History of Sakha names

I never found names at my birthplace odd, until I moved out. Now as many other I’d say that most Sakha names are (besides being originally Sakha) “old-fashioned” or “simple”.

But let’s start from original Sakha names.

Original Sakha names

  There’s information that in the ancient times newborns were nameless till three or four years old and later they could choose their own. Sometimes nameless child was called by a nickname. According to Sakha believes the nicknames never should be positive. The child should be protected from dark spirits, that’s why – blind, clumsy, slow, argumentative, ect. were used for that.
Names like Kinetei – means arrogant, Darhaan (supercilious), Dobun (heavy, difficult) would do the examples.

  In 1860s a lot of the given nicknames were just transformed to a last names.

Fan fact: Sakha people started to add the “-а” affix into female’s last and first names, though originally Sakha names were never differentiated and used for all genders equally.

Today

Today only 3% of Sakha people are Christian (and 76% Orthodox Christians are Russian people). The main spiritual practice today is AA
Aar Aiyy (Аар Айыы) – traditional Sakha believe (that often mistakenly called pagony). I will write about it soon, but in short it worships the sun and spirits of the nature, every animate and inanimate part of it.

That’s why a lot of names are created from names of natural world – animals, plants, rivers, ect. and some actions that were deeply connected with Sakha people well-being, like traveling, hunting ect.

Bulchut (hunter), Bayanai (hunter and fisher, also name of the spirit, protecting hunters and fishers). Aiaan(a) – (long way).

Original Sakha names steadily growing in popularity since ancient times and today is on of it’s peaks. The most common Sakha names:

Harsh winter climate always was a significant part of the Sakha way of living. Starting from the Yysyakh – biggest celebration of the summer and live, surviving winter to the symbol of white sun, depicted on the Republic’s flag since 1928. And a lot of other vital symbols Sakha people used to create names.

Some names formed from such: Kyn (sun) – Kynney (sunny), Sargylaana (sargy – ray), Saiyna (saiyn – summer), and flora\fauna like Sardaana (kind of the lily flower),
Н’urgukhun (ньургуhун – snow flower) are the most common ones.

               A rare purple Snowflower kind still could be found in Sakha Republic

White Crane is a symbol of luck and happyness in Sakha culture, so it lead to creation of such names as Kytalyyna (kytalyk – white crane).

Modernday earrings depicting dancing White Cranes

Khaarchana (Khaar – snow) or Russian variant of it Snezhanna (sneg (rus.) – snow), Suluus or Sukustaan (suluus – star), Yrgel (constilation), Kudai (the universe),
Khomus or Khomustaan (cane, also the Sakha name of a traditional jaw harp).

Also Olonkho (traditional epos) is a great deal today as it always was. In the 1820s, a cultural worker Platon Oiunskii gathered nation’s legends, featuring Sakha bootyrs (protectors) into several epic myth volumes. The most popular characters are Elley (Эллэй), Manchaary (Манчаары – sedge), Tuyaara (Туйаара – light, airy), Nyurgun (Ньургун – snowflower), Эргис – all of them inspired generations’ given names.

A scene from Olonkho

Good spirits or spirits of light are called Aiyy. Such names as Auyyna, Ayal, Aital (“ai” – creation, “tal” – choice), Aitalina, Aiyysiena (“related to Middle and High world”. Sien means “blood related”). Also Aiyy used as a part of formed name, like Aiyy Kyo (beautiful girl\godess, also a character from epos) and many others.

Roughly saying, horses are believed to be Sakha people ancestors. Atalamy (founder, also name of the creator and god of horses). Serge (hitching post).

Also as various names formed from “Sakha” – Sakhaya, Sakhayana.

Lena (often confused for Russian diminitve form Elena), Lena – is the longest River in Russia, that starts at the Laptev Sea, crosses the Sakha Republic and ends by the Baikal Sea.

Borrowed from Slavic people

A bit of a history: Christianity

As well as all over the Russia, there were landlords and their peasants (basically slaves). After Sakha people were discovered by Siberian conquerors, the place very close to the one we have today as a Republic, had become the part of the Russian Tsardom in 1638.

That when Sakha people were exposed to “civilization” that western people were so eager to share with us. As a part of one governmental rule, some Sakha people become baptized to Orthodox Christianity and first landlord-peasant social gap appeared.

The serfdom was forbidden in 1861 and all peasants were about to choose their last name for official documentation of freedom.

Last Names

A lot of Sakha last names today are just such – preserved from 1860s. A lot of professions were introduced, when Slavic people migrated in 17th century. The most common last name endings are

-ov, -y, -in (commofor males) and -ova, -aya, -ina (common for females) are Russian demenitive ending, meaning a possessive case (just like English “-‘s”).


So Popov and Popova is a very common surname today, originated from Christian, literally “pope’s”. Dyakonov means “deacon’s”, Oiunsky – “shaman’s”. Also as possessive forms of landlords’ or somebody elses’ names, that seems so “simple” and “old-fashioned” today. Like very common Ivanov(a), Ignatyev(a), Semionov(a), Danilov(a), Alexeev(a), Ksenofontov(a), Arkhipov(a), Gerasimov(a), Evseev(a) and others, that are slightly less common in others parts of Russia today.

Kopyrin(a) – kopyr is shared turkic word means “a person of another believe”. Tumusov(a) – tumus – beak or animal’s face. Sleptsov – slepets (rus.) – blind person.

Toponims aka names of places, like cities or villages are often saved after it’s original name in most countries.

Some Sakha surnames today created the same way: Bulunsky(-aya) (from Bulun), Terutin(a) (from Terut).

First names

Last names are not the only ones that are still used today as they were in 19th century. A lot of old Russian Christian names are used today, like Motryona, Marfa, Afanasy, Akulina ect.

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