Guide to Doukhobor Names & Naming Practices

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

Doukhobor names in Russia consisted of a personal name with several diminutive forms, a patronymic middle name, and a surname. Nicknames were sometimes used to distinguish individuals or even whole families. In Canada, Doukhobor names were Canadianized in both form and spelling. Any given document may show one form of name or another, therefore researchers must be alert to all possibilities. The following comprehensive guide will assist researchers in understanding Doukhobor names and naming practices in Russia and Canada and in recognizing Doukhobor names that appear in records.

Index – Personal Names Patronymics SurnamesNicknames


Part I. Personal Names

Names in Russia

In the pre-Christian period before the end of the 10th century, ancient Russians were identified by a single personal name which they received at birth. These were pagan names of Slavic, Scandinavian and Turkic origin. Following the introduction of Christianity in A.D. 988, Biblical names of Greek, Latin and Hebrew origin predominated. 

For centuries in Russia, name-giving was exclusively in the hands of the Church. Tsarist law required that children be named by an Orthodox priest during an official baptismal ceremony, for a fee. The name was often selected by the priest and not the parents. Sometimes the parents suggested a name which the priest then approved. Occasionally a child received an ill-sounding name if the priest disliked, or was displeased with, the parents. The godparents took the infant to the church. The parents were not usually present for the baptism. Often, the parents did not learn the chosen name of their child until the baby was returned home by the godparents. This practice continued until the late 18th century, when Doukhobors outwardly rejected Orthodox Church rites, refused to attend baptisms, and christened their children themselves, with names of their own choosing.

Not all Orthodox naming practices were abandoned by the Doukhobors. The custom of naming a child after the Orthodox saint on whose feast day the child was born continued in some cases. For example, Doukhobor leader Petr Vasil’evich Verigin (1859-1924) was named for the feast day of saints Petr and Pavel, June 29th, on which he was born. However, this practice was largely limited to the names Vasily, Egor, Petr, Pavel, Ilya, Frol, Mikhailo and Nikolai, as these were the only saints whose feast day the Doukhobors continued to observe after they left the Orthodox Church.

It was also popular to name Doukhobor children after revered spiritual leaders such as Ilarion Pobirokhin (1720-1792), Savely Kapustin (1743-1820), Vasily Kalmykov (1792-1832), Ilarion Kalmykov (1816-1841), Petr Kalmykov (1836-1864), Lukeria Kalmykova (1841-1886), Petr Verigin (1859-1924) and others.

Most often, Doukhobor children were named after a parent or grandparent. As a result of this practice, one finds personal names repeating every few generations within families. Consider the following example:





Aleksander Kalmykov



Dmitry Kalmykov



Aleksander Kalmykov



Dmitry Kalmakoff



Alex Kalmakoff



Alex Kalmakoff


In cases where the above naming practices were not followed, it can be said that names were left to chance.  However, even chance naming followed a peculiarly Doukhobor pattern: according to tradition, a Doukhobor child was sometimes named after the first person (often a friend, neighbour or relative) to set foot in the house after the child was born. In other cases, a female Doukhobor child might be named after the village mid-wife who assisted with the birth.  

It is not unusual to find more than one sibling with the same name. Infant mortality rates were high in Russia, and Doukhobor parents tended to pass the name of a deceased child on to the next infant born of the same sex. Occasionally one may find more than one living child with the same name in records, but this is rare and usually occurred when there was a great age difference between the children, or where the children were from two different marriages of the father. When this occurred, the name of one or the other child was often followed by a suffix to denote his or her relative age.  For example: Ivan Mladshii (“Ivan the Younger”) or Ivan Starii (“Ivan the Elder”). 

According to traditional Doukhobor custom, family members, young and old alike, addressed one another by their given names rather than by titles such as “father”, “mother”, “son”, “daughter”, etc. Such titles were avoided because their use implied authority, the larger over the smaller, contrary to the Doukhobor belief in brotherhood and equality.

Frequency and Distribution

See a glossary of 292 Russian male names that occurred historically among the Doukhobors.  See a glossary of 86 Russian female names that occurred historically among the Doukhobors.  These glossaries contain an exhaustive list of Russian names used by Doukhobors, based on an extensive review of 19th and 20th century Russian and Canadian historical records.

The pool from which Doukhobor names were drawn from was remarkably small. For example, among 9,188 Doukhobor immigrants living in Saskatchewan in 1905, we find only 111 names in use. Of these, seventy-two (64.9%) are men’s names, while only thirty-nine (35.1%) are women’s names. This is even more remarkable if we consider that there were over 2,600 names in use in Russia this time. These statistics reflect the fact that the Doukhobors in Russia descended from a relatively small founding population, sustained by natural population growth rather than new converts.   

A frequency count reveals that some names were exceptionally popular among Doukhobors, whereas others were quite rare. For example, among the Doukhobors in Saskatchewan in 1905, roughly one in every two Doukhobors bore one of the top five names: Vasily, Ivan, Nikolai, Petro or Aleksei among the males; Mariya, Anna, Anastasiya, Pelageya or Avdot’ya among the females. In contrast, only one in every 2,300 Doukhobors bore the names Vakul, Tikhon, Fedot, Zinoviya or Aleksandra.

1905 Men’s Names




% of Total





















1905 Women’s Names




% of Total





















For a frequency study of Doukhobor names in 1905. This study lists the frequency and rank of 111 men’s and women’s names that appear among 9,188 Doukhobor settlers living in Saskatchewan in 1905. 


