The Top 40 Russian Surnames and Meanings

Wall decorated with the names of Russian writers and poets at Rasskazovka metro station in Moscow
A passenger walks past a wall decorated with the names of Russian writers and poets at Rasskazovka metro station in Moscow.  YURI KADOBNOV / Getty Images

Russian surnames have many origins, including occupation, father's first name, personal nickname or family nickname, geographical location, and even personal surnames given to seminary students based on their good or bad qualities. The following list includes the 40 most popular contemporary Russian surnames, their meanings, and variations.

Surname in EnglishMeaningDetails and Variations
Ivanovson of Ivanfemale: Ivanova
Smirnovfrom смирный - peaceful, quiet, calmfemale: Smirnova
Petrovson of Pyotrfemale: Petrova
Sidorovson of Sidorfemale: Sidorova
Kuznetsovfrom кузнец - blacksmithfemale: Kuznetsova
Popovfrom поп - priestfemale: Popova
Vassilievson of Vassily

female: Vassilieva. Can also be spelled as Vasiliev / Vasilieva

Sokolovfrom сокол - falcon, hawkfemale: Sokolova
Mikhailovson of Mikhailfemale: Mikhailova
Novikovfrom Новик - old Russian for newcomerfrom the secular (mirskoe) name/nickname Novik, which comes from the word 'new'
Fyodorovson of Fyodorfemale: Fyodorova
Morozovfrom мороз - frostFemale: Morozova
Volkovfrom волк - wolffemale: Volkova
Alekseevson of Alexeifemale: Alekseeva
Lebedevfrom лебедь - swanfemale: Levedeva
Semyonovson of Semyonfemale: Semyonova
Yegorovson of Yegorfemale: Yegorova
Pavlovson of Pavelfemale: Pavlova
Kozlovfrom козел - goatfemale: Kozlova
Stepanovson of Stepanfemale: Stepanova
Nikolaevson of Nikolai

female: Nikolaeva. Can also be spelled as Nikolayev / Nikolayeva

Orlovfrom орел - eaglefemale: Orlova
Andreevson of Andrei

female: Andreeva. Can also be spelled as Andreyev / Andreyeva

Makarovson of Makaryfemale: Makarova
Nikitinson of Nikitafemale: Nikitina
Zakharovson of Zakhar / Zakharyfemale: Zakharova
Solovyovfrom соловей - nightingalefemale: Solovyova
Zaitsevfrom заяц - harefemale: Zaitseva
Golubevfrom голубь - dove, pigeonfemale: Golubeva
Vinogradovfrom виноград - grapesfemale: Vinogradova
Belyaevfrom Беляй

female: Belyaeva. Originates from the secular name or nickname that meant 'white'

Tarasovson of Tarasfemale: Tarasova
Belovfrom Беляй or Белый

female: Belova. Originates from the secular name or nickname that meant 'white

Komarovfrom комар - gnat, mosquitofemale: Komarova
Kiselyovfrom кисель - kissel

female: Kiselyova. Originates from the name of a Russian traditional fruit drink similar to mors with the addition of starch or arrowroot

Kovalyov female: Kovalyova
Ilyinson of Ilyafemale: Ilyina
Gusevfrom гусь - goosefemale: Guseva
Titovson of Titfemale: Titova
Kuzminson of Kuzmafemale: Kuzmina

The Most Popular Russian Surnames and Their Origins

Ivanov (Иванов) remains one of the most popular last names in Russia. This surname comes from the first name Ivan, which was for centuries a very common name, especially among the peasant class. There are almost 100,000 Ivanovs just in Moscow, despite the fact that the majority of Ivanovs live in Russian regions. Russians often use the expression 'Иванов, Петров, Сидоров' (Ivanov, Petrov, Sidorov) when talking about the average Russian. Ivan Ivanych Ivanov is equivalent to the English John Smith.

While the surname Ivanov came from a first name, another popular Russian surname, Smirnov, originated from a nickname that means 'the quiet one' (смирный). It is thought to have appeared in peasant families that had many children and considered having a child who was quiet and calm to be a blessing. The surname Smirnov is typical for the Northern Volga region (Povolzhye) and the central parts of Russia (Kostromskaya Oblast, Ivanovskaya Oblast, and Yaroslavskaya Oblast).

It is the 9th most popular name in the world, with over 2.5 million people called Smirnov.

Changes in Russian Surnames Over the Centuries

Russian surnames appeared at different times in different classes of Russian society. For example, citizens of the Novgorod Republic, or the Novgorodian Rus', already had surnames in the 13th century, while many peasants, especially those who lived in less central parts of Russia, did not receive official records of their surnames until the 1930s.

The first Russian surnames were Slavic pagan names that described the person's character or a particular trait, and, less often, occupation. These appeared long before the first official surnames were recorded, and continued to be used alongside Christian names for many centuries. While some of them were nicknames bestowed on a person during their life, others were names that newborn babies were given as an intention for the kind of character or life they would have, or to describe the conditions surrounding the baby's birth, such as particularly cold weather. For example, Nekras - Некрас (nyeKRAS) - was often a name given in the hope that the child would be beautiful. Некрас means 'not beautiful', and the opposite meaning of the name was meant to ward off bad spirits and guarantee the realization of the parents' intention for their child. These names eventually transformed into surnames, creating such names as, in this example, Некрасов (nyeKRAsuff).