3 Ways to Russian-ify Yourself

I teach a Beginner Jazz for teens/adults class on Saturday – very possibly my favorite class to teach this semester- and one of my students is a middle school boy who for the sake of privacy, we’ll call Randolph Ziofsky. We bonded over the act that I attended the same dreadful middle school he goes to and because we both loooove to dance are/were both social pariahs. Such is seventh grade.

‘Ziofsky’ is one letter off from his correct name- which sound decidedly cool and decidedly Russian to me.

In case you didn’t know there are 3 ways to Russianify yourself:

1. Study in Russia where you will be shouted at by old Babushkas, shower (or don’t) in black water for two days because that’s what comes out of the taps, eat cold cauliflower for breakfast because that’s what you’re sadly served and beg for Masla (butter, and one of the few words I remember from my time there)

IMG_5756 IMG_5761 IMG_5764 IMG_5768 IMG_5769 IMG_5772

More tales of Russia:

2 Turn yourself into a Russian Nesting Doll, or ‘matryoshka’ as artist Ira Smolikova has done on a variety of internationally recognised symbols for the Pushkin language Institute

ira pushkin ira1 Ira Smolikova matryoshka ira

3. Modify your name following these steps:

First name stays the same.

Middle Name:

If you are a Male:

  • With a first name beginning with a vowel born in Summer/Spring: Alexander
  • with a first name beginning with a vowel born in Fall/Winter: Oleg
  • With a first name beginning with a consonant born in Summer/Spring: Maxim
  • with a first name beginning with a consonant born in Fall/Winter: Vladimir


  • Are you under the age of 40: Irina
  • Are you over the age of 40: Olga

Last Name:

  • Ending in a vowel: add ‘ONA’ plus the first letter or your first name before the O
  • Ending in N, R, or P- add ‘SKY’
  • Ending in any other consonant-girls  add ‘INA”, boys add ‘OVA’
  • Ending in S- add ‘HKA”
  • Ending in a Consonant Digraph (Ch, Th, Sh, etc): add ”OY’

So for instance, I would be Jessica Irina Ruhlinsky.

Meryl Streep would be called Meryl Olga Streepsky.

Our president would be Barack Vladimir Obamabona.

The weird guy who graduated from Butler fifty years or so before that traveled to Russia with us eighteen-to-twenty-one-year-olds -known as Old Sean- would be Old Oleg Seansky.

My fabulous NYC-living stylish and now blogging friend Kevin would be Kevin Maxim Wiltzova.

Oprah Olga Winfreyoona. You get the idea.

What, did you think MIkhail would be on the list? No, there is only one.

Baryshnikov with Uma Thurmansky

Baryshnikov with Uma Thurmansky

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