Formula “last name – first name – middle name”

Our ideas about ourselves inevitably include elements that have been worked out by the bureaucracy. For example, we are used to the fact that each person knows his exact age, and it may seem that it has always been so. In fact, this kind of knowledge is a product of the bureaucracy of the New Age, that is, it appeared and became familiar in Russia relatively recently, only in the XVIII century, but up to the XX century, not everyone knew their age.

Any identification document begins with a record of last name, first name and patronymic. If other information about a person (for example, social status or nationality) appeared, disappeared or changed places, then the “main” place of this information remained unchanged. Meanwhile, it is obvious that the identification ability of a passport name is, in principle, small, since it, as a rule, is not unique. In any case, it cannot be argued that the name uniquely indicates only this person. Only in conjunction with other signs does the name allow, in necessary cases, to determine the personality.


And yet, why is the name formula included in the number of indispensable identifiers and in the composition of personal data? Probably, this can be explained as soon as possible by the tradition of “determining” a person, than by the real identification ability of a name. The name turns out to be necessary both for the nomination (and thereby distinguishing a person from among similar ones), and for regulating social and legal relations, since a person can enter into legal relations only under his own name.

Strictly speaking, the name is not a sign specific to written documents – unlike, for example, the signature, since the practice of defining a person by name or nickname arose long before the appearance of documents. However, the document name has its own characteristics. First of all, the name becomes embodied in writing. If the oral name is changeable, mobile, predisposed to transformations, then the written (document) becomes fixed and therefore is considered more reliable. By the way, the name’s belonging to documentary reality makes possible its official change.

Translating a spoken name into a written form is not an automatic procedure. It presupposes at least minimal reflection over its visual appearance and meaning, and this is a completely different perception of the name, opening up a new form of its existence. Being fixed, the name breaks away from the person and begins to live his life – according to the rules established by bureaucratic production. At the same time, a fixed name in one way or another points to its bearer even after his death, and in this sense, the name is one of the means of resisting time, which is especially characteristic of documentary reality.

Another important feature of a document name is that it is always complete, including all the components of the name formula “last name – first name – middle name”. Such a name, as a rule, is not used in everyday communication, and this feature of the functioning of the name created and creates a certain gap in the perception of the two naming practices, and the inclusion of the middle name and surname in the official naming emphasizes the specificity of a person’s documentary image, his deliberate artificiality. We can say that the name used in everyday communication has not been related to the document. The document contains its special, official version. As a result, the name holder itself does not always accept the documentary version and does not even always consider it as his name.

Middle name

The full nominal formula, in addition to the name, includes middle names and last names. Patronymic in official documents becomes a component of a full name only from Peter’s time. Actually, since then we can talk about the identification sense of the middle name, which is an indication of the closest male relative – father. Of course, before it could be used for identification purposes, but it was resorted to either to clarify family relationships, or to separate from another person in case of coincidence of names. Under Catherine II, various forms of patronymic were legalized. The “Official List”, published during her reign, compiled in accordance with Peter’s Table of Ranks, indicated that the person of the first five classes (upper class; for civilian ranks, this meant from a real privy councilor to a state councilor) should have written patronymic in -vich; from the sixth to the eighth (from a college counselor to a college assessor – a kind of middle class) – call semi-patronymics, for example, Ivan Petrov Kukushkin; all the rest – only by name. Thus, patronymic became a sign of social status: by patronymic it was possible to judge to which segment of the population a person belongs. The introduction of patronymics for all segments of the population had a significant social effect: a single and common nominal formula could not but be perceived as a kind of sign of social equality.

The appearance of a middle name as part of documentary realities meant not only a more complete description of a person, but also a departure from everyday naming practices, where a middle name was used only in special cases or in special communication registers. Thus, the documents created a parallel reality.


Surnames as an indication of belonging to a family, clan in different social strata appear at different times. Starting from the XVI century, they are acquired by representatives of the upper strata – the boyars and nobles. In the XVII – XVIII centuries, surnames appear among servicemen and merchants. The clergy began to be endowed with surnames only from the middle of the XVIII century. In the middle of the XIX century and especially in the post-reform period, peasants received surnames. In 1888, a Senate decree was issued on the mandatory presence of a surname and the need to indicate it in the documents, but ten years later, according to the census of 1897, only about 25% of the population of Russia had surnames. The process of acquiring surnames lasted until the 30s, and among the peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus, and until the beginning of the 40s of the last century. Along with the surname, documentary reality received another specific feature that will soon go beyond the scope of documents, but retain a memory of its initial context: naming a person by surname in everyday communication and now often refers to the official register.

Full name

Full passport naming, unlike one name, had a double effect: it not only distinguished a given person and separated him from others, but also connected through middle name and surname with a certain circle of relatives – family, clan. Thus, it became possible to talk both about his belonging to this circle and about his origin. These two principles (belonging and origin) will be of particular importance for the formation of a bureaucratic portrait of a person.

When issuing the first Soviet identity cards, it turned out that, despite the almost two-century tradition of having an official full name, not all citizens of the USSR possess it. The instruction No. 370 “On Identity Cards and the Registration of Citizens in Urban Settlements” dated July 6, 1925 states: “The recipient’s last name, first name and patronymic may also indicate the citizen’s nickname if he does not have a certain last name.” The situation with the patronymic was not quite safe. For example, in pre-revolutionary metric books for children born from unregistered marriages, a dash was put in the column “father”, and, accordingly, “illegitimate” did not have an official middle name. Under the Code of Laws on Marriage, Family, and Guardianship of the RSFSR of 1926, mothers were granted the right, during pregnancy or after the birth of a child, to submit an application for the father of the child to the civil registry office. This body was notified of the application by the person named in the application as the father. If there was no objection from the latter within a month from the day he received the notice, this man was recorded by his father. It was possible to apply to the court with a statement on the establishment of paternity only after the birth of the child. In unclear cases, the patronymic was recorded at the direction of the mother (often on his patronymic), as now.

Bureaucratic control over the name even touched on the sequence in which the three parts of the name formula should be fixed. When considering Soviet documents, this cannot but catch the eye. The old stable sequence “name – middle name – last name” is changed to a new one: “last name – first name – middle name” (name). In the documents of the 1920-30s, both options are found. But starting with the Passport Regulations of 1940, the sequence becomes unchanged: the name has won an unconditional victory.

This seemingly insignificant change in the first column reflected, it seems to me, a cardinal change in the attitude towards the person himself. In pre-revolutionary stylistics, an official appeal to a person by last name was possible only in friendly communication or when addressing “from top to bottom” – for example, a teacher to a student. In official circulation, this was considered unacceptable. The norm was recognized the order in which the name is first called and written, which can only be preceded by an indication of the rank. The inversion that took place in the first decades of the Soviet era was apparently caused by the fact that lists replaced the individuality and individuality. In common situations of transfers and roll calls, people differ not so much in names as in surnames to which the emphasis has been shifted, not to mention the fact that alphabetical order of listing by surnames is usually adopted in lists and file cabinets. We can say that there was a kind of “list naming”. This sequence in the bureaucratic sphere has been adopted so far. Unfortunately, it has spread beyond its borders and we habitually use the name, even where it is not required of us.


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