When motherhood replaces middle name

Where did Oleg Nastasich come from in Ancient Russia, and in what cases were people called by mother and not by father

Most major cultures determine the person’s gender patrilineally (that is, on the paternal side): if the name has inheritable elements, then they pass from the father or from the man who plays his role (grandfather, adoptive parent, godfather). Nevertheless, in many cultures there are certain traits of matrilinearity and inheritance of the name from the mother. In this way, both the family name (mother’s family name) and the element not inherited further than the first generation related to her personal name — the matronym, or, as they sometimes say in Russian, “motherhood” (not quite linguistically correct analogy to the word “middle name” can be transmitted). Entirely matrilineal cultures are now known in South and Southeast Asia (primarily the Minangkabau in Indonesia, and also, to some extent, the Nevars in Nepal): here, not only a name, but also property and land are often inherited from the mother.

In ancient Russian culture, patronyms (that is, middle name) were the norm, but an indication of descent from a woman was nevertheless encountered if it was important and somehow connected with the inheritance rights of a person. The simplest case is an illegitimate child: for example, Prince Yaroslav Vladimirovich had a son Oleg Nastasich, born of a concubine Nastasya, to whom his father wanted to transfer the throne. Apparently, that was what his political opponents called Oleg – he himself, most likely, would prefer to be titled Oleg Yaroslavich.

Perhaps the origin of many Russian surnames such as Mashkin or Vdovin (or Solzhenitsyn – probably “the son of a malt merchant”) is in some cases just that, but this is not necessary at all. A matronym could appear in the case of a completely legal marriage, when the interests of the mother and her clan were, for one reason or another, more important for the fate of a person. For example, the youngest son of Prince Mstislav the Great, who also lived in the XII century, is known to the chronicles not only as Vladimir Mstislavich, but also as Vladimir Macesic – because he was born from his second wife, the stepmother of the oldest children of Mstislav, and was not as closely associated with them personally and politically, as half-and-uterine (“full”) brothers with each other.

By the way, this is not a classic motherhood: we do not know the personal name of his mother. The chronicle calls her Dmitrovna Zavidicha, that is, the daughter of the Novgorod posadnik Dmitry Zavidich (an infrequent case of the marriage of a prince to a woman of non-princely origin; perhaps the alienation of the elder brothers, expressed in the matronym, was partly dictated by this circumstance). Such a personal namelessness with an abundance of other nominations is a common situation for Old Russian women: she was the daughter of Dmitry, the granddaughter of Zavid, the wife of Mstislav, the mother of Vladimir and the stepmother of the older Mstislavichi, but she did not have a name for the annals. Although the names, both baptismal and pre-Christian, of some women of Ancient Russia, we still know – for example, the aforementioned Nastasya was lucky (in the memory of posterity, and not in life: the Galicians burned the prince’s favorite at the stake).

Examples of such matronyms motivated by special conditions can be found in the nomenclature of the Scandinavians (on which the Russian princes were partially oriented) and the later Norman-English nobility. For example, the 11th century Danish king was named Sven Estridsen, that is, “son of Estrid,” because his mother, the sister of the creator of the Scandinavian-English power Knut the Great, was much more noble than his father, Jarl Ulf, and gave his claim to the throne much more legitimacy. By the way, for some time Estrid was married to the “son of the king of Russia” (it is not known exactly who it was).

The English king Henry II, who lived in the next century, was called FitzEmpress, which in old French means “Empress’s son”: his mother Matilda, before marrying his father, Count of Anjou Jeffrey Plantagenet, was married to the king of Germany and the Roman emperor Henry V The real empress, even the widow, in distant England! – what is there some Count of Anjou? In both cases, we are talking about legal marriages (although, in fact, the Fitz element was more often used in Norman England to form the names of illegitimate sons).

And one more thing: both Estrid and Matilda were politically and matrimonially active ladies, who were widowed several times and entered into new dynastic marriages. Matilda even led one of the parties to the internecine war and claimed the throne personally. Of course, their social role was much higher than that of other noble women of that time, and in terms of their degree of independence, they could well compete with men.