Doukhobors commonly addressed one another by the diminutive form of their given names. Diminutives are informal, short forms of names used to express familiarity or endearment between friends and relatives. They are similar to English pet names such as William > Bill, Theodore > Ted, Susan > Sue, Elizabeth > Liz, etc. The formation of diminutives is so unpredictable that no simple rule can be formulated for use by those not familiar with Russian. Several diminutives can be formed from a single given name, and often the form of diminutive used depended on the particular tastes of one’s kith and kin. Consider the name “Ivan” for example, the diminutives of which include the following: 

Ivan: Vanya, Vanyusha, Vanechka, Vansha, Ivanka, Ivanya, Ivanyukha, Ivanyusha, Ivasya, Ivasik, Ivakha, Ivasha, Isha, Ishuta, Vanyukha, Vanyura, Vanyusya, Vanyuta, Vanyutya, Vanyata, Iva, Iv, Ivaka, Ivanei, Ivanets, Ivanechka, Ivanishche, Ivanko, Ivanok, Ivanochka, Ivantei, Ivanushka, Ivanchik, Ivanchuk, Ivanyui, Ivanyushka, Ivasenka, Ivasisha, Ivasechka, Ivas, Ivaska, Ivashenka, Ivashechka, Ivashka, Ivashok, Ivik, Ivga, Ivka, Ivonka, Ivochka, Ivushka, Ivashko, Ivash, Ishenka, Ishka, Ishechka, Ishuta, Ishutka, Ishutonka, Ishutochka, Vanaika, Vanei, Vanen, Vanion, Vanenka, Vanyonka, Vanenka, Vanechek, Vanik, Vanyochek, Vanka, Vanko, Vanyunenka, Vanyunechka, Vanyunka, Vanyuk, Vanyunya, Vanyurka, Vanyurochka, Vanyurushka, Vanyuska, Vanyusenka, Vanyusechka, Vanyutka, Vanyutochka, Vanyutushka, Vanyusha, Vanyushenka, Vanyushechka, Vanyai, Vanyaika, Vanyaga, Vanyushka, Vanyatka, Vanyatochka, Vanyatushka, Vanzha, etc.

See a comprehensive list of diminutives forms of Russian male names among the Doukhobors; and a listing of diminutive forms of Russian female names among the Doukhobors

Canadianization of Names

One often hears that in Canada “the name was changed by immigration officials in 1899”. No it was not, despite the popular myth. Many Doukhobor immigrants did eventually change their names, but this came later, as part of the assimilation process. They adopted new personal names after they began working or attending school outside the home. Often it wasn’t the immigrant who invented their new name; it might have been an Anglo-Saxon co-worker or schoolteacher. The new Canadianized names fall into one of three categories:

  • Language Equivalents. If an English language equivalent existed, that name was often the one adopted. Hence, most men with the Russian name Mikhailo took the English name Michael and most women named Marfa became Martha. However, the English equivalent name was not always the name chosen. For example, despite the fact that the English version of the Russian name Semyon is Simon, virtually all Doukhobors named Semyon became Sam.

  • Phonetic Similarity. When many Doukhobor immigrants changed their name, it was to an English name that sounded phonetically similar. Often no more than the first sound or letters coincided. Thus, someone named Elena in Russia might take the new name Elaine, Ellen, Ella, Eleanor, Elsie, Helen, Evelyn, Eva, Lena or Lillian. It is important to note that the new English name could be based on either a diminutive form or the full form of the Russian name. 

  • No Connection. In a small number of cases, Doukhobor immigrants adopted a new name that had nothing to do with their Russian name. Hence, Sergei became John, Kuz’ma became Charlie or James, and Anastasiya became Mabel.

See an index of the most common English names adopted by Doukhobor immigrants, along with their original Russian names.  See a reverse index of original Russian names used by Doukhobor immigrants, along with their most common adopted English names.

Changes of Name by Doukhobor Leaders

From time to time, Peter “Lordly” Verigin provided new personal names to his followers.  His reasons for doing so were diverse and ranged from the honorific and inspirational to the practical.  According to oral tradition, the Doukhobor leader renamed the following individuals:

  • In circa 1909, he changed the names of sisters MashaPolya and Lusha F. Podovinnikoff of Veregin, Saskatchewan to Vera (“Faith”), Nadezhda (“Hope”) and Lyubov (“Love”) respectively. These inspirational names were taken from the three essential virtues of the Doukhobor faith, which coincide with the Three Graces of classical literature.

  • In circa 1914, the Doukhobor leader switched the names of brothers John and Nick J. Chernoff of Veregin, Saskatchewan. His commonsense reason for doing so was because Nick looked like his father John and ought therefore to have been named after him; whereas the other brother had a reddish complexion like his mother and ought to have been named Nick.

  • In 1915, he changed the name of Alexei W. Hoobanoff of Veregin, Saskatchewan to Ignaty, in honour of his uncle in Russia whom Verigin deeply respected. The original Ignaty was one of the few members of the Hubanov clan in Russia to support Verigin as leader of the Doukhobors.

From what is known, Peter “Lordly” Verigin offered the new names as suggestions only.  However, given his sweeping influence over all aspects of Doukhobor life, it is doubtful that such suggestions were ever turned down.  On the contrary, the new names were a matter of great pride and honour, reserved for only the most faithful and devoted of his followers. Undoubtedly, there were other such instances which oral tradition has not preserved or kept in reasonable clarity.

