I was Googling to try to find the meanings of (or any information about) the Russian names Dinera and Dotnara, which I’ve used on some of my characters. I’d already found out the name Vladlena isn’t a traditional Russian name but a smush of Vladimir Lenin. I was able to write in that the parents of this character (a so far only referenced, not seen, younger cousin of former orphanage girl Inessa) were ahead of most other people in their admiration of Lenin, and Vladlena was born so close to the Revolution that I suppose it’s not completely out of the realm of historical plausibility. Eliisabet and Aleksey’s second child is also named Novomira, which I found out awhile ago is a Soviet-era name, not just a name meaning “new world” or “new peace.” (I also have an Atlantic City character, born 1961, named Novomira, based on the name’s meaning and not political ideology.) But in the book, it’s suggested as a name to Eliisabet because this baby is going to be born in America, the “new world” her parents and their friends are so happy and grateful to be going to. Again, doubtless unusual, but not completely out of the realm of historical credibility. (If you want something totally out of the realm of historical accuracy, just watch that horrible movie Life Is Beautiful, which makes the Shoah seem like a walk in the park!)

Well, apparently the names Dinera and Dotnara, which I’d liked since I first (and only) encountered them in Aleksandr Isayevich’s The First Circle, are also Soviet names. They wouldn’t have existed on characters born before 1917. Dotnara is the name of one of secondary character Pavel’s younger siblings, and is only referred to twice in the first book (“I looked for my little sisters and brothers, but all I could find were the arm of my sister Dotnara and the foot of my brother Yakov” and “I can still see the foot of Yakov and the arm of Dotnara”). But Dinera is a secondary character, the third of the ten Lebedeva sisters, and not just referred to or mentioned a few times.

Apparently, though, Dinara is a real (albeit rarely-used) Russian name meaning “treasure,” derived from the name of the Persian dinar coin. It’s close enough that I can do a find/change, though it will feel weird at first to go from calling and thinking of her as Dinera to Dinara. But it did feel strange and unsettling at first to turn Amy into Lyuba, and now it just feels right, like that was her official name all along. (ETA: I just remembered one of the orphanage girls, from the evil Mrs. Zyuganova [Inessa’s aunt]’s Minsk orphanage is also named Dinera. She’s not one of the girls who’s soon moved to Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kiyev orphanage, which is a paradise in comparison. I’ll have to find/change her name to Dinara too.)

I really thought these were Russian names, however unusual, and that they had historic precedent. Now I come to find out they were among the ideologically-motivated new names that sprung up in the wake of the Revolution. Though at least Dinera, Dotnara, Vladlena, and Novomira sound pretty and like real names, unlike some of the truly goofy names on the list, such as Lagchmivara, Tchelnaldina, Revmark, Pyatvtchet, Leninid, and Elektron.

One thought on “Anachronistic Russian names

Share your thoughts respectfully

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s