Famous surnames (intentional) in my Russian historicals, continued

Tvardovskiy, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Aleksey. In America, he changes the spelling to Tvardovsky. His surname was originally Trotskiy, which really only has one association. I don’t see it as a bad association, but it’s not one of those famous names (e.g., Lennon, Jackson) that feels believable on a non-famous person.

The replacement not only has a similar sound, but was also the surname of literary magazine Noviy Mir‘s chief editor, Aleksandr Trofimovich (1910–71). Under his tutelage, the magazine published a lot of things butting up against the Party line.

Teglyov, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Pavel, who saves their daughter Tatyana’s life when villain Misha Godunov throws her in the Skhodnya River as a baby. This is a character in Turgenev’s story “Knock, Knock, Knock.”

Premier Brezhnev (1906–82) in 1943

Brezhneva, curmudgeonly orphanage mother in Kyiv. Mrs. Brezhneva is so fun to write, because she’s so predictable, while also demonstrating slow but steady emotional growth. As loath as she is to admit it, she grows to deeply care for co-director and former orphanage girl Inna, as well as Inna’s children and the children of the other now-adult orphanage girls who also defected to Iran. Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was Soviet Premier from 1964–82.

Andropov, a boardinghouse manager who appears in the first book. Yuriy Vladimirovich Andropov was Soviet Premier from November 1982–February 1984.

Yavlinskiy, a doctor who treats Ivan’s broken arm in the first book, and lets Lyuba, Ivan, Ginny, and Tatyana hide in his clinic for two weeks. Grigoriy Alekseyevich Yavlinskiy founded social-liberal party Yabloko (Apple), and came in fourth in the 1996 presidential election.

Grigoriy A. Yavlinskiy (born 1952), Copyright Бахтиёр Абдуллаев (Bakhtiyor Abdullayev)

Kerenskaya, orphanage girl Olga, who’s later adopted by Inessa’s Dyadya (Uncle) Dima and marries Inessa’s cousin Rustam. She’s eight months pregnant when she wades across the creek-like River Bug to Poland in 1937. Shortly after her arrival in America, she gives birth to her first child. In 1945, her family and Inessa’s family move to Staten Island.

Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerenskiy (1881–1970) was a prominent politician during the short-lived Provisional Government of 1917, and the leader of Russia from July–November 1917. He narrowly escaped after the Bolshevik takeover, and settled in France. After the Nazi invasion, he immigrated to the U.S.

Aleksandr F. Kerenskiy

Kuchma, Ukrainian orphanage girl Valentina, another of the girls adopted by Dyadya Dima. She becomes very close to Inessa after they’re mistakenly sent to another orphanage, which influences Inessa to beg Dyadya Dima to adopt a little girl too. It means so much to Valentina to have a family again, and that Dyadya Dima respects her origins so much he tells her to never change her name, forget her native language, or call him Tata.

Leonid Danylovych Kuchma (born 1938) was Ukraine’s second president, 1994–2005.

Kwasniewska, Polish-born orphanage girl Zofia, also adopted by Dyadya Dima. She moves home to Poland as an adult, and ends up at the same rocket-making forced labour factory as Darya and Oliivia in the third book. Zofia survives Mauthausen with them too. She’s reunited with her three children after the war, and they’re given permission to join their family in America. Aleksander Kwaśniewski (born 1954) was President of Poland from 1995–2005.

Iosif Brodskiy (Joseph Brodsky)

Brodskaya, orphanage girl Irina, who appears in the first two books. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodskiy (1940–1996) was persecuted, twice put in a mental hospital, put on trial, and sentenced to five years of hard labour (of which he served 18 months) for his “anti-Soviet” poetry. In 1972, he was forced into exile, and in 1987, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Rutskoy, a false name Boris gives Aleksey and Eliisabet when deserting Bolshevik soldiers pay a housecall in autumn 1917. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rutskoy (born 1947) was Russia’s only Vice President, 1991–93. During the violent constitutional crisis of ’93, he was proclaimed Acting President. He remains active in politics.

Andrey A. Voznesenskiy, 1933–2010, Kremlin.ru

Voznesenskaya, a deranged, sadistic orphanage warden in Petrograd, who gets her just desserts near the end of Part I of the first book. Andrey Andreyevich Voznesenskiy (whose surname means “ascension”) was an amazing poet I highly recommend.

To be continued.

Famous surnames (unintentional) in my Russian historicals

When I began my first Russian historical in January ’93, I chose names from a 1965 encyclopedia. This was long before the Internet existed for research (provided sources are properly vetted).

After my Russophilia began developing much more deeply at sixteen, I realised my characters’ names are well-known in Russian history. I also discovered surnames differ by sex; e.g., Konev vs. Koneva, Malenkov vs. Malenkova, Vishinskiy vs. Vishinskaya.

