Revolutionary baby names in Russia: Ninel, Melor, Traktorina

Revolutionaries firing at Tsarist police during the February Revolution (part of the 1917 Russian Revolution).
Russian revolutionaries (Feb. 1917)

In 1917, Russia experienced two revolutions. The February Revolution (which happened in March) resulted in the monarchy being overthrown and replaced by a provisional government; the October Revolution (which happened in November) resulted in the provisional government being overthrown by the Bolsheviks.

The two revolutions were followed by a bloody civil war, and finally by the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) in late 1922.

Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin addressing the public in 1917.
Lenin addressing the public (1917)

This period of social and political upheaval in Russia had an influence on Russian baby names (the same way the French revolution had an influence on French baby names a century earlier.) Most of Russia’s revolution- and socialism-inspired baby names were bestowed in the 1920s and 1930s, but several emerged decades later (during the Space Race, for instance).

Some examples…

Arvil“Army of V. I. Lenin”
BastilThe Bastille, Paris fortress stormed during the French Revolution
BebelAugust Bebel, German Marxist
DantonGeorges Jacques Danton, French revolutionary
Dazdraperma“Long live the first of May” (da zdrastvuet pervoye Maya)
Dinamo“Dynamo,” originally a type of electrical generator
Disizara“Child, follow the Revolution boldly” (ditya, smelo idi za revolyutsiyey)
DonbassDonets Basin, coal-mining area in the Ukraine
Elektrostanciya“Power station”
EngelinaFriedrich Engels, co-creator of Marxism
FevralinaBased on February, signifying the February Revolution of 1917
Gertruda“Heroine of labor” (geroinya truda)
Ilich; IlinaBased on Lenin’s patronym, Ilyich
KazbekMount Kazbek
Kim“Communist Youth International” (Kommunisticheskii Internatsional Molodezhi)
Kukutsapol“Corn, queen of the fields” (kukuruza, tsaritsa poley)
LagshmivaraSchmidt‘s Arctic camp” (lager’ Shmidta v Arktike)
Lentrosh“Lenin, Trotsky, Shahumyan
Lentrozin“Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev
Leundezh“Lenin died, but his work lives on” (Lenin umer, no delo ego zhivet)
LibknekhtKarl Liebknecht, German socialist executed in 1919
Lorikerik“Lenin, October Revolution, industrialization, collectivization, electrification, radio installation, communism”
Rosa Luxemburg, German socialist executed in 1919
MarksKarl Marx, co-creator and namesake of Marxism
Marlen“Marx, Lenin”
MarselezaLa Marseillaise, national anthem of France
MayaBased on May, signifying May 1 (May Day)
Mels“Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin”
Melor“Marx, Engels, Lenin, October Revolution”
Molot“Hammer” — as in “hammer and sickle”
Myuda“International Youth Day”
NinelLenin spelled backwards
Based on October, signifying the October Revolution of 1917
Otto Yulyevich Schmidt on the ice” (Otto Yulyevich Shmidt na l’du)
Parizhkommuna“Paris Commune”
Perkosrak“First space rocket”
Persostrat“First Soviet stratospheric balloon” (perviy sovetsky stratostat)
Pofistal“Conqueror of fascism Joseph Stalin” (pobeditel fashizm Iosif Stalin)
Pravda“Truth” — the name of the Communist Party newspaper
Pyatvchet“Five-year plan to be fulfilled in four years”
RadiyRadium, the element
RazinStenka Razin, 17th-century Cossack rebel
Revdit“Revolutionary child” (ditya)
“Revolutionary peace”
Revvola“Revolutionary wave” (volna)
RobesperMaximilien Robespierre, French revolutionary
Roblen“Born to be a Leninist” (rodilsia byt’ Lenintsem)
Serpina“Sickle” (serp) — as in “hammer and sickle”
Smena“Shift” or “Change (of workers in a factory)”
Smychka“Union, alliance” — a Soviet political term
SpartakSpartakusbund, Germany’s Spartacus League
StalinaJoseph Stalin
Trolebuzin“Trotsky, Lenin, Bukharin, Zinoviev”
Uryurvkos“Hooray, Yura’s in space” (ura, Yura v kosmose) — a reference to Yuri Gagarin
VanadiyVanadium, the element
Vilora“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, organizer of the revolution” (organizator revolyutsii)
Vilen; VilenaV. I. Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
YuralgaYuri Alekseyevich Gagarin
Zikatra“Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky”

Other baby names of the era weren’t so much political as they were fanciful, e.g., Atlantida (“Atlantis”), Monblan (Mont Blanc), Traviata (the Verdi opera La traviata), and Zvezde (“star”).

It’s also interesting to note that a portion of these parents went in the other direction entirely. Instead of opting for progressive names, they went for “pre-Christian Slavic names such as Mstislav or Sviatopolk that had fallen into disuse in modern times.”


[Latest update: 4/2023]

7 thoughts on “Revolutionary baby names in Russia: Ninel, Melor, Traktorina

  1. Among the names occuring later is also Telman (from the german communist leader Ernst Thälmann)

  2. From Democracy at Dawn: Notes from Poland and Points East (1998) by Frederick Quinn:

    Our interpreter is named Ninel, Lenin spelled backwards. During the 1920s and 1930s, many parents, caught in revolutionary euphoria, named their children Oktyabrina (October Revolution), Lenina or Stalina, or sometimes Revmiru (World Revolution). Another name is Traktora (traktor). Today, Ninel is still used. People think it is a diminutive, the Slavic equivalent of “Nellie.”

  3. According to the socialist “De Tribune” newspaper of January 3, 1927 a Dutch man had tried to name his daughter Lenina. The name was refused, so he named her Rosa Lucia, after Rosa Luxemburg.

  4. A quote about Soviet statesman Mikhail Suslov (1902-1982):

    “Suslov’s dedication to communism subsisted on dogma and fanaticism; he even named his son and daughter, Revolii and Maya, in honor of the Revolution and May Day.”

    Source: The Red Eminence: A Biography of Mikhail A. Suslov (1988) by Serge Petroff

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