I'm American, and so almost all of the Russian people I know are ex-Soviets, most of whom are very traditional and many of whom have impeccable manners. As such, I think that I may have an overblown view of how often people refer to others using their отчество (patronym?). Is it actually still frequently used in places like schools and at work? Also, when referring to someone you don't know (i.e. when the news is talking about someone in a story, when giving a presentation about someone, etc.) would you include their отчество? I have a feeling that things like this may have fallen out of style since the fall of the Soviet Union, but don't know anyone who would be able to tell me.

EDIT: Thank you all very much for your answers! I appreciate all of them, and the breadth of information all of you gave me. I probably should have specified that although I am American, Russian is my first language and I was raised in a Russian neighborhood. Because of this, I know pretty well the differences between "ты" vs "вы" and also a lot of the easy cases when you would use someones отчество. With this in mind, I chose shabunc's answer, as it was closest to my original intention for the question, but Sandra's and everyone else's answers are all also very helpful!

  • 3
    Although this has little to do with your original question, I'd like to add that patronymics aside, Russian is very old-fashioned in general when it comes to addressing other people. "Thou/thee"("ты/тебе&тебя") is still used in non-formal speech a lot (the rules are very similar to French), and "they" would pretty much never mean one person of unspecified gender.
    – undercat
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 1:07
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    @undercat, there is nothing particularly 'old-fashioned' in this. It could be if there was a trend towards such changes, but there is none. In fact, it is pretty much limited to English.
    – Zeus
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 7:56
  • 1
    This thing did not change from the Soviet times.
    – Anixx
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 14:19

4 Answers 4


Very often. The fun thing about patronymics is that they are huge part of colloquial usage as well. In a friendly conversation one can omit name completely and use just patronymic, like in "Что-то ты, Никитична, сегодня не в духе".

Even in most liberal schools students still tend to refer to professors with patronymic. As of jobs - there are many spheres where referring someone without patronymic considered rude at least. But, again, it's not always about any codex - sometimes it's just for fun.

One can even use patronymic to refer to an enemy, like in: "Ты, Павел Андреевич, подонок".


First of all, there is a big difference between calling someone by the combination of his first name and his patronymic name (Иван Кузьмич) and calling someone by his patronymic name only (Кузьмич). The first variant is the standard formal way, and the second variant is very informal. I assume you are asking about the first variant.

Another important thing is that there is a big difference between addressing someone when you talk to him and referring to someone when he is absent. I assume you are asking about the second case.

Even if my interpretation of your question is correct, the answer still strongly depends on many factors, mainly on the type of situation. In very formal settings such as government sessions and conference talks it is common to include the patronymic name when talking about someone who is absent. In informal communications it is rather uncommon, but it depends. In news articles it is also rather uncommon. The most common ways to refer to a person in a news article are "Путин" (just the surname) and "Владимир Путин" (first name + surname).

When Russian students talk with each other about their teachers, they usually call them by the surname (Сидоров), patronymic name (Кузьмич), or nickname, which is often a shortened form of the surname (Сидор). However, when students address their teachers in order to talk to them, the chosen form is always "Иван Кузьмич" (first name + patronymic name).

Concerning work, I do not even know the patronymic name of my boss. He never told, and I never asked. I address him by "Вы" (the respectful form of "you"), and he addresses me by "ты" (the standard form of "you") and sometimes by my first name. When I and my colleagues talk about him in his absence, we refer to him by his surname or his first name.

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    I address him by "Вы" (the respectful form of "you"), and he addresses me by "ты". Is this something normal in Russia? (In Germany, it would be perceived as rude, if one person is expected to use "Sie" while being addressed by "Du". It's normal for the relationship teacher <> minor student, though.) Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 17:34
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    @FrankfromFrankfurt Yes, the asymmetry is common and is generally not perceived as something bad by any of the parties. We (Russians) quickly find a mutually comfortable way of addressing each other and talking to each other. It is about psychology of the people concerned and flavours of "ты" and "Вы" in the Russian language.
    – Sandra
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 18:58
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    My boss is 20+ years older than me. For me it is uncomfortable to use "ты" to address a man who is 20+ years older than me, because doing so would imply that I consider myself an old woman of his age league. However, if my boss asked me to address him by "ты", I would not feel uncomfortable to do so, because it would be his own wish, not mine, and hence not my message of how I see myself.
    – Sandra
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 18:59
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    I prefer to be addressed by "ты", because it is friendly and informal. This preference of mine does not depend on my interlocutor. And it is nice to have a boss who talks in a friendly way rather than in an official tone.
    – Sandra
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 19:02
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    30+ years ago the ты-вы (a)symmetry was strongly dependent upon location: St Petersburg symmetric вы-вы, Moscow asymmetric, Novosibirsk symmetric ты-ты.
    – zzz777
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 12:47

Very often, but somewhat less often than decades ago.

First of all, the form addressing strongly depends on a scenario. If some scenarios, patronymics are used almost universally, in others, their usage has declined.

  1. At school - addressing teachers. This is where children still address adults by First Name + Patronymic;

  2. At work - addressing colleagues, and particularly superiors - this is where the use of patronymics particularly declined. In Soviet times, people in their 30s have already "earned" their patronymics. Today, many people, even bosses, don't like to be addressed with the use of patronymics, and prefer First Name Only;

  3. In the news (or generally talking about a person who is unknown and not expected to become known personally). Usage of patronymics has declined a little.

  4. Introductions - when presenting yourself, or your friend to the new people. Usage of patronymics here declined, similar to "at work" scenario. When people would like to be addressed by their First Name Only rather than FN + Patronymic, they try to establish it from the start.

You can find my full answer to a similar question: In Russian is it more appropriate to refer to someone by their full name?


Actually, Sandra's answer is very accurate, but I'd like to say, that there are common cases when you always use first name + patronymic: 1) When you want to show your respect for the other person. 2) When you refer to person who is much older than you are. However, women can be offended by this sometimes, usually when you overestimate the age difference.

Speaking about "ты" и "вы", normally you refer to everyone by "вы". It is a polite way to talk to anyone. If the person is OK with "ты", he or she will surely let you know. On the other hand, you can try to say "ты" to somebody if you feel it that way. If somebody does that to you, he's just trying to be more friendly. It may be a little rude sometimes, for example, in official correspondence

It's not very good to use "товарищ" or "сударь". "Товарищ" is usually being said by retired or old people, and "Сударь" is actually never used, only if you are making fun of somebody :)

And on @zzz777 answer, it does depend on region only by cultural difference. What you said is actually right, but the thing is Saint-Petersburg is a cultural capital of Russia, Novosibirsk is quite "gopnik" area and Moscow is a business center of the country, where people separate personal life and business very much.

  • welcome to Russian SE )
    – shabunc
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 10:33
  • @shabunc thanks a lot!
    – spbnative
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 10:40
  • In my environment I heard a few times how people used сударь when they addressed each other. Of course, it is an ironic form and is used without the name or the surname. "Сударь, не угодно ли вам наконец прислать мне отчет?"
    – Sandra
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 11:07
  • Yes, @Sandra, I meant it also when said about "making fun of somebody". There are two types of people, who say "сударь": the first ones are just being ironic and the second ones are working in fastfood restaurant called "Теремок" (they pretend to cook russian traditional cuisine), where they always refer to customers as "сударь" and "сударыня". And almost nobody likes that.
    – spbnative
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 11:15

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