than the variant spelling “Armond”) in the U.S. before Armand Hammer was born in 1898. Rather, the claim is that the father picked that name rather than one of the hundreds of more popular options available at the time because of the eggcorn-like double meaning it could possess in combination with the family surname.
    “Rand” btw in that form turns out to have been a real name that was extant (i.e. toward the bottom of the top 1000 boys’ names per the SSA stats) for a decade-plus in the middle of the last century.
    Its last appearance on the top-1000 chart was for boys born in 1962; Senator Paul was born in January 1963. His proper name Randal peaked in 1958 as 189th-most-popular for boys born that year and then experienced decline until it dropped out of the top 1000 in 1995, but it’s less common than the spelling Randall whose popularity has followed the same general pattern but remains in the top 1000 even unto this present day. Just plain “Randy” is more popular than any of the things (Randall, Randolph, etc.) it might have been thought a nickname for, and was in the top 100 for more than a generation (i.e. for U.S. boys born from 1948 through 1983 inclusive).

  29. J.W. Brewer says

    “Reagan,” by the way, entered the top 100 for U.S. girls’ names for the first time in 2012, having first entered the top 1000 in 1993, the year of Bill Clinton’s inauguration. (Which was also the year “Hillary” began a sharp slide from popularity after a three-decade upswing.)

  30. marie-lucie says

    JWB, I did not mean that Hammer père had invented the name, he just took advantage of the punning possibilities. I think that the name was more common in France than in English-speaking countries.
    Thinking about the name in connection to my relatives brought back long, long-lost memories: I suddenly recollected Tonton Armand as a wizened little old man, an uncle of my mother’s father (on the Occitan side of my family). I think I saw him only once, when I was about six years old, and never had a reason to think about him since.

  31. Armand Hammer, it seems, was constantly being asked whether Arm & Hammer baking soda was named after him; it predates him by some thirty years. Hammer actually bought stock in Church & Dwight, the owners, just to get people to shut up about it.
    Parts of the sf novel A Torrent of Faces by James Blish and Norman Knight are set in the city of Gitler, Manitoba, named by Ukrainian settlers after the legendary liberator of their country (apparently the true details had been forgotten by the 29th century).

  32. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    To throw a few Italian examples into the hat:
    1) Ivanoe Bonomi was an important politician in his day. I know nothing about his parents’ love of Sir Walter Scott, but his name’s pronunciation is the only way I heard the novel and its hero pronounced when I was a kid.
    2) I’ve read that soon before World War II the name Roberto gained in fascist popularity as it could stand for Rome – Berlin – Tokyo. I don’t know how accurate the claim is, though. Certainly it was a common name before and has remained it afterwards.
    3) As far as I can tell, the anarchists and socialists were the more entertaining name-givers, presumably to make a point against the Church. An ironic case was Idea Nuova Socialista Cuccia, née Beneduce, daughter and wife of arguably the two main power brokers in Italian finance in the twentieth century.

  33. January First-of-May says

    While following the rather improbable prowess of the Costa Rican football team at the 2014 World Cup, both I and my brother had laughed at the name of their defensive midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda.

    Mind you, the Yeltsin presidency ended when I was not quite eight, and well before the birth of my brother, so for both of us it felt like – if recent – history. But still it was weird to see such an obviously recent-history name, especially in such an unusual context (Yeltsin would have only been President of Russia for a year and nine months by the time the Costa Rican footballer was born).

  34. There seems to a minor Russophilic tendency among Latin American names. Iván and Vladimir(o) both occur, and I’ve even seen Marx (not Russian, but still).

  35. (On reflection, this was kind of already addressed upthread, but anyway.)

  36. (On reflection, this was kind of already addressed upthread, but anyway.)
    Yes, I was tempted to remember Carlos the Jackal too, but decided to look upthread first. But I would still like to underecore how culturally, it is related to the Russian naming madness of the 1920s. The divide between conservative and leftist governments in South America may be a close difference between differences between Czarist vs. Soviet Russia: a virtually impenetrable control over names vs. everything-goes “liberated name” policy.

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