Part II. Patronymics

Russian Patronymics

After the 10th century, Russians were identified by a patronymic in addition to their given name. Patronymics are derived from the father’s name and function as a middle name. For males, they are formed by adding the suffix ending ovich (“son of”) to the father’s name. For females, they are formed by adding the suffix ending ovna (“daughter of”) to the father’s name. For example, the name “Fyodor Trofimovich” refers to Fyodor, son ofTrofim and “Anna Trofimovna” refers to Anna, daughter of Trofim. Note that according to proper Russian grammar, the patronymic is always used alongside a formal given name; it is never used alongside a diminutive. 

Patronymics can greatly assist family researchers by supplying a more precise identification of a person. In some cases they may be the only clue to an ancestor’s parentage. They also allow one to differentiate between people with the same name. This is very useful in Doukhobor research, given the small pool of personal names and surnames. For example, among the Doukhobors living in Saskatchewan in 1905, the name “Vasily Popov” occurs 42 times and the name “Ivan Popov” occurs 39 times. Hence, without knowing the patronymic, it may be very challenging to locate the particular person one is looking for.

See a comprehensive list of male and female forms of  Russian patronymic names among the Doukhobors.

Canadianization of Patronymics

Many Doukhobor immigrants eventually changed their patronymic to the Canadianized form of their father’s name or to an initial. For example, Nick, son of Semyon might be known as “Nicholas Samuel” or “Nick S.” rather than “Nikolai Semyonovich”. Since the 1940’s, it has become increasingly less common for Doukhobor children to receive patronymics as middle names.

Part III. Surnames

Russian Surnames

In comparison to most European nations, the use of surnames occurred relatively late in Russia, arising among the nobility only in the late 15th and early 16th century. Fixed, hereditary surnames did not become common among the Russian peasantry until the late 17th century and early 18th century.

Russian surnames are characterized by special suffix endings. The most common endings are ovev (Nazarov, Zaitsev) and in (Konkin, Tomilin). Surnames ending in -oy (Bokovoy, Chernoy) and -iy (Uverenniy, Bozhiy) occur less frequently. Names ending in enko are typically Ukrainian in origin, however they may appear Russianized by the addition of the letter (Savenkov, Zubenkov). Surnames ending in sky (Podovsky, Eletsky) are widespread and may be Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Polish, Jewish or Russian in origin. It is important to note that women’s surnames in Russia have a special form and take the additional ending –a (Kalmykova, Larina, Dimovskaya).

The pool of Russian Doukhobor surnames is remarkably small. For example, among the Doukhobors living in Milky Waters in 1845 and in the Caucasus in 1853, we find only 370 surnames in use. Among the Doukhobors in Canada, we find only 268 surnames. These numbers are quite remarkable if we consider that the total number of surnames in Russia exceeds one hundred thousand.

See a frequency study of Doukhobor surnames in 1905. This study lists the frequency and rank of 235 surnames that appear among 9,188 Doukhobors living in Saskatchewan in 1905. 

Origin and Meaning of Doukhobor Surnames

A study of the origin and meaning of Doukhobor surnames reveals many clues about our family history. Some family names are very common and widely distributed in Russia, such as Popov or Kuznetsov. Others, such as Dukhoborov or Samorodin have uniquely Doukhobor origins or are “Doukhoborized” versions of existing Russian surnames. Many Doukhobor surnames may indeed have a single-family origin. Given the small size of the founding population, this conclusion need not surprise us.

Doukhobor surnames, like other Russian surnames, are derived from four basic sources: (i) first names; (ii) trades or occupations; (iii) nicknames; and (iv) places of residence or ethnic origin. A frequency count of 659 known Doukhobor surnames reveals the proportions in each class as follows:

Surname Type


% of Total

Personal Names












  • Personal Names form the basis of 34.6% of known Doukhobor surnames. Most are formed from men’s names and are said to be patronymicTarasov (Taras), Danshin (Dansha, a diminutive of Danila). Less common are matronymic surnames formed from women’s names: Anyutushkin (Anyutushka, a diminutive of Anna), Darin (Daria). Both the full form and the diminutive form of a name may give rise to a surname, and many different surnames can be formed from a single name: Ivanov (Ivan), Beloivanov (White Ivan), VaninVanzhovIvashin, Ivin (all diminutives of Ivan). Many of the personal names which have given rise to surnames are no longer in current use. These include Old Russian names such as Nechvolod (Nechvolodov) and Muzhilo (Mzhel’sky). Unfortunately, it is very difficult (and often impossible) to trace a family back to the ancestor whose personal name forms the surname they now bear.

  • Occupational Surnames form the basis of 8.2% of known Doukhobor surnames. Surnames of this type may be formed from administrative titles: D’yakov (scribe), Tolmachev (interpreter). They may relate to social or economic status: Argatov (labourer), Pobirokhin (beggar). Some are formed from military ranks: Esaulov (Cossack captain), Voykin (warrior). Others are formed from trades or occupations: Rybalkin (fisherman), Plotnikov (carpenter). Still others relate to religious office: Popov (priest), Ponomarev (sexton).

