Revolutionary Baby Names in Russia

Over a century after the the French revolution influenced French baby names, the Russian Revolution (and socialist ideology) inspired a handful of Russian parents to give their babies similarly patriotic names.

Here are some examples of those patriotic baby names. Most were bestowed in the 1920s and 1930s, though some (like Uryurvkos) popped up decades later.

NameSignificance/Translation
AteistAtheist
Arvil“Army of V. I. Lenin”
AvangardaAvant-garde
BarrikadaBarricade
BastilThe Bastille, Paris fortress stormed during the French Revolution
BebelAugust Bebel, German Marxist
BuntarRebel
DantonGeorges Jacques Danton, French revolutionary
DinamitDynamite
DinamoDynamo, originally a type of electrical generator
DonbassDonets Basin, coal-mining area in the Ukraine
ElekrifikatsiyaElectrification
EngelinaFriedrich Engels, co-creator of Marxism
GeniiGenus
Gertruda“heroine of labor” (geroinja truda)
GiotinGuillotine
IdeaIdea
Ilich; IlinaBased on Lenin’s patronym, Ilyich
IndustriyaIndustry
IskraSpark
KazbekMount Kazbek
KommunaCommune
KrasnyiRed
Lagshmivara“Shmidt’s Arctic camp” (lager Shmidta v Arktike)
Lentrosh“Lenin, Trotsky, Shahumyan
Lentrozin“Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev
LibknekhtKarl Liebknecht, German socialist executed in 1919
Lyuksemburg; RozaRosa Luxemburg, German socialist executed in 1919
MarksKarl Marx, co-creator and namesake of Marxism
Marlen“Marx, Lenin”
MarselezaLa Marseillaise, national anthem of France
Mels“Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin”
Melor“Marx, Engels, Lenin, October Revolution”
MolotHammer
NinelLenin, backwards
OktyabrinaBased on October, signifies the October Revolution
OyushminaldOtto Yulyevich Schmidt on the ice floe”
ParizhkommunaParis Commune
ProletariiProletarians
PravdaTruth; Communist Party newspaper
RadiumRadium, the element
RazinStenka Razin, 17th-century Cossack rebel
Revdit“Revolutionary child (ditya)”
Revmir“Revolution, peace”
Revolyutsiya; LyutsiyaRevolution
Revvola“Revolutionary wave (volna)”
RobesperMaximilien Robespierre, French revolutionary
Roblen“born to be a Leninist” (rodilsia byt’ Lenintsem)
SerpinaBased on Sickle
SmenaShift
SmychkaSmychka, “collaboration in society”
SpartakSpartakusbund, Germany’s Spartacus League
StalinaJoseph Stalin
SvodobaFreedom
TekstilTextile
Traktor; TraktorinaTractor
Uryurvkos“Hurray, Yura’s in space” (ura, Yura v kosmose) – reference to Yuri Gagarin
Vilora“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, organizer of the revolution (organizator revolyutsii)”
Vilen; VilenaV. I. Lenin
Vladlen; VladilenVladimir Lenin
VolyaWill
Zikatra“Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky”

Other baby names of the era weren’t as political as they were fanciful, e.g., Atlantida, “Atlantis”; Monblan, “Mont Blanc”; Traviata for the Verdi opera; 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.”

Sources:

  • Harvard Ukrainian Studies 19 (1997): 272.
  • Komsomolskaya Pravda, via World Press Review 30 (1983): 14.
  • Stites, Richard. Revolutionary Dreams. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • White, Stephen. Political Culture and Soviet Politics. New York: Macmillan, 1979.

8 thoughts on “Revolutionary Baby Names in Russia

  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 few more Revolutionary names from the TASS article Exotic names for children getting ever more popular in Russia:

    Revolutionary transformations in Russia were reflected in the names, which were given to nationals of the new country. Between the 1920s and the 1940s of the 20th century children, born in the Soviet Union, were named after popular Communist leaders, and new names were invented, which reflected the achievements of those times. For instance, Soviet boys and girls were given the names of Industrializatsia (the Russian for “industrialization”), Disizara (the abbreviation, which stands for the Russian version of “child, follow the Revolution without fear”), Myuda (“International Youth Day”), Zheldora (“Railway”), Pyatvchet (“Five-year plan to be fulfilled in four years”), Pofistal (“Joseph Stalin, who defeated fascism”), Perkosrak (“first space rocket”) and Kukutsapol (“corn, queen of farm lands”).

  5. Here’s a similar list of Soviet names on Reddit. Some examples:

    • Bestreva – “Beria, the guardian of revolution”
    • Dzhonrid – “John Reed” (American journalist who was also a Communist activist)
    • Karmia – “Red Army”
    • Pervomay – “First of May” (Workers’ Day)
    • Valterperzhenka – “Valentina Tereshkova, first woman astronaut”
    • Zarema – “For worldwide revolution!”

    Also, hilariously, someone commented that Ninel is “[e]ssentially the Soviet Nevaeh.”

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