Most Russians living and working in the UK only remember they have a patronymic when they look at their official Russian documents. Patronymics are not used in the UK. Anyway, what is a Russian patronymic? A patronymic is not quite an English middle name, it is a name derived from a father’s name. It varies according to the sex of the child: sons receive a patronymic ending in –ovich or -evich (e.g., Ivanovich – son of Ivan, Yuryevich, son of Yury) and daughters get a form ending in –ovna/evna (e.g., Petrovna, daughter of Petr, Vasilyevna, daughter of Vasily).
As most Russian names, patronymics can be a bit hard to pronounce (when I was getting married in the UK, the local registrar asked for our permission to skip my patronymic in the marriage vows to avoid mispronunciation!), so Russians living overseas prefer not to use them at all, especially as they are not included in their international passports. However, when we do certified translations of official Russian documents, such as birth certificates, diplomas, marriage certificates, etc, we have to include them because when we certify our translations we state that the translation is true and accurate, so there is no escaping the patronymic!
Patronymics are so much part of Russian official etiquette that I’ve often wondered what happens if a Russian born in the UK and officially ‘deprived’ of a patronymic goes to live and work in Russia. How do they address him? I guess there would be no other way but call him ‘Mr so and so’, like a real English gentleman!
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