  • Nicknames form the basis of 50.0% of known Doukhobor surnames. Surnames of this type may refer to body parts: Gubanov (lips), Zhivotkov (belly). Many relate to descriptive characteristics: Malov (small), Khudyakov (thin). Others relate to physical defects or disabilities: Shcherbakov (pock marked), Glukhov (deaf). Some relate to behavior or personality: Dutov (boastful), Lezhebokov (sluggard). Others are derived from moral attributes: Mudrov (wise), Bludov (lecherous). Some were given by superstitious parents as a sign of good luck: Khabarov (lucky), Korolev (kingly). Many are formed from names of birds: Perepolkin (quail), Lebedev (swan). Others derive from the names of fish: Shchukin (pike), Kostrikov (perch). Still others derive from names of animals: Medvedov (bear), Zaitsev (hare). Several relate to clothing: Shapkin (cap), Kabatov (over-shirt). Some are formed from names of food: Kapustin (cabbage), Repin (turnup). While the literal meaning of a nickname may be clear, the reason why it was given often remains obscure, and centuries later, can only be speculated on. A nickname might be complimentary or insulting, genuine or ironic, true or false, depending on the particular circumstances and individual concerned. 

  • Locational Surnames form the basis of 7.2% of known Doukhobor surnames. Surnames of this type may indicate the village or town where an ancestor originated: Baturin (town of Baturin), Eletsky (city of Elets). Others indicate the region where an ancestor originated: Rezantsev (Riazan province), Vyatkin (Vyatka region). Some are formed from Old Russian place names that are no longer in current use: Trubetskoy (princely estate of Trubets), Dymovsky (village of Dymov, Dymovka or Dymovsk). Many are derived from features of the landscape, either natural or man-made: Nagornov (top of the hill – suggesting a hill-dweller), Ozerov (lake – suggesting a lake-dweller). A number of surnames denote the ethnic, tribal or national origin of an ancestor: Kalmykov (Kalmyk), Kasagov (Circassian). This last type may also derive from nicknames and in some cases do not necessarily indicate any true ethnic or national origin.

See a comprehensive glossary of Doukhobor surname origins. This glossary contains the origins and meanings of over 659 Russian surnames which occur among the Doukhobors in 18th, 19th and 20th century Russia and Canada.

Surname Changes in Russia

Surviving records and accounts indicate that many Doukhobor surnames were deliberately changed or altered in 19th century Russia. The reasons for these changes often varied. Consider the following examples:

  • Sometimes a man took the surname of the woman he married if her family had no male heirs to continue that name. This appears to have occurred among the following families: StrelyaevSopovMzhel’sky, Sherstobitov.

  • Where the father was a soldier, a son might take his mother’s surname so that he would not be automatically liable for conscription and would instead take his chances drawing lots for recruitment. For example, when the wife of Doukhobor leader Savely Kapustin was pregnant she was sent to her father’s household. When their son Vasily was born, he was proclaimed illegitimate and given his mother’s surname Kalmykov. Hence the Kalmykov leaders among the Doukhobors were actually members of the Kapustin family. According to oral tradition, Kapustin himself took his mother’s surname and was actually the son of Doukhobor leader Ilarion Pobirokhin.

  • Some families discarded their original surnames and adopted new ones which, although similar-sounding, were derived from wholly distinct etymological roots.  There were many possible reasons for such changes: the original surname may have been derived from an unflattering nickname that was embarrassing and undesirable; the surname may have been changed to conceal identity (i.e. military deserters, escaped serfs) or social/class background; or a new surname may have simply represented a new beginning and fresh start for the family.  According to historical records, such changes occurred among the following families: Barabanov (originally Barbin), Bulanov (originally Bulin), Miroshnikov (originally Miroshin), Sukhoveev (originally Sukhovkin) and Svetlikov (originally Svetlov).  

  • Doukhobor leaders such as Savely Kapustin did not discourage the idea of taking a new family name. On the contrary, he himself gave new surnames to a number of Doukhobor families including: Samorodin (originally Tolmachev), Uglov (originally Kruglov)and Solovyov (originally Saburlev). No doubt there were many other such instances which oral tradition has not preserved or kept in reasonable clarity.

  • A number of ethnic Ukrainian surnames among the Doukhobors were Russified by adding an –ov suffix ending. These include: Arishchenkov (originally Arishchenko), Borisenkov (originally Borisenko), Chernenkov (originally Chernenko), Chernov (originally Chernoy), Chuchmaev (originally Chuchmai), Gontarenkov (originally Gontarenko), Kolbasov (originally Kolbasa), Krikunov (originally Krikun), Lavrenchenkov (originally Lavrenchenko), Nagornov (originally Nagorny), Plokhov (originally Plokhy), Pogozhev (originally Pozoghii), Remezov (originally Remez), Savenkov (originally Savenko), Shtuchnov (originally Shtuchniy), Svetlichnov (originally Svetlichniy), Vanzhov (originally Vanzha), Vasilenkov (originally Vasilenko), Yashchenkov (originally Yashchenko), Zarshchikov (originally Zarshchenko), Zheltenkov (originally Zheltenko), Zubenkov (originally Zubenko).  In other cases, the Ukrainian surname was Russified by adding an -ev suffix ending in place of the -enko suffix ending: Yaroshev (originally Yaroshenko); by adding an -in suffix ending: Planidin (originally Planida); or by dropping the -enko suffix ending altogether: Baturin (originally Baturinenko).

  • Many surnames ending in -sky or -skoy were changed to -skov suffix endings. Some families might then keep the original surname and others might adopt the modified surname. Examples include: Dimovskov (originally Dimovsky), Trubetskov (originally Trubetskoy), Savitskov (originally Savitsky), Chutskov (originally Chutsky) and Eletskov (originally Eletsky).

