Essay: What's in a Name?

Pick up an old novel by one of the Russian masters or a new memoir by a Soviet dissident and notice how people introduce themselves -- last names first. "Good day, I am Scriabin, Alexander Nikolayevich." Notice too how often, perhaps in rebellion against those cumbrous Russian patronymics, they use only their initials. "Good day, I am Scriabin, A.N." The title of a French movie made a few years back, Lacombe, Lucien, was apparently intended to show how the German Occupation had bureaucratized and dehumanized the susceptible French. But the Russians do not have their reversed names imposed on them; they...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!