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Russian Bill Targets Unconventional Children's Names

  • Tom Balmforth

Russian Senator Valentina Petrenko is the author of the proposed legislation.

Russian Senator Valentina Petrenko is the author of the proposed legislation.

MOSCOW -- "Arvil" would be out. So would "Printsessa Daniella." And don't even think about naming a Russian newborn БОЧ рВФ 260602.

Under a new bill being considered by the Russian parliament, parents would be prevented from giving their children names containing numbers, abbreviations, symbols, bad language, titles, or ranks.

The draft legislation -- approved on October 20 by the Federation Council's Committee for Family, Women, and Children's Issues -- calls for parents be prevented from registering such names at the state office, ZAGS, that issues birth certificates.

The explanatory note appended to the bill says it is simply trying to protect children from bullying at school, or worse.

"When they give unusual, exotic names to their children, parents don't always understand what problems their son or daughter can encounter, especially in the company of children," says the note attached to the bill.

But the initiative appears to be born of Lucifer; that is, the case of a child who was given that name in Perm Oblast, prompting the authorities to question how much leeway parents should be given in choosing their children's names.

Valentina Petrenko, the prominent legislator who authored the bill, noted that "specifically, this resonant case forced society to seriously ponder the grounds for prioritizing the rights of a parent to choose absolutely whatever name for their child over its own right to a name."

She also lamented the fact that other unusual names are being given to Russian children, listing examples such as Delfin (Dolphin) and Luka-Schastye Sammerset Oushen (Ray-Happiness Summerset Ocean).

Those names are not likely to be censored, at least at this point, because they do not violate the criteria mentioned in the bill. But Printsessa Daniella (Princess Daniella), another name cited by Petrenko, would because it contains a title. And БОЧ рВФ 260602 would definitely be unacceptable.

As the explanatory note recalls with dismay, in 2002 a child was given the name БОЧ рВФ 260602, an apparent abbreviation of Biological Human Object Born Of Voronin-Frolova on June 26, 2002. The name-registration office refused to allow the name, but the parents have refused to back down.

"Little BOCh," the legislation says, using the diminutive for the now 14-year-old, "still has no documents because the court ruled in favor of the Moscow ZAGS authorities, who refused to register a child with that name in defense of his interests."

Russia has a rich history of parents giving their children unconventional names, however.

In the Soviet Union, it was fashionable to give children names bearing the initials or parts of the names of prominent Soviet figures or revolutionary events. Children, it was thought, would fare better with overtly pro-regime names, prompting the arrival of Vladlen (after Vladimir Lenin), Oktyabrina (after the October Revolution), or even Arvil (Army of V.I. Lenin).

The practice is no longer mainstream, but it appears to have at least some die-hard adherents.

Izvestia reported in December 2015 that a child born in Yekaterinburg was named Krym (Crimea), the Ukrainian peninsula that was seized from Kyiv by Russia in March 2014.

On August 30, local media reported that parents in Vladimir Oblast had named their child "Putin" at the behest of the boy's grandfather, a fan of the Russian president.

On September 8, local news wires reported that parents in Voronezh Oblast name their child Stalin in what was reported to be the first time such a name was recorded since at least 2002.

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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