In Russian history, one of the most famous examples of such a socially active woman is Martha Posadnitsa, a widow of the Novgorod posador Isaac Boretsky, who lived in the 15th century. And it is not surprising that in the Typographical Chronicles, in the story of the tragic fate of her son, he is called not only Isakovich, but also Marfin:

“But [Grand Duke Ivan Vasilievich] led the head of the retreat: Dmitry Boretsky Isakovich Marfin and Vasily Guba Selezenev, Yerem Sukhoshchok, Kipreyan Arzubiev and other comrades…”

Patronymics and paternal nicknames for Western Europe, except for Iceland, have long been irrelevant: a fragment of former patronymics there are surnames, and among them one can distinguish matronyms. Interestingly, among the regions where such surnames are still popular, for example, Marriott, Tiffany (that is, Feofania), Catherine or Marie, there are still England and Normandy; Apparently, the medieval precedents of maternal nicknames in these societies were not limited only to the feudal elite, but also affected wider sections of the population.

Perhaps the most famous system in the modern world, in which the surname is inherited from the mother (albeit simultaneously with the paternal one), is Hispanic-Latin American. For the most part, this system is patrilineal: the first, main surname is usually transmitted in a direct male line, but the person receives the second – this is the surname of the mother, that is, her grandfather. Sometimes two surnames are connected by the union “and”. For example, the current Spanish king, Philip VI, has the surname Bourbon and Gresia (his father, Juan Carlos I, from the Bourbon family, and his mother, Queen Sofia, from the Greek royal family). Usually, the first surname is used in everyday life, but often the maternal one, especially if the first one is from among the Spanish Ivanovs, Petrovs, Sidorovs, when wearing such a surname is like not having any.

For example, the former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero was called Zapatero, the great Pablo Ruiz and Picasso – Pablo Picasso, and no less great Federico Garcia Lorca we know simply as Lorca, because the names Rodriguez, Ruiz and Garcia are very common (however, Picasso there were also difficult relationships with my father).

A similar tradition exists in the New Age England – to record the name of the mother or her relatives as the middle (or even the first) personal name of the child. Such a “free conversion” of names into surnames and vice versa is not permissible in all cultures, but in England it is quite possible. For example, Shakespeare’s grandson who died in infancy was called Shakespeare Queenie.

Matronyms are widely known in Semitic cultures (with the predominant naming by the name of fathers, grandfathers and even, in adulthood, in honor of sons, for example Abu Omar – “father of Omar”). So, among the Arabs in ancient times, a number of poets and other famous people were called by the name of their mother. Jewish matronymic tradition is very ancient: several characters in the Bible are nicknamed by mother, and in modern times Ashkenazi Jewish surnames formed from female names are well known: Beilin (on behalf of Bella), Rivkin (on Rebekah), Khavkin (on Eve), Dvorkin (from Deborah), Feiglin (from Feig) and many others. In these surnames, a diminutive suffix is ​​not uncommon: Yiddish, “l”, or Slavic, “k”.

Philosopher Mikhail Epstein, who, perhaps, can argue with Alexander Solzhenitsyn on the number of temperamental proposals for “expanding” and updating the Russian language, suggests making matronyms a permissible part of the official name – if the child’s father is unknown, does not live in the same family with him or just parents in a complete family I want so much:

“Feminine names seem more interesting, exciting, “bisexual” to me. From the “Ivanov Petrovichi” and “Vladimirov Vladimirovichi”, the dull spirit of the barracks, the male bath, blows. And from the names “Peter Ninovich” or “Andrei Lubovich”, it would immediately be inspired by a female presence, softening morals. A game of close and distant root meanings would have arisen, the secret of conceiving of each person from male and female would have been felt. And if Daniil Andreev is right that not only a woman should be courageous, but also a man feminine, then here she is – this symbolic manifestation of the feminine in a man: mother’s name, matronym!”

Sources: Unbegown B.O. Russian surnames. M., 1989., Litvina A.F., Uspensky F.B. The choice of a name among Russian princes in the X – XVI centuries. A dynastic story through the prism of anthroponymy. M., 2006. article: Dmitry Sichinava.

Good luck in finding.