Marshal Georgiy K. Zhukov, 1896–1974

Zhukova, Lyuba’s birth surname. Its root, zhuk, means “beetle.” This is the name of WWII hero Marshal Georgiy Konstantinovich Zhukov.

Malenkov, main antagonist Boris. Georgiy Maksimilianovich Malenkov was an important politician during Stalin’s reign. Its root, malenkiy, means “little; small.”

Konev, Ivan’s family name, which Lyuba gladly takes to get rid of her repulsive blood father’s name. There were two famous bearers, Major General Ivan Nikitich and Ivan Stepanovich, both important WWII commanders. Its root, kon, means “horse.”

Marshal Ivan S. Konev, 1897–1973

Litvinov, heroic friend Pyotr. He double-crosses his father and brothers to get his friends out of the newly-formed USSR and onto a ship to America, and later defects to Sweden with his baby sister. In 1945, he comes to America with his sister, wife, and children. Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov was a diplomat and ambassador to the U.S. Its root, Litvin, means Lithuanian.

Beriya, the creepy secondary antagonist of Part I of the first book. It was such an eerie coincidence how I inadvertently selected the surname of a real-life sexual predator and vile waste of oxygen, Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beriya.

Vishinskiy, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Nikolas, an inveterate intellectual who began going by the Greek form of his name at age twelve. After arriving in America, he changes the spelling to Vishinsky. Andrey Yanuaryevich Vyshinskiy was an infamous prosecutor in the show trials of the Great Terror.

Marshal Kliment Ye. Voroshilov, 1881–1969

Voroshilova, Lyuba’s rival Anastasiya, who sometimes plays the role of secondary antagonist of sorts. Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov was a high-ranking military officer and politician under Stalin.

Kutuzova, Lyuba’s female best friend Eliisabet. Most Estonians didn’t have official surnames till the 19th century, and many took Russian and German names when the law dictated they adopt surnames. Eliisabet’s ancestors took their name in honour of Prince Field Marshal Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov, a great military hero.

General Kutuzov, 1745–1813

Golitsyn, a boardinghouse manager who later becomes Ivan’s uncle. The House of Golitsyn is a princely family.

Furtseva, Lyuba’s friend Anya. I got lucky when I chose the surname of a famous women for a female character! Yekaterina Alekseyevna was one of the most important female politicians in the USSR.

Minina, Lyuba’s friend Alya, and Anya’s lesbian partner. Kuzma Minin is a national hero who defended the Motherland against a 17th century Polish invasion.

Shepilov, Lyuba’s cousin Ginny’s former best friend Aleksandr, who comes through with heroism when push comes to shove. Dmitriy Trofimovich was a reactionary politician who served under Stalin and Khrushchëv.

Tsar Boris Godunov, ca. 1551–1605

Godunov, antagonist cousins in the first book. Though both Misha and Kostya are morally repugnant, Kostya is more buffoonish than evil. He’s great comic relief. I loved using both again in the third book.

Vrangel, Lyuba’s next-best friend Kat. The House of Wrangel is a Baltic–German noble family, with many illustrious members over the centuries.

Nikonova, Anastasiya’s best friend Katrin, later Lyuba’s dear friend as well. Originally, her name was Nikon, taken from Patriarch Nikon. I was the classic kid who read too much and understood too little!

Discarded famous names:

Stalina, Lyuba’s cousin Ginny’s sweetheart Georgiya, whom he later unknowingly fathers a child with during her visit to America for Lyuba and Ivan’s wedding in 1923. I changed it to the similar-sounding Savvina. Does anyone NOT know who Stalin was?!

Trotskiy, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Aleksey. That namesake is pretty obvious too, which is why I changed it to the similar Tvardovskiy (more on that in Part II).

Herzen, Lyuba’s cousin Ginny. The famous bearer was Aleksandr Ivanovich, an important philosopher and writer. I changed it to the similar-sounding Kharzin.

WeWriWa—Heartbroken Beginning

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP.  I’ve now moved onto sharing from the opening of my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan. It’s a miracle this story I began at just thirteen years old developed into a much more mature story over all the years I was writing and editing the first draft. Staying with this story all those years, and putting so much time into even more edits and revisions over the last three years, really transformed it into the historical saga and complex love story I’m so proud of.

It’s April 1917, and 18-year-old Ivan has just had his heart broken by his 17-year-old sweetheart Lyuba when she turned down his proposal of marrying and immigrating to America. Ivan’s close friend, 17-year-old Aleksey, has caught him crying in a broom closet and has just given him a handkerchief to dry his eyes.

***

“If only people really knew how overly sensitive you are.”

