12

From John Le Carré's Smiley's People:

“Vladimir’s father was an Estonian and a passionate Bolshevik, Oliver,” he resumed in a calmer voice. “A professional man, a lawyer. Stalin rewarded his loyalty by murdering him in the purges. Vladimir was born Voldemar but he even changed his name to Vladimir out of allegiance to Moscow and the Revolution.

Why does the name-change to 'Vladimir' indicate allegiance to Moscow? Is it because it's the same as Lenin's name?

1 Answer 1

37

Voldemar is an Estonian name, the Estonian version of a name whose version in Russian and some other Slavic languages is Vladimir. Changing one's name from Voldemar to Vladimir would seem to be a way of indicating one's allegiance, putting oneself out as more loyal to Russia / the USSR than to Estonia.

Historically, the Estonian SSR within the Soviet Union had a contested status: according to many, Estonia and the other Baltic states (Latvia and Lithuania) were illegally annexed by the Soviet Union during WW2. Estonia was also the first of all the SSRs to declare its independence in 1988.

Russification was a thing during the Soviet era (and earlier, in the days of the Russian Empire): many people from ethnic minorities within Russian-controlled regions (if one can call the USSR a Russian-controlled area) underwent a process of Russification, and changing one's ethnically Estonian name to the Russian version of the same name would be a case of this. Many similar things have happened all over the world. It's not about Lenin specifically, but more about making oneself seem more Russian rather than someone identifying with the minor SSR (internationally contested, and with many of its people unhappy with Soviet rule) of Estonia.

2

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.