  • Surnames endings -ov and -kov were used interchangeably for some surnames.  One or the other form of the surname might be adopted by a particular family. Examples include: Noskov (originally Nosov), Parfenkov (originally Parfenov), Tarankov (originally Taranov), Voronkov (originally Voronov), Zhivotkov (originally Zhivotov).

  • The suffix endings -in and -ov were used interchangeably for some surnames. A family might officially adopt one or the other form of the surname.  Examples include: Cherkashev/Cherkashin, Gnezdilov/Gnezdilin, Gor’kov/Gor’kin, Mashkov/Mashkin, Mukovnikov/Mukovnin, Podkolozov/Podkolzin, Pogozhev/Pogozhin, Ryl’kov/Ryl’kin, Razinkov/Razinkin.

  • The suffix ending -ov was added to several surnames already ending in -in. The resulting surnames have a double-suffix (-inov) ending. Examples include: Lapshinov (originally Lapshin), Fominov (originally Fomin), Shchekinov (originally Shchekin), Deminov (originally Demin), Bedinov (originally Bedin), Il’inov (originally Il’in), Kuftinov (originally Kuftin) and Chursinov (originally Chursin).

Spelling Variants in Canada

When the Doukhobors arrived in Canada in 1899, there was no standard system for transliterating Russian (Cyrillic) spellings into the English (Latin) alphabet. To complicate matters, in the South Russian dialect spoken by the Doukhobors, certain letters were capable of more than one pronunciation. That is, the letter G may also be pronounced as H; the letter V may also be pronounced as W; the letter F may also be pronounced as Kh; and the letter O may also be pronounced as A. Furthermore, most Doukhobor immigrants were illiterate and had no notion that any one spelling of their surname was more correct than another. As a consequence, the spelling of Doukhobor surnames in Canada became largely a matter of chance, and many English spelling variants arose for each name. Consider the following examples:

Original Surname

English Spelling Variants


Strelaeff, Strelieff, Strelioff, Strelieve, Strelove, Streliaoff, Strelov, Strilioff, Strelyaev, Strelayev, Streliaev, Straloff, Striloff, Streleoff, Strilive, Strulow, Strelaioff, Strellioff, Strilaeff, Stroloff, Stralieff, Strilaiff, Strelow, Strelaeff, Streliev, Strilaeff, Strelaff, Strellaeff, Strelleaff, Strelau, Strelive, Strelayeff, Streliaeff, Streleaff, Strelaif, Streliaiff, Streleiff, Strealieff, Streloff, Streleff, Streliaff. 


Chevelday, Cheveldov, Cheveldave, Cheveldae, Cheveldeff, Cheveldeaw, Cheveldeoff, Cheveldieff, Chivildave, Chivildeff, Cheveldayeff, Ciwildieff, Cheveldayoff, Cheveldaoff, Cheveldeaoff, Chevildeau, Tcheveldayeff, Cheveldeiff, Cheveldaeff, Chiveldaeff, Chiveldeff, Chevaldaew, Chiveldave, Cheveldaev, Chevaldaeff, Chiwildiaff, Chivildeyev, Chevildeyev, Chiwildieff, Cheveldeyeff,  Chivildeev, Chivildeyev, Cheweldeiff, Chivildeeff.


Stoochinoff, Stoochnof, Stoochnoff, Stushnaff, Stushnoe, Stoochnow, Stooshinoff, Stoshnof, Stoshnoff, Stooshnof, Stushnow, Stocknow, Stooshnov, Stoushnow, Stushnoff, Steuchnoff, Stooshnoff, Stuchnow, Stuchinoff, Stuchnoff, Shtoochnoff, Shtuchnoff, Shtuchny, Shtuchniy.

It is important to note that in recent years, some Doukhobors have returned to the standard Russian spelling of names, such as Tarasov instead of TarasoffKazakov rather than Kazakoff, and Popov for Popoff.

See a comprehensive glossary of Doukhobor surname spellings. This glossary contains over 2,600 English spelling variants of over 260 surnames which occur among the Doukhobors in Canada.

New Surnames in Canada

Several new Doukhobor surnames arose in Canada which did not previously occur in Russia. Consider the following examples:

  • Doukhobor leader Peter “Lordly” Verigin gave new surnames to several Doukhobor families. These include: Anyutushkin (originally Podovinnikov and/or Semenov), Bozhiy (originally Medvedev) and Uverenniy (originally Medvedev). 

  • In Russia, several non-Doukhobor Russians married into Doukhobor families and accompanied the movement to Canada. These include: DvortsovMokronosovNoshkin and Soobotin

  • A number of non-Doukhobor Russians married into Doukhobor families in Canada and thus joined the movement: These include: KondratovNesterov and Dobrolyubov

  • In Canada, several immigrants of Ukrainian(Skripnikoff ~ originally SkripnikSorokin ~ originally Soroka), Belarusian (Skiboff ~ originally Skobeiko, Kozlow ~ originally Kozyol),Polish (Zlotoff ~ originally Zloty), and even Lithuanian (Stangviloff ~ originally Stangvila) descent took Russianized surnames after joining the Doukhobor movement in Canada. 

  • Many Ukrainian and Polish immigrants married into Doukhobor families in Canada and while their surnames did not change to -ov or -in, their descendants continued to regard themselves as Doukhobors: Atamanenko, Sipko, Zaremba, Calmutsky, Obchansky, Matveyenko, Sereda, Mushta, Tymofeivitch, Timoshenko, Prokopenko, etc.

