I recently stumbled upon a fascinating essay about names by a Russian academic who’s part of an eastern Siberian ethnic group called the Yakut (also known as the Sakha).
Her Yakut name is Künnei Takaahai; the Russified form is Kyunney Takasaeva. Here’s the etymology of her first name:
My name Künnei originates from Kün (“sun” and “day”), and Ei (Ai), which in Turkic languages means “moon” and “month.” Thus, my name can be interpreted as Sun and Moon, or the day of the month, or even as the Sun and Peace (Eie).
She notes that the element kün is common in Yakut personal names, and also in the names of those who speak other Turkic languages (such as Kazakh).
Künnei has two older sisters:
- Sargy (b. 1966), whose name means “happiness, luck, success” in Yakut, and
- Tuiaara (b. 1969), whose name means “to sing, to float” in Yakut.
During the Soviet era, Yakut names were not included on the government’s list of approved personal names, so the majority of Yakut children were registered under Russian names (though they continued to use Yakut names at home).
Kunnei and her sisters were atypical in that their Yakut names were their legal names:
Every time after one of us was born, my father visited the Yakut village council and had to insist that the Yakut names should be officially recorded.
That said, their names were Russified (e.g., “Sargylana”) by the registrar.
Speaking of Künnei’s father, he was born in 1942 and named Revolii Timofeevich Takasaev. His first name, Revolii, was inspired the October Revolution of 1917.
This reflects how strong both the belief in the Revolution and also the popularity of Soviet names were in Yakutia. One can only imagine the significance that the revolution (and revolution propaganda) had for the Yakut people. This must have applied in particular to my grandfather, since before leaving to fight in World War II (from which he never returned), he gave such name to his unborn child. He told my grandmother, “If it’s a son, call him Revo, and if it’s a girl — Liutsiia.” That is to say: revoliutsiia (revolution), a name referring to the tradition of revolutionary Soviet names.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, indigenous Yakut names started making a comeback. Nowadays, Künnei reports, they are “very popular” among the Yakuts.
(Though she didn’t offer any examples of currently popular Yakut names, she did mention two other Yakut names in her essay: Kutaskyyn and Dokhsun, both male.)
- Takasaeva, Kyunney [Takaahai, Künnei]. “Reflections on Name and Identity: ‘What Do You See in My Name?’.” Searching for Identity: Personal Experiences and Methodological Reflections, edited by Ayur Zhavaev and Olha Tkachenko, University of Warsaw, 2021, pp. 179-204.
- Yakuts – Wikipedia
- Sakha | People | Britannica
Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay