Russian baby names falling out of fashion with parents

Baby Source: Terri Cnudde / Pixabay

Russian names are falling out of fashion with new parents and considerably fewer made it into the top 10 list of names for newborns last year, "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Monday.

Last year Robin and Mia were the most popular baby names for boys and girls born in Estonia, and very few Russian names appeared in the top 20 list. Names such as Artjom, Maksim, Polina or Milan, which were popular five years ago, no longer feature on the list.

Analysists believe this is because Estonian-Russians are choosing Estonian names for their children to help them fit into society, or is part of a wider trend to give names that are understandable on an international level which is also visible among Estonians.

But Annika Hussar, a researcher of first names who works at Tallinn University, said the naming conventions of Estonian-Russians have always been slightly different from those of Russians. Russians stick to very traditional names and Estonian-Russians have chosen more neutral names, she said.

The disappearance of Russian names is not only a trend in Estonia but it is also noticeable in Moscow, AK reported. Last year, the three most popular girls names in the Russian capital were Anna, Maria and Sofia, the latter being popular all over the world.

Hussar said: "We find exactly the same ones in our most popular lists, so it's really hard for us to tell what is behind [the popularity of] Anna, Maria and Sofia."

Chief analyst at Statistics Estonia Alis Tammur said another reason is a quarter of Estonia's population is ethnically Russians and their share of the population is decreasing.

Russians start having children a little earlier than Estonians, she said, but already in the early 30s, Estonians have more children than Estonian-Russian women, and this gap widens until the end of their childbearing years. Estonian women over 40 have, on average, 1.9 children and Estonian-Russians an average of 1.65.

The generation of Russian women as a whole, at the age of 20, is also smaller when compared to previous generations. Tammur said: "In addition to having fewer children than average, the proportion of women of childbearing age in the Russian population is lower."

Most popular names in 1989 and 2019:


1989: Jekaterina, Anna, Kadri, Kristina, Maarja, Maria, Olga, Julia, Triin, Kristiina

2019: Mia, Sofia, Emily, Lenna, Marta, Hanna, Alisa, Eliise, Maria, Saskia


1989: Martin, Aleksandr, Siim, Kristjan, Dmitri, Aleksei, Madis, Andrei, Sergei, Taavi

2019: Robin, Sebastian, Hugo, Oliver, Mattias, Rasmus, Kristofer, Mark, Oskar, Martin, Robert

(Data: Ministry of the Interior, Statistics Estonia):

Data from Statistics Estonia show there is a trend for giving newborns international names and last year seven of Estonia's top ten names were popular in the U.S.

Hussar said Estonians' name choices for their children are quite varied. She said: "There are some completely surprising phenomena, for example, the current fashion names Mia and Robin are nothing alongside the name Martin, which has been popular for 30 years. This goes against the notion that Estonians give different or special names."

She said a recent trend is Estonians giving their children traditional Estonian names, such as Säde or Tuule.

However, there are relatively few names with õ or accented letters given to children. Hussar said there is a simple explanation for this - popular names like Tõnu and Tõnis have not been "rested" enough to become fashionable again.

"Generally speaking, when parents search for a baby name, they don't pick from their generation's names. They don't choose from the mother or father's generation, or the grandmother or grandfather's generation either, more time has to pass. Then there is hope they will come back into fashion," Hussar said. For example, Karl and Elisabet have become popular again after 120 years.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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