Let me start with some examples:

Leningrad / Ленинград (today Saint Petersburg / Санкт-Петербург)

Leninsk / Ленинск

Stalingrad / Сталингрaд​ (today Volgograd / Волгогрaд)

Gorky / Горький (today Nizhniy Novgorod / Нижний Новгород)

So apparently, if we are to name a city after a person, we have three choices: add the suffix -grad, add the suffix -insk (possibly with truncating a few letters of the original name, such as Leninsk instead of Lenininsk), or not modifying the name at all, such as Gorky.

My question is, what are the rules for this, if any? Does it depend on what letter the person's name ends with?

  • 1
    The suffix is just -sk, nothing is truncated. See Ulyanovsk, Magnitogorsk, etc. There are no rules; morphological structure of new city names is loosely based on precedent. Basically, toponyms should sound like toponyms. Jul 4, 2015 at 0:00
  • @NikolayErshov then how do you explain "Gorky"? Is it just because Gorkygrad and Gorkysk don't sound good?
    – DrZ214
    Jul 4, 2015 at 2:28
  • @DrZ214 Adjectival endings are quite typical for toponyms (masculine for towns, feminine for stations, neuter for villages). There is no real need to change anything if the name already sounds OK—which is the case for last names. Though, you might modify the first name.
    – Shady_arc
    Jul 4, 2015 at 7:52
  • You can even watch how small towns born from stations or villages change their names (Обнинский→застава Обнинское→ город Обнинск, Долгий пруд → станция Долгопрудная → город Долгопрудный, Одинец→Одинцовы → село Одинцово)
    – Shady_arc
    Jul 4, 2015 at 7:52
  • Of course, there is a finite number of morphological ways to treat a town's name. For "-ин" adding further stuff is acceptable. If you take a person's surname with adjectival ending "-ий", adding suffixes and roots does not seem natural to me (like "to govern" → "governingtionmentness", totally redundant), thoughm obviously, we need to look at more names to know for sure.
    – Shady_arc
    Jul 4, 2015 at 7:56

2 Answers 2


The rules have been changing with time: Ярославль, Борисов, Сталино, Ильичёвск, Ерофей Павлович etc. all named after people.

The main idea is to attach a possessive suffix to the person's name to form an adjective, and make it agree with assumed generic name (деревня, город, село etc.)

Short forms of adjectives in -ск are nowadays the most productive pattern for toponyms in Russian, despite the fact they are not perceived as adjectives at all anymore.

-Ин-, -ов-, -ев- are still used as well.

-Ь, -ль are not productive anymore, either as possessive suffixes in general or as toponymic suffixes in particular.

In the XX century the tendency was to leave the person's name as is: Романов-на-Мурмане, Фрунзе, Орджоникидзе, Молотов, Черненко, Брежнев, Устинов.


In the times of Soviet Union they sometimes follow local rules. Consider the following cities: Stalingrad (Russia), Stalino (Ukraine), Stalinabad (Tajikistan), Leningrad (Russia), Leninvaros (Hungary), Leninabad (Azerbaijan, Tajikistan), Leninakan (Armenia) etc.

There are also standard suffixes like -sk for cities, e.g. Leninsk, Sverdlovsk, or -o for villages, e.g. Lenino, which one could encounter many times on the map. Yet I don't think there are truly strict rules for that.

About Gorkiy vs Gorkovsk. Well, I can't imagine why they chose the first variant except for the better sounding. For example, I know the village (station) which everyone calls simply Maximka (after Maxim Gorkiy) despite of its official name Gorkovskiy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.