Can Vladimir Putin’s namesake relations reveal more about his political style — and future?
By Alexei Bayer, August 20, 2001
The full name of every Russian consists of three parts. Only the first name is given, and there is no middle name of the kind used in Western cultures. Both the Russian middle name and last name are predetermined by family lineage. The middle name that every Russian uses is the name of his or her father. For example, President Putin’s full name is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, meaning Vladimir the son of Vladimir.
This way of naming people, known as a patronymic, was also common in Scandinavia until relatively recently, and Icelanders still use them to this day instead of their last names. Even in Britain, patronymics still survive in the form of such common family names as Johnson — the son of John — or Peterson, the son of Peter.
Thus, in Russian families, brothers share the same patronymic, of course, being the sons of the same man. Ironically, the two greatest reformers in Soviet history — Nikita S. Khruschev and Mikhail S. Gorbachev — share the same patronymic, Sergeyevich.
This indicates that they are both the sons of Sergeys, although different Sergeys, no doubt. And their shared patronymic is a mere coincidence: their fathers were unlikely to have ever met and belonged to different generations.
And yet, the two Soviet leaders even looked like one another, with their stocky built and bald pates. They were also political twins in that they attempted to reform the Soviet Communist party — and give it a more human face. Both ultimately failed and were forced out, spending their retirement in disgrace and relative obscurity.