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May 19, 2003 by AK

Have you noticed what the most popular baby names are in your area? How often are girls named Madison, and boys Indiana?

I’m perplexed by the persistent popularity of Anastasias and Ksenias as baby names here in Moscow and around. Of the large pool of names in the (Russian Orthodox) Book of Saints, less than 10% were in active circulation already in the 19th century (my guess). Thirty years ago this share was even lower, and the new and non-Christian names barely compensated for that. A handful of names seemed to account for almost all namings; the name distribution’s tail was extremely thin: some names appeared irreparably obsolete. Common male names were especially few: Sergei, Alexei, Alexandr, Mikhail, Vladimir, Andrei probably being the tritest. When I went to elementary school, there were four Alexeis in our class of forty. Ivan was generally shunned as “folksy”. Russian has a flexible way of forming countless diminutives and other intimate forms of a name, which provided some relief from the boring uniformity, but still…

This began to change a while ago — twenty years or so.


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