I’m belatedly starting to dislike how I have some distinctly non-Russian names among my characters. I know it’s more believable for upper-class, Westernized Russians of a certain milieu, in the Tsarist era, to have used the Western forms of their names, such as how many of the last Romanovs went by Western names. It’s not like my characters are peasants living in the Volga Basin and dwelling in mud hovels! But it really is starting to seem like a distraction, very non-Russian names in what I tried to make an authentic Russian novel.
I just ran a find/change for the name of Amy’s best female friend, Estonian-born Elizabeth. Some of the Estonian girls have family with Russian names since they come from very Russianized, perhaps self-hating Estonian families, and Amy’s romantic rival for Ivan’s attention is named Anastasiya, a name with no Estonian equivalents. But how is it accurate to write these people’s English speech with an accent, showing they can’t pronounce the TH sound, and then have two of them going by Western names containing a TH? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? So I changed Elizabeth to Eliisabet, and will be doing the same in the master document for Part II. I had already changed Liz to Liza, and decided to change her other nickname, the Western Lizzy, to Liza as well. After all, Eliisabet is close enough to Elizabeth to make it feel like I didn’t really change her name that much. I guess my excuse for using Russian (or Russian-like) names in the original draft was that I didn’t know Estonians from Adam at thirteen, and stupidly assumed they must have the same names as Russians since they live right next door. Although I’m glad I made them Estonians, since in the years since I’ve grown to really admire and love the Estonian people and their long fight for independence from the various ruling powers occupying their land.
I suppose I can keep Amy’s aunt’s name as Margaret instead of changing it to Margarita. She’s been living in East Prussia for at least ten years, and her husband went to boarding school in Saskatchewan and travelled all around Europe and the United States. That could be argued as a case where it indeed would make sense for an otherwise proudly Russian character to go by the Western form of her name. I never even explained just how in the hell Amy’s cousin Mikhail Grigoriy ended up with the nickname Ginny, but again, he grew up in East Prussia and has a father who travelled widely. It also works for him to have a middle name for that reason, since he wasn’t born in Russia.
One of the main male characters is officially named Nikolay but always goes by Nikolas, and is called Nicky for short. I guess this is good to distinguish him from the little boy Nikolay, who is often called Kolya, but Nicky isn’t a Russian nickname. You can’t argue that it was the pet name for the last Tsar, since he was the freaking Tsar, with point zero zero six percent Russian blood. He was seriously out of touch with how normal Russians lived, and even though he was a great guy, he was a pretty weak ruler. History would have been much different, possibly, if he’d been a much stronger ruler. I suppose I could get away with leaving it as Nikolas because that is the Greek form of the name, and Russians and Greeks both practice Eastern Orthodoxy. Nikolas’s baby sister is called Kittey for short, and his fiancée is called Kat for short.
Perhaps I could change Estonian radical Catherine’s name to her real name, Katrin, which is one of the short forms of Katariina. Really, it honestly makes no sense for her English speech to be rendered with a Z in place of a TH and then have her going by a name that requires a TH sound! It would be much harder for me to even wrap my brain around changing my female protagonist’s name from Amy to Lyubov/Lyuba only. Though those two names are equivalents of one another, they look and sound nothing alike, unlike moving from Elizabeth to Eliisabet or Catherine to Katrin.
Still, at least it’s a good sight better than how it originally was. I didn’t know a whole lot of Russian names at thirteen, which perhaps helps to explain why I gave the male protagonist the most common male name in Russia (along with a certain other reason I chose that name), and gave the name Boris to the guy who ends up being the antagonist. The original draft was littered with decidedly NON-Russian names, like Alexis, Anne, Kathleen, Kit, and Vallerie. I guess I might need to change the name Leon to Lev as well, though I can leave creepy, deranged admirer’s name as Basil, since he’s not even an ethnic Russian. He’s a Georgian. I had even planned to use the name Paul instead of Pavel for one of the secondary characters who shows up near the end of Chapter 7. I guess this is what happens when you read really old translations that feel the need to “translate” proper names instead of leaving them be.