ain't no Houellebecq girl (yiskah) wrote in little_details,
ain't no Houellebecq girl

Various questions about Russian names and accents, 1920s - 1940s

Hi everyone, I'm working on a novel set in St. Petersburg/Leningrad broadly between the 1920s and 1942. I've done a lot of research, but am trying to iron out a few details, and would appreciate your help!

Firstly, diminutives. I have done a lot of Googling on this (search terms "Russian diminutives" "Slavic diminutives" etc.) but am trying to get a clearer idea of how names, diminutives, patronymics etc. are used in everyday life. Specifically, the following situations:
- character A and character B meet for the first time. They are, effectively, colleagues. They introduce themselves as Firstname Patronymic Lastname, and, from what I can understand, they would move fairly quickly to diminutives. But how quickly? Immediately? Would it be assumed that someone who introduced herself as Ekaterina, for example, could immediately be referred to as Katya by a colleague, or would there be some sort of 'please, call me Katya'?
- relatedly, for names that have more than one diminutive (I'm thinking Dmitri - Dima / Mitya) would it be standard for a person to state which diminutive they prefer on first meeting? And would it ever be reasonable for someone to prefer their full name to a diminutive, or would that be seen as overly formal or stand-offish among close colleagues or friends?
- finally, I would love it if anyone had any suggestions about male Russian names that have two very different diminutives - I'm thinking like Dmitri with Dima and Mitya. Are there any others like that? I have looked through a lot of lists but for most of the names I have found with very different-sounding diminutives, one of the diminutives is much more informal / intimate than the other, whereas I'm looking for two diminutives of roughly equal levels of formality, i.e. the sort of diminutives that could be used by colleagues.

Secondly, I have some questions about modes of address in the USSR in the 1920s/30s.
- what would a pupil have called his school teacher at that time? You would think that this would be easy to find (I have been Googling things like "USSR teacher mode of address" etc.) but I am coming up with nothing that seems reliable, at least for the time period I'm researching. (I understand that Firstname Patronymic is standard today, but I'm not sure that would have been the case 80/90 years ago.)
- if at all different, what would a pupil call his piano/violin teacher? These two characters develop a very close bond but there is a very large age difference (the pupil is seven when they first meet, while the teacher is in his 50s) and the relationship remains fairly formal, despite the affection between them.
- how would people in the 1930s/40s refer to someone in their wider circle of acquaintances, with some degree of celebrity or renown? This is hard to explain, but as an example (albeit not the one I'm using), how would Anna Akhmatova be referred to by a group of Leningrad-based writers, some of whom had some acquaintance with her and some who did not? Anna Andreyevna? Anna Andreyevna Akhmatova? Anna Akhmatova? Just Akhmatova? Something completely different?

Thirdly, accents.
- I understand from a) Googling things like "Russian regional accents" and "Russian regional language variations" and b) talking to actual Russians that Russian does not have the sorts of regional variations in accent or dialect that allows people to pinpoint where their interlocutor comes from, as we can (to some extent) in the UK. I have come across some indications that there are some regional variations in vocabulary or word use, but haven't been able to come across any examples of these. There is a point in my novel where two people who meet in Leningrad work out, as part of casual conversation, that they come from the same rural area. If I have to I can have one ask the other directly, but I would much rather have some sort of clue arise naturally in conversation. Does anyone have any ideas about how I could make this work?

Finally, Russian last names.
- I am looking for a fairly unusual but not completely unheard-of last name, i.e. the sort of name that it could be reasonably assumed would only belong to one family in a small village or large town. Any suggestions for this would be very welcome!
Tags: 1920-1929, 1930-1939, 1940-1949, russia (misc), russia: education, ~languages: russian, ~names

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