Just like any other country, Russian names have full names and their short equivalents. So one may hear sometimes something like "Hey Dima, come over here", and wonder, "Who is Dima"? But in fact, this is just a short name for Dmitry or Dimitry (pronounced with the letter "i" as it is difficult for an English speaking person to pronounce Russian consonant clusters).
So it is very common to call your friends or acquaintances by their short names in Russia. This makes you sound less formal and means that you are on familiar terms with the person you are addressing by his/her short name. In fact, this is not just common but is almost an unwritten rule to address your friends by either their nicknames or their short names.
In a formal setting, however, one must always call a person by his/her full first name or even including his/her middle name if this person is your teacher, employer or somebody who is older than you. Such formal addressing is considered in Russia a sign of respect. Unlike the middle name used in western countries, the Russian middle name (also called patronimic name) is not optional but rather a must for the examples explained above".
It is interesting to note that in the past, Russian names were usually determined by the day and month the child was born, and by the saint of the church the day corresponded to. For example, if a child was born on February 23th, then there were only three names of the saints that parents could chose from to name their baby: Anna, Valentina, and Prokhor. The system now has lost its traditional roots, and the parents' choice is mainly determined by their likes and dislikes, but nonetheless, some people still partake in this tradition in Russia.
The easiest way to distinguish the difference between the male and female names is to look for the ending of the name.
Probably the most common Russian male names are: Andrey, Dmitriy, Vladimir, Victor, Evgeniy, Mikhail, and Alexandr. For female, one can hear the following names on a daily basis: Marina, Olga, Victoria, Ekaterina, Elena, and Svetlana.
Russian names are very beautiful and unique. They are less common in the west than they are in the eastern areas of Europe. Here is a list of the most common and coolest Russian names along with their short names that one can hear in Russia.
First Full name - First short name
Yulia - Yulya
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