  • Several Ukrainian immigrants took Russianized surnames after settling among the Doukhobors in Canada, even though they did not join the Doukhobor movement. These include: Popoff (originally Piroscho), Tetoff (originally Teterenko), Marchenkoff (originally Marchenko), Sardoff (originally Sereda), Eremenkoff (originally Eremenko), Twerdoff (originally Twerdowsky), Holoboff (originally Holowaty). While these names are not “Doukhobor” per se, they suggest a strong Doukhobor influence at the time of their formation.

Surname Changes in Canada

As part of the assimilation process and/or to avoid ethnic discrimination, some Doukhobors in Canada deliberately changed their Russian surnames to English-sounding ones, especially during the 1940’s to 1960’s. The new family names fall into one of four categories:

  • Abbreviation. Often the old surname was not entirely abandoned, but was reduced to one or two syllables. Consider the following examples: Bitnoff (Zbitnoff), Bokoff (Legebokoff), Chern (Chernoff), Cherns (Chernenkoff), Chev, Chevelle, Chevelday and Day (Cheveldaeff), Hanch (Hancheroff), Herasim (Herasimoff), Kimoff (Evdokimoff), Lawrenoff (Lavrenchenkoff), Legebokoff (Legebow, Leadge), Makronoff (Makronosoff), Persoff (Pereverseff), Podavell (Podavilnikoff), Podmore (Podmoroff), Podov, Podovin (Podovinnikoff), Pope (Popoff), Pozney (Poznekoff), Remizon (Remizoff), Rezanson (Rezansoff), Sbitney (Zbitnoff), Shersty (Sherstobitoff), Sooke (Sookorookoff), Volodoff (Nechvolodoff), Yaschen (Yaschenkoff), Zurloff (Zurovloff).

  • Phonetic Similarity. Sometimes a genuine English surname was adopted which began with the same syllable or sounds as the old surname. These include: Aster (Ostoforoff), Chase (Chursinoff), Chutskoer (Chutskoff), Collins (Kazakoff), Conklin (Konkin), Kelly (Kalmakoff), Madison, Malden (Malikoff), Nash (Nechvolodoff), Podmeroff (Pomeroy), Paulson, Preston (Podovinikoff), Rowe (Remezoff), Sterling (Strelioff), Stocknow (Stushnoff), Turner (Taranoff), Vernon (Veregin), Wishart (Wishloff). 

  • Language Equivalents. In some cases, the English translation of the old surname was taken. Thus Strelioff became Archer, Ozeroff became Lake and Chernoff became Black. In other cases, the new surname was based on the English equivalent of a parent or grandparent’s name. Hence, a Stupnikoff whose grandfather was John took the name Johnson, and a Kalmakoff whose grandfather was Andrew took the name Andrews.

  • No Connection. Often the new surname had nothing to do with the old surname. Consider the following examples: Anderson (Soukeroff), Arden (Verigin), Barris (Sherstobitoff), Barton (Ostoforoff), Black (Ostoforoff), Bryan (Jmaeff), Calling (Voykin), Clayton (Oolasoff), Dalton (Storgeoff), Dempsy (Popoff), Delaine (Anatooshkin), Elwood (Kabatoff), Foster (Zurovleff), Gainer (Katasonoff), Hardy (Fedosoff), Hood (Perepolkin), Jacob (Swetlishnoff), Kent (Swetlishnoff), Knight (Chernoff), Lords (Holoboff), Patterson (Osachoff), Perry (Kalmakoff), Sunshine (Lavrenchenkoff), Treimans (Lapshinoff), Wilson (Postnikoff), Zacharias (Bondaroff). 

Note that Doukhobor surnames ending in -off were more frequently changed than surnames ending in -in. Also, those Doukhobor surnames consisting of three or more syllables (Sherstobitoff, Podovinnikoff) were more frequently changed than surnames consisting of two syllables. 

In Canada, legally changed names must be published in the provincial gazette of the province in which it was changed. For a comprehensive listing of Doukhobor name changes, see the Saskatchewan Gazette,Alberta Gazette, and the British Columbia Gazette.

Doukhobor Surnames Today

Over the past century in Canada, many Doukhobor family names have become common and widespread while others have dwindled or disappeared entirely. The separate fortunes of a family or families obviously determine whether such surnames became scarce or numerous. Some families had several male lines that started new branches in Canada; other families just managed to survive in the male line. In many cases, the family was never numerous or prolific and the surname they bore eventually disappeared with the end of the male line. 

  • Common Surnames. The most common Doukhobor surnames in Canada today include: Androsoff, Bloodoff, Bonderoff, Chernenkoff, Chernoff, Cheveldaeff, Chutskoff, Dergousoff, Hadikin, Horkoff, Kalmakoff, Kanigan, Kazakoff, Kinakin, Kolesnikoff, Konkin, Makortoff, Markin, Novokshonoff, Perepolkin, Pereversoff, Plotnikoff, Podovinnikoff, Popoff, Postnikoff, Poznikoff, Reibin, Rezansoff, Rilkoff, Tarasoff, Semenoff, Soukeroff, Strelioff, Strukoff, Stushnoff, Verigin, Voykin, Zaitsoff and Zibin. This stable core of surnames has persisted through the centuries to the present day. 

