The 1963 James Bond action thriller, “From Russia with Love”, starring Sean Connery, see Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. The Lektor decoder, at it was called, was a highly sought after decoding machine, used by Soviet Intelligence to de-compile coded and highly sensitive documents.
Decrypting a Russian name can be highly complex and sought after as well, especially in the electronic identity space. Let’s examine exactly how and what is in a Russian name – one of the verifiable attributes of a digital identity.
A Russian begins to acquire an identity before he or she is ever born. The first element of a Russian’s identity is his or her name – two parts of the name are determined before the Russian is even born. First there is the family name (фамилия) which is taken from the father. At marriage, Russian women take their husband’s last name. The last name, if it is a Russian last name, is changed to show gender. Russian male last names ending in -skij (ский) will change to -skaya (ская) for a woman. Russian last names ending in a consonant for men will add an a or ya (а/я) to show the female version of the name. If a family name is not Russian (Jewish, Estonian, German, Latvian, etc.) then the last name will not changeThe second part of a Russian’s name determined before birth is the middle name or patronymic (отчество) this name is also derived from the father and translates as son of or daughter of. All Russians who share the same father will have the same patronymic, again changed to show gender. This name is derived from the father’s name with the addition of a suffix -ovich/evich (ович/евич) for sons and –ovna/evna (овна/евна) for girls.
The first name that a Russian gets is chosen entirely by the parents or family and can show particular traditions within a family. For example, if a family is very religious, they may choose to name their child after the saint for that day on the Russian Orthodox calendar. Russians may also name the child after significant family members, writers, people of renown in Russian culture, or after favorite musicians. Some Russians who are more western choose to give their children more European names like Rutger or Margarita. From the first name, many diminutive or nicknames can be formed. These are usually only used within family or friend groups. Male and female names that have the same roots will form the same diminutives. For example, a man named Evgenij (Евгений) and a woman named Evgeniya (Евгения) will both have the same basic diminutive of Zhenya (Женя). This name can then be further diminutivized by adding further suffixes and creating names like Zhenochka (Женочка).
The Global Data Consortium’s Worldview platform has one of the most unique and privileged access solutions to identify Russian individuals. As with the Lektor decoder, it can be one of the most sought after solutions to help fight fraud in the international digital world.
Be on the lookout for Part 2 of our series – How Do Russians Acquire an Identity?