The Cherry Orchard

Russian Names: A Guide

Posted on: August 26th, 2016 by Olivia O'Connor


TheCherryOrchard_270x140Upon first read, the many identifiers used to address characters in Russian plays and literature can be daunting. Within the span of a few pages, a character might be addressed by upwards of five different names. What does it all mean?

Lyubov (First)
Andreyevna (Patronymic)
Ranevskaya (Last)

Russians are given three names at birth: their first/given name, their patronymic, and their surname or last/family name. First and last names are fairly self-explanatory; first names are unique to a person, and last names are shared by a family (a father’s last name is passed on to his children) or by a marriage (a wife takes on her husband’s last name). However, it’s worth noting that last names are adjusted to a person’s gender. Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya must have married a man with the last name Ranevsky; when she married, she took on the feminine version of his last name.

Patronymics are unique to the Russian naming system; they are not equivalent to English “middle” names. Instead, they are names that reference the first name of your father, again adjusted for your own gender (gender is apparent at the end of the name; female endings include evna and ovna; male endings evich and ovich). Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya and Leonid Andreyevich Gaev, sister and brother, had a father named Andrey. Their patronymics mean, respectively, “daughter of Andrey” and “son of Andrey.”

The way you choose to address someone in Russian holds clues to your relationship and respective status.

  • As in English, the only time Russians use full (i.e. three) names is when they are introducing someone for the first time.
  • When someone is addressed by their first name and patronymic, respect or formality is being signified. In English, this would be the equivalent of calling someone Ms. Last Name. This address can include a shortened version of the patronymic, in which one syllable is elided; i.e. from Leonid Andreyevich to Leonid Andreyich. “First, patronymic” addresses are given from servants to masters. The form is also used anytime someone wants to indicate deference or respect.
  • When someone is addressed by their first name alone, we can assume the speaker is an intimate friend or family member. The exceptions to this rule are children and servants; they may be addressed by their first names by any speaker.
  • Nicknames, or pet names, may also be used in substitution for a first name. Again, these names, which are usually diminutive endings on a first name (i.e. from Lyubov to Lyuba) indicate closeness and informality.
  • Russians rarely use surnames alone (i.e. Ranevskaya), unless they are referring to a famous person. If a surname is used alone in regular speech, it may be an indication of disrespect (think of calling a teacher by their last name, without the addition of Ms. or Mr.).

Fun fact:
Before the 1917 Russian revolution, Russian first names were often chosen based on the saint’s day on which a child was born (the Russian Orthodox Church required it). This meant lots of kids with identical names, but thankfully, the Russians have many, many nicknames. One dictionary of pet names lists the potential nicknames for Georgi. They include: Gora, Zhora, Gera, Gesha, Gosha, Goshulya, Gulya, Goshunya, Goga, Garya, Yegorka, Yegonya, Yegosha, Yeguna, and Gunya. After the revolution ended and naming restrictions were lifted, some 3,000 new names were introduced.

For more information on our production of The Cherry Orchard, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, The Cherry Orchard, Upstage

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2016-2017 Season News

Posted on: November 18th, 2015 by Todd Haimes


I am thrilled to announce two exciting shows for our 2016-2017 season!

This fall, we will be premiering a new Broadway production of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, in a new adaptation by our very own Stephen Karam (The Humans) and directed by Simon Godwin. I am honored to welcome this exceptional classic to the American Airlines Theatre, especially with the phenomenal talent of Stephen and Simon onboard. Of course, you know Stephen from his incredible work at Roundabout, including Pulitzer Prize finalist Sons of the Prophet and the currently-running hit The Humans. I’m happy to welcome Simon to the Roundabout family of artists. He is the Associate Director at the National Theatre and has an amazing body of work in England, including productions at the National, the Royal Court, Bristol Old Vic, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Off-Broadway, in the Laura Pels Theatre, we will be producing the American premiere of a new play, Love, Love, Love, by Mike Bartlett and directed by Michael Mayer. Mike is a gifted and prolific British writer, best known to American audiences for his play King Charles III, which recently opened on Broadway after a stellar run in London’s West End. He is a three-time Olivier-award winner for his plays King Charles III, Bull, and Cock. Love, Love, Love has appeared at multiple English theatres, including the Royal Court, and I am so pleased that we will be producing its American premiere. Director Michael Mayer has a long relationship with Roundabout. He has directed numerous shows with us, including Tony-winning productions of A View From the Bridge and Side Man. In 2007, Michael received a Tony Award for his direction of Spring Awakening.

These productions mark the start of a terrifically exciting season for Roundabout. I am so proud to welcome this roster of old friends and rising stars to the Roundabout stage.

Tickets for The Cherry Orchard and Love, Love, Love will be made available to Roundabout subscribers first, on a 2016 date to be announced. I encourage you to join our Email Club for the latest news.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, From Todd Haimes, Love Love Love, The Cherry Orchard

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