Odchestvo is commonly referred to as the middle name of a Russian person. In actuality, there is no such thing as a middle name in Russia. Odchestvo is better described as the “father’s name”. When immigrating to United States, many Russians choose to retain their odchestvo as the middle name, though they may wish to only keep it as the actual name of their father to make it more middle-name-like, without any modifiers (explained later on). Of course, this option creates a middle name that may sound odd for females, since “Olga Boris Whatever” confuses gender names. For this reason, some women choose to substitute this with their mother’s names, but that goes against the tradition (yes, women were not considered as important back in the day).
Odchestvo is very easy to create, unlike the stupid system of American middle names, which are apparently chosen arbitrary or through a complex algorithm used by a practiced religion. To generate your very own odchestvo simply take your father’s name (again on the conservative side, everybody had a father back in the day), then add an “ovich” ("yevich" in some instances) if you’re male or “ovna” ("yevna" in some instances) if you’re female, and stick it after your last name. As an example, I will use my father’s name, Vlad. It’s crucial to use the father’s full first name, no abbreviations, since this is formal. I have to use “Vladislav”. Then, I stick an “ovich”, knowing that I’m male, and the resulting odchestvo is Vladislavovich. D Warrior Vladislavovich…very simple!
Father’s First Name + ovich/ovna (yevich/yevna) = Odchestvo
The original purpose, I suppose, was to be able to connect parts of the family and generate a family tree, though Russia got screwed over by the commies and family trees became very, very rare. I was personally surprised when I came to US to find that everyone else had a coherent family tree they were proud of, and I'm not even going into the whole coat of arms thing. I never gave a damn, nor was I ever religious…a product of post-communist generation, I suppose.
When I lived in Russia, odchestvo was used in conjunction with the first name to refer to a person who was either elderly or not your close friend; last names were more formal. The way to use this was to first say the person’s first name, then follow it up with the person’s odchestvo, leaving out his/her last name. Other than that, it wasn’t used anywhere else, except on formal documents that required complete name.
I’ll show you an example in order to reinforce your knowledge of this complexity. I hope you already figured out your own odchestvo by now. Anyway, the subject we will use is named “Ludmilla Novogodnova”. She is approximately 70 years old and her father, Petr, was a war hero. (Petr is the Russian version of Peter)
First, we will generate her odchestvo from the information we’ve gathered. Since her father’s full name is “Petr” and she is female, her odchestvo is Petr + ovna, or Petrovna.
Second, we will ask Ms. Novogodnova (that’s what she would be referred to as in English) how the weather is today. Since she’s elderly, we must be respectful and use the first name + odchestvo combination. Her first name is Ludmilla, and her last name is Petrovna, so we say “Hello, Ludmilla Petrovna, how is the weather today?”
Of course, it sounds best with typical Russian names and not so much with other names. For example, Smithovich, Colinova, Saadovna, Kevinovich, Phillipovna, and Robertovich all sound strange in Russian.
If I ever have a son, his odchestvo will be Dovich, and if I ever have a daughter, her odchestvo will be Dovna. Sucks for them!
Now that you’re experts in the subject, go dig up your fancy family trees and give an odchestvo to all your family members! Go crazy, be creative, call your mother and see her reaction, try the principal!