How popular is the baby name Ninel in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Ninel.

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Popularity of the baby name Ninel

Posts that mention the name Ninel

Popular baby names in Moscow, 2014

Flag of Russia
Flag of Russia

According to Moscow’s civil registration office, the most popular baby names in Moscow in 2014 were Alexander (for the 10th year in a row) and Sofia.

Among the names registered for the first time last year were Byzantium, Jazz, and Sevastopol. (“Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol in March reinvigorated national pride among many Russians.”) Two other unusual names that made headlines last year were Lucifer and Olimpiyada (a baby girl born several weeks before the start of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi).

I don’t believe Russia releases country-wide baby name rankings, but the Mercator media agency has gathered a some data (“the first names of 21 million residents of Moscow and the Moscow region”) and created a cool interactive baby name popularity graph covering the 20th century.

Some observations about the Mercator data:

  • Lada “became somewhat popular in 1968 when the Soviet Union began production of a car by the same name. The name debuted on the top-100 list at No. 70, then declined to No. 76 a year later before falling off the chart.” Lada was originally the name of a Slavic goddess.
  • Vladimir “was the second most popular name in 1952 when current President Vladimir Putin was born.”
  • Ninel “debuted on the chart at No. 66 in 1924, the year that Soviet state-founder Vladimir Lenin died. Ninel slid off the list in the mid-1930s.” (See more Revolutionary Russian Baby Names.)

Sources: Muscovites Embrace Avant-Garde Baby Names, Russian Couple Causes Outcry After Naming Baby ‘Lucifer’, Pre-Revolutionary Names Making a Comeback in Russia

Image: Adapted from Flag of Russia (public domain)

Baby name story: Sacvan

Canadian academic Sacvan Bercovitch (1933-2014)
Sacvan Bercovitch

Canadian academic Sacvan Bercovitch has an interesting first name. How did he get it? The story begins with his parents:

Bercovitch is the son of Alexander Bercovitch and Bryna Avrutik, Jews born in the Ukraine in the 1890s who grew up during a time of deep poverty, social upheaval, and periodic pogroms.

Alexander and Bryna, both “idealistic communists,” ended up having three children:

Circumstances took them to Moscow, where their first daughter, Sara (later Sylvia) was born; then to Ashkhabad, Turkestan, where their second daughter, Ninel (Lenin spelled backwards), was born. In 1926 they emigrated to Montreal with their two daughters, helped by Bryna’s brothers, who had preceded her. In October 1933 their son Sacvan (his name an amalgamation of Sacco and Vanzetti) was born.

Sacco and Vanzetti, of course, is a reference to Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were convicted of murder (perhaps wrongly) and sentenced to death in the 1920s.

Thoughts on Sacvan?

(This one is reminding me of the Swedish baby named Alfred Zola Labori Dreyfus.)


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]