Azerbaijan 'may ban Russian names'

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Media captionAzeri woman: "If someone has a name in their heart that they like, it shouldn't be prohibited"

The names that can be given to children in Azerbaijan could soon be strictly defined - with Russian sounding names like Maria and Mikhail banned.

The country's Terminology Commission has expressed concern about names which do not sound Azeri.

"Russian names like Maria, Yekaterina, Olya or Alya will not be permitted," said Sayali Sadigova, the deputy head of the commission.

Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union until 1991.

Ms Sadigova has said that Russian-sounding names - even if they are not technically of Russian etymology - are of particular concern to the commission as they are still perceived as having come from the former Soviet Union.

Speaking to BBC Azeri, she commented on families who call their child Dmitri: "Not everyone in Azerbaijan wants to marry their daughter off to a boy called Dmitri."

The rules would apply only to ethnically Azeri children - people of other nationalities living in Azerbaijan will still be able to give their offspring names of their choice.

Double or triple names will also be forbidden.

What's in a name?

Ms Sadigova has criticised names like Haji Najafgulu Agha, saying that parents should pick either Najaf or Gulu: "Names should be short, concise and concrete," she says.

The commission has already made proposals to the relevant government bodies about the changes.

"A new list of names is being prepared under the president's decree and, when ready, it is expected to be sent to all registry offices in the country. Because of the president's decree, no further discussion is expected."

Though there is already a law about name-giving in the country which stipulates that names "which can damage the child's interests, which do not comply with the person's gender or are ludicrous" are not allowed, the commission believes that more regulation is needed.

This is not the first time that lawmakers in Azerbaijan have been concerned with naming trends.

Calling surname endings a "national domain" in any country, Ali Hasanov, an adviser to Azerbaijan's president, has previously said they should be changed to -az and -yaz.

"Our internet domain is also .az, and it is also the first syllable of the name of the country, the nation", he explained in an interview with a local news site.

Having been part of the Soviet Union for over 70 years, many surnames in Azerbaijan still carry the Russian -ov, -ova, -yev or -yeva endings - though some have started changing them to -li (from the Azerbaijani for "from") or -zada (from the Persian "born of").

While some Azeris agree with the proposed changes, others in the country say any strict regulations will unfairly limit their freedom to chose names which are already in widespread use or which have special meanings within their families.

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