  • Rare Surnames. Some of the more rare Doukhobor surnames in Canada include: Barowsky, Babayoff, Bedinoff, Belovanoff, Bojey, Chikmaroff, Cherkasoff, Darin, Dorofeoff, Egoroff, Eletskoff, Esakin, Esauloff, Filipoff, Glaskoff, Glagoloff, Hrushkin, Harelkin, Hancheroff, Juriloff, Kasahoff, Kaboroff, Kondratoff, Koozin, Krigin, Krukoff, Kholodinin, Lavrenchenkoff, Labintsoff, Larin, Masloff, Metin, Nadane, Noshkin, Overennay, Petroff, Premarukoff, Plaxin, Padowsky, Parkin, Pohozoff, Repin, Rozinkin, Savitskoff, Shishkin, Shustoff, Shapkin, Skiboff, Skripnikoff, Slastukin, Soobotin, Sysoeff, Taranoff, Trubetskoff, Vlasoff, Zarchikoff and Zubenkoff. 

  • Extinct Surnames. Surnames which are no longer in use among the Doukhobors in Canada include: Bikanoff, Bokovoy, Chutsky, Dvortsoff, Eletsky, Gnezdiloff, Hohlin, Kalachoff, Kolasoff, Konobaloff, Kotoff, Krikunoff, Leonoff, Miroshnikoff, Parfenkoff, Satkoff, Savitsky, Shamshurin, Shikonoff, Sotnikoff, Svetlichny, Svetloff, Trubitsin, Voronkoff, Yaschenkoff and Youritsin. Several more rare surnames will disappear in Canada within the next decade.

Part IV. Nicknames

Nicknames – descriptive expressions added to a person’s real name or used instead of it – occur in every culture and the Doukhobors are no exception. Many colourful and unique nicknames were used to distinguish individuals, and in some cases, entire families.

Individual Nicknames

Nicknames were typically used to describe individuals with reference to their behavior or personality, their moral or intellectual attributes, or their physical characteristics and peculiarities. In other cases, they might attribute some particular quality of an animal, plant or object to a person. While the literal meaning of a nickname may be clear, the reason why it was given often remains obscure, and generations later, can only be speculated on. Sometimes a nickname referred to the exact opposite of what was literally implied.

Examples of Russian nicknames used by Doukhobors include: slepoi (blind), gorshok (pot), richarda (most faithful), khromoi (lame), chulok (sock), bol’shak (big), khuda (thin), kozel (goat), borodach (bearded), zolotoi (golden-haired), zhurushka (gloomy), kandal’nik (shackled one), blinshchitsa (blintsi maker), rybka (little fish), kormilushka (provider), starichok (oldster), zhikhar (daring), kalach (loaf), kutnyak (barn), besednitsa (conversationalist), tsar (king), bubun (chatterer), gubun (big lips), kalmachuk (adopted member of the Kalmakoff family), zaitchuk (member of the Zaitsoff family), shustrii (wry or vigilant), pcholka (little bee), nemoi (mute), dlinnii (tall), krasnii (red), belyak (white), hrubii (rough), kosoi (squint-eyed), odnorukii (one-armed), glukhoi (deaf), kulik (snipe), ryaboi (speckled), kotik (tom-cat), lapot’ (bast shoe), kukan (snare), kashka (bald), zubilo (chisel), bulanka (blond), goncharka (potter), shalyka (crazy), zayats (rabbit), turok (Turk), kiroplanchik (aviator), chernyi (black), lysak (bald), kolbasa (sausage), kosolapyi (clumsy), puzatyi (big-bellied), krasnyi (handsome), soldat (soldier), indiasky (person living near an Indian reserve), kosha (kitten), podkidnoy (foundling), usiak (moustache), baran (ram), ishak (mule), yablochnik (apple man), etc. 

Doukhobor leaders often bore honourific epithets or nicknames. For example, Ilarion Pobirokhin was referred to as Radost’ (“Our Joy”) and his wife as Radost’iu. Savely Kapustin was referred to as Kormilets (“Our Provider”) and his wife as KormilushkaPetr Kalmykov was referred to as Khrabrii (“The Brave”). His wife Lukeria Kalmykova was referred to as Blazhennaya (“The Blessed One”). Peter Vasil’evich Verigin was referred to as Gospodnii (“Lordly”). His son Peter Petrovich Verigin was referred to as Chistyakov (“The Cleanser”). His son, Peter Petrovich Verigin III, in turn, was referred to as Istrebov (“The Annihilator”).

Family Nicknames

Some Doukhobor families in Russia had two names – an official surname and an unofficial family nickname. The family nickname was used to distinguish between unrelated families with the same surname or different branches of the same family. As a family prospered and became more numerous in a village, each branch was given its own distinct nickname. Their function and formation were very similar to “dit” names in Quebec and “clan” or “sept” names in Scotland. The family nickname might be formed in one of several ways:

  • Personal names formed the basis of many family nicknames. For example, the Popovs, the patriarch of whom had eleven sons when joining the Doukhobor movement, came to be identified by these son’s first names: Makar (Makarov), Tikhon (Tikhonov), Khrol (Khrolov), Asei (Aseyev), Mikisha (Mikishin), Anikusha (Anikushin), Levon (Levonov), Daria (Darin), etc.