“Not too long ago we skipped gymnasium and spent the day at Patriarch’s Pond,” Iván says wistfully as he wipes his eyes and follows Alekséy outside. “We were watching the swans and talking about how they mate for life.  When a swan finds its soulmate, the two swans swim together and their beaks form a heart shape.  Well, you can’t kill a swan’s pair bond, and my beautiful swan will be back where she belongs no matter how long it takes.”

“You’d have to be willfully blind to miss how she’s always looked at you.  I never bought her charade of preferring that short, chubby Malenkóv.  Anyone who knows what’s what can see Lyuba only has romantic feelings for you.”

***

Had I started this book at older than thirteen, I doubtless would’ve given my hero anything but the most common male name in Russian history, but the name Ivan just suits who he is. He’s solid, dependable, loyal, reliable, rather old-fashioned, hard-working, with a quintessentially Russian soul.  He occasionally comments how he hates having the most common male name in history, and there’s also the frequent symbolic contrast between Tsar Ivan II, the Meek, and Tsar Ivan IV, Grozniy. He was named for Tsar Ivan III, the Great, yet he too often is either too meek or lets his volatile temper get the better of him, thanks to his traumatic childhood.

Grozniy actually translates as “dreadsome,” “fearsome,” “awe-inspiring,” “menacing,” “threatening,” NOT “terrible.” That’s a horribly misleading, downright inaccurate translation of Tsar Ivan IV’s appellation, and one of my pet peeves. He definitely went over the deep end after his belovèd first wife died, and did lots of terrible things, but he was very enlightened at the start of his reign.  He corresponded with Queen Elizabeth I and helped to modernize the Russian Orthodox Church, for example. He also had a traumatic childhood he never really recovered from. The false translation “Terrible” gives a very false impression of who he actually was.

WeWriWa—Heartbroken Beginning

Tomorrow I’ll be guest-blogging at The A to Z Challenge blog! I’ll be sharing my thoughts and reflections on my theme of cities I’ve featured in my writing.

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. After so many years, my first Russian historical is slated for release on 7 November, available for pre-order on 28 October. I wrote and edited the first draft from 1993-2001, and have put in an obscene amount of time on edits, revisions, polishing, and rewrites since I finally got access to the files again in 2011. This book is the pride of my writing life and probably my greatest labor of love.

You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan opens in April 1917 in Moskva, and ends in March 1924 in Manhattan (with a brief Epilogue in Siberia). I know this is the one comparison you’re not supposed to make, but it really does remind me a bit of a Russian Gone with the Wind, in terms of epic scope and a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship between a pair of soulmates.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve redone the opening pages since 1993, but the final version opens right after 18-year-old Ivan has had his heart broken by his 17-year-old sweetheart Lyubov (Lyuba). He proposed to her as they were leaving gymnasium (i.e., an academic, élite high school) at the end of the day, and didn’t exactly get the response he expected.

***

Instead of walking to St. Basil’s Cathedral to marry his dream girl, Iván Ivánovich Kónev is crying his eyes out in a broom closet.

His heartbeat quickens when he hears approaching footsteps and the door opening.  Perhaps his belovèd Lyuba already changed her mind, he thinks as he turns around.

Instead his eyes fill with the sight of his good friend Alekséy Vladímirovich Tvardóvskiy, one of the only people who knew about their clandestine romance.

“Lyuba jilted me when I asked her to marry me and go to America!”

“What?  That doesn’t make any sense!  Why don’t you dry your eyes and we can talk about this while we’re waiting for the tram.”

 ***

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Lyuba Zhukova is left behind in Russia when her mother and aunt immigrate to America, forcing her to go into hiding from the Bolsheviks and sometimes flee at a moment’s notice.  By the time the Civil War has turned in favor of the Reds, Lyuba has also become an unwed mother.  But she still has her best friend and soulmate Ivan Konev, a cousin, and a band of friends, and together they’re determined to survive the Bolsheviks and escape to America.

As Lyuba runs for her life from during the terror and uncertainty of the Civil War, she’s committed to protecting her daughter and staying together with Ivan, her on-again, off-again boyfriend in addition to her best friend and the man who’s raised her child as his own since the night she was born.  The race to get out of Russia, into Estonia, and over to America intensifies after Ivan commits a murder to protect her and becomes a wanted criminal.

Once in America, Lyuba discovers the streets aren’t lined with gold and that she’s just another Lower East Side tenement-dweller.  Ivan brings in dirt wages from an iron factory, forcing them to largely live off the savings they brought from Russia and to indefinitely defer their dream of having their own farm in the Midwest.  And though the Red Terror is just a nightmarish memory, Lyuba is still scarred in ways that have long prevented her and Ivan from becoming husband and wife and living happily ever after.  Can she ever heal from her traumatic past and have the life she always dreamt of with the man she loves before Ivan gets tired of waiting?