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Hold your breath as Stalin hugs Gorbachev

N Muraleedharan in Thiruvananthapuram | July 05, 2005 18:55 IST

 Lenin shook hands with Krushchev. Stalin hugged Gorbachev. Tereshkova patted Svetlana. No. It was not a feat performed by time machine bringing together illustrious Russians who lived at different points of time. The occasion was a get-together of Malayalees having Russian names.
 
The meeting was arranged by the Russian Cultural Centre in Pathanamthitta a few months back. Later this month, there is going to be another meeting of Malayalees with Russian names. The venue this time is 'Moscow'--not the majestic megapolis but an unpretentious village in Kottayam district.

The hamlet acquired the name decades back for being a communist pocket. "The response to the assembly of people with Russian names has been quite encouraging. In all, 75 people registered and 43 turned up last time," Russian Cultural Centre director Rathish C Nair told PTI. There were seven Lenins', six Stalins and two Brezhnevs.

The preference is not confined to communist oldguards alone. The gathering included two Gagarins, carrying the memory of history's first cosmonaut. Both were born in the same year when Yuri Gagarin journeyed to space.

"The communist influence is certainly the main reason for Russian names becoming popular in Kerala. Most of these names are associated with the Soviet era," Nair said.

Fans of Russian literature too had reason to be elated. One of the participants was 'Pushkin', christened after the great romantic poet Alexander Pushkin. There were also 'Natashas' (Remember Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace') and 'Tanyas', characters often found in Russian novels that still enjoy wide readership in Kerala.

The eldest to turn up was 72-year-old Ivan, bearing the popular pre-Soviet name carrying the association with the Czar 'Ivan the terrible.' The youngest was 18-month-old Svetlana, brought to the stage by her mother. "Many of these names are actually surnames of famed Russians. A Keralaite 'Lenin' has no Vladimir as his first name, as in the case of founder of the Soviet Union. Stalin is without the prefix Joseph.

 The obsession with Russian names is not limited to naming children. There are youth clubs called 'Sputnik' and restaurants and bars called 'Volga.' There were also cases of the communists nicknamed after the Soviet models. "With the demise of the Soviet Union, the trend of naming new borns after communist leaders has changed. Now people draw on Russian literature to name their children as Natashas or Tanyas," Nair said.


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