Memos from Asia

Will Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz Abandon Russian-style Surnames?

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Uzbekistan is an independent post-soviet country. Although the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz people continued using surnames in Russian-Slavic style. However, in the last years, Central Asian nations are paying much attention to learning and returning to their culture and customs. Hence, the number of people with Russian-style surnames is constantly decreasing in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, though the majority of the population uses it.

What is the Russian or Slavic formation of a surname?

Russian family names end with Slavic name suffixes like “ov”, “va” or “ev”. For instance, the name Ivan becomes a surname Ivanov. (Central Asia News)

In Central Asia, people start their surnames with local names but end with these Slavic suffixes. For instance, Nodir is a name that means unique; people get this name and add the “ov” suffix to make a surname “Nodirov”.

What is inspiring people?

  1. Culture. Today Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, or Tadjiks know much better about their traditions, culture, and customs than five years ago. There are vast differences in culture and values between Central Asians and Russians. Besides, the difference in ethnic groups contributes to the popularity of changing names. The majority of Central Asians are Turkic, while Russians belong to the Slavic ethnic group.
  2. Dark periods during USSR. Repression of Soviets resulted in the death of thousands of Central Asians. Many people in the region were exiled to remote places or simply executed. Hence, people do not want to use similar surnames with Russians.
  3. Religion. People want to use names that are suitable for religion.
  4. Famous people. Many prominent people abandoned Russian style surnames in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Hence, it is motivating youth to drop Russian names. (Azon Uz)

Obstacles to the modification

  1. Migration to Russia. Russia is one of the partners of all Central Asian countries. Every year, many people migrate to Russian to work or study. Hence, they will become resistant to changes after some period of living in Russia.
  2. Existence of other more serious problems. Many Uzbeks and Tajiks heeding the unemployment rates, external debt, and poverty-level rather than the surnames.
  3. Time. Changing names takes time and much bureaucracy.
  4. Financial obstacles. Some Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz people are resistant to change their surnames due to financial difficulties for documentation.

A growing trend in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan

The number of Central Asians that dropped the Russian-styled names is increasing year by year. Some cases show even some government officials, prominent actors, journalists, and other famous people dropped Russian suffixes in their surnames.

The Tajik President Emomali Rahmon changed his surname from Rahmonov to Rahmon. He urged other Tajiks to abandon Russian-derived names to increase the patriotism of the nation. (Central Asia News)

Dropping Russian-derived also becoming a trend in Uzbekistan. Many religious people stopped using Russian-style surnames. The Uzbek chairman of the International Press Club removed the “ev” suffix from his surname. (Azon Uz)

In Kyrgyzstan, ex-ambassador to South Korea Kylychbek Sultanov changed his surname to Sultan. Former Human Rights co-ordinator Tursunbek Akunov become Akun by dropping Russian suffixes.


As the Central Asians learn their history, culture, and religion, they will start thinking about dropping Russian-styled surnames.

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