Russian Names in Yuri’s book

Russians seem to love playing with names, almost as if they were a piece of music to improvise on. This can be confusing to outsiders. In fact, as the first version of this post proved, they can be confusing to this outsider! Thankfully, some kind commenters have offered helpful corrections. A big thanks to ‘Olga’, ‘Igorius’, ‘Eraser’, ‘Viacheslav’ and others whose comments you can see below.

Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin is our hero’s full name. At home it will be shortened, but not to Yuri – instead his family and close friends call him ‘Yura’ – the ‘diminutive’ form. His mother, especially when he was small, might even call him ‘Yurochka’. As Yuri is the Russian equivalent of the Engish name ‘George’ I suppose this might equate to calling him ‘Georgie’ or even ‘Georgiekins’! (Stop it Mum!).

His wife Valya is of course, Valentina in full, but uses a feminine form of her husband’s surname: ‘Gagarina’. So, Mrs Gagarin, is actually Valentina Gagarina.

At work however, colleagues wishing to address him more formally, will not usually address him as ‘Mr Gagarin’, but might call him ‘Yuri Alexeyevich’, leaving the family name, Gagarin, off altogether. The ‘Alexeyevich’ is his father’s name, with an added ending meaning ‘son of’, so he is being addressed as ‘Yuri, son of Alexei’

Military rank adds another layer of complexity. After promotion our hero is hailed by a fellow Major as ‘Major Gagarin’. A lower rank however, would address him as ‘Comrade Major’. A civilian on the other hand, in a formal situation, might address him as ‘Comrade Gagarin’, and might refer to him in a conversation with somebody else either as ‘Comrade Gagarin’, or as the ‘Comrade Major’.

As if this were not enough, in the Cosmonaut Squad, Yuri Alexeyevich and his chums invent outlandish nicknames for each other, such as ‘Lily of the Valley’ or ‘The Blonde Guy’.

This entry was posted in Comrades, Sergei Korolev, The Book, Yuri Gagarin, YURI's DAY, Yuri's life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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