Russia: First Name or Title?
Addressing others with respect
Only people who are very intimate friends or relations refer to one another by the first name.
It is perfectly appropriate, when meeting someone, to simply state your family name without any additional greeting.
Ensure that you learn the titles of everyone you plan to encounter, as these distinctions are extremely important in this culture.
Usually, Russians have three names. The first name is a given name, while the last name is the father's family name. The middle name is a version of the father's first name, known as a patronymic; for a man, it ends with the suffixes “vich” or “ovich” meaning “son of.” For a woman, the patronymic is also the father's first name but with suffixes “a” or “ovna” added, which means “daughter of.” When you become well acquainted with a person, you may be invited to refer to him or her by the first name and patronymic.
As a visitor, it is appropriate to refer to your Russian colleague by either “gaspodin” [a courtesy title similar to “Mr.”] or “gaspazhah” [similar to “Mrs.” or “Miss”] plus his or her surname. When using a person's full name and patronymic, an honorific is unnecessary.
Some names are so common that you will need additional information to identify the correct person. In official circles, Russians use a person's birth date to differentiate between identically named individuals. Moreover, Russians often use prefixes “senior” and “junior” after a name to differentiate between two persons [especially men] that are identically named.
Married women take their husband's last name, but indicate their gender by changing the last letter when it is a vowel [which it almost always is] into an “a.”
Some names are so common that you will need additional information to identify the correct person. In official circles, Russians use a person's birth date to differentiate between identically named individuals.
The term “tovarisch”, meaning “comrade”, is now out of date. It was popular in Communist days, but should no longer be used.
Submit a Comment on this Article