  • Individual Nicknames also gave rise to family nicknames. For example, a branch of the Kazakovs whose patriarch was nicknamed Chulok were referred to as the Chulkovs. A branch of the Postnikovs whose patriarch was nicknamed Starichok were referred to as the Starchikovs. A branch of the Antyufeevs whose patriarch was nicknamed Slepoi were referred to as the Slepovs

  • Surname Variations. Sometimes the family nickname was a variation of the original surname, derived from the same etymological root. Examples include: Podovsky or Podovil’nikov (from Podovinnikov), Podomarev (from Ponomarev) and Panferkov (from Parfenkov) and Mironov (from Miroshnikov). 

  • Ukrainianized. Occasionally, a Russian surname was Ukrainianized by adding the -enko suffix ending. The resulting name implied a “lesser”, “poor” or “unfortunate” branch of the family. Examples include: Chutsenko (from Chutsky), Baturinenko (from Baturinsky), Golubenko (from Golubov), Trofimenko (from Trofimov) and Petrenko (from Petrov).

Very often the family nickname was passed down to later generations, either in place of the original surname or in addition to it. Some branches might then keep the original surname, and some might adopt the family nickname. After several generations, it was not uncommon to completely lose the memory of the original surname, or to forget which was the original and which was the family nickname.

It is important to note that Doukhobor ancestors may appear in records under the original surname, a family nickname, or both. It is suggested that family researchers use any of the following methods to record the family nickname:






(Popov) Mikishin


Popov a.k.a. Mikishin


Popov alias Mikishin

“on zhe i”

Popov on zhe i Mikishin


Spelling does not matter in genealogical research. Beginning genealogists frequently look only for exact spelling; when they do, they usually do not find what they are seeking. Realize that most Doukhobor immigrants were illiterate and had no notion that any one spelling of their name was more correct than another. Furthermore, even if he or she could read Russian, they would not necessarily recognize the written name if it was written in English. Therefor, be very open-minded with the spelling of names in your research; you may have looked at many records of your ancestors and not realized it.

Researchers should be aware of Russian names that look and sound similiar, but are separate and distinct. These include: Marfa ~ MavraSavely ~ SavvaAleksei ~ AleksanderFilipp ~ FilatNikolai Nikita ~ Nikifor, Fadei ~ FoteiAkim ~ EfimVera ~ Varvara, Semyon ~ SamuilMaria ~ MarinaTrifon ~ TrofimEgor ~ Igor, Fyodor ~ Fedot ~ Fedosei, etc.

Similarly, researchers should be aware of Doukhobor surnames that look and sound similiar, but originate from different roots and belong to different families. These include: Malakhov ~ MalikovPostnikov ~ PozdnyakovArishchenkov ~ EroshenkovD’yakov ~ D’yachkovBarabanov ~ Balabanov ~ Beloivanov, Kazakov ~ KasahovPuhachev ~ PohozhevSukharev ~ Sukhorukov, Zharikov ~ ZhikharevRepin ~ RybinParkin ~ Parakhin, Tarasov ~ Taranov, Trubitsin ~ TrubetskoySvetlishchev ~ SvetlichnovKireev ~ KarevKuchin ~ Kuzin, Shchukin ~ ShchekinKanygin ~ Kinyakin, etc.

Doukhobor immigrants had several different names during their lifetime. Any given document may show the full form or the diminutive form, the Russian version or the English version of their name. The principle to remember is that the pattern of recording names was completely inconsistent. Therefore, researchers should be alert to all possibilities. Consider the following example:




Ivan Popov

Russian census


Vanya Popo

Ship passenger list


Ivan Poppoff

Canada census


Iwan Popoff

Doukhobor village census


Iwan Popow

Homestead entry


Evan S. Popoff  

National Registration


John Popoff




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  • Hande, D. Changes of Name: The Saskatchewan Gazette 1917-1950 (Regina: Saskatchewan Genealogical Society, 1993).

  • Inikova, S.A., O Dukhoborcheskikh Familiakh in ISKRA No.1889 (Grand Forks: USCC, March 29, 2000).

  • Kalmakoff, J., 1918 Census of Independent Doukhobors (Regina: 2002).

  • Khalikov, A. Kh., 500 Ruski Familii c Bulgaro-Tatarski Prouzkhog (Sofia, 1993).

  • Lapshinoff, S., List of Doukhobors Living in Saskatchewan in 1905 (Crescent Valley: 1996). 

  • National Archives of Canada, Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76, Volumes 183 to 185, Parts 1 to 14) Microfilm Reel Nos. C-7337 to C-7341. 

  • Nikonov, V.A., Slovar Russkikh Familii (Moscow: 1993).

  • Petrovskii, N.A., Slovar Russkikh Lichnikh Imen (Moscow, 1968).

  • Popoff, E.A., Stories From Doukhobor History (Grand Forks: USCC, 1992).

  • Popoff, J.E., Doukhobor History Quiz in ISKRA No.1633 (Grand Forks: USCC, December 3, 1986).

  • Popoff, J.E., Doukhobor History Quiz in ISKRA No.1670 (Grand Forks: USCC, September 7, 1988).

  • Saskatchewan Gazette 1950-1965 (Regina: Saskatchewan Queen’s Printer).

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This article was reproduced by permission in the following journals and periodicals:

  • ISKRA Nos.1900 & 1901 (Grand Forks: USCC, 2000).

  • FEEFHS Journal Vol 10 (Salt Lake City: Federation of East European Family History Societies, 2002).

  • Bulletin Vol 34 No 2 (Regina: Saskatchewan Genealogical Society, June, 2003).