I love Russian names and culture! Some of my favourites are:
Nadezhda (I'd use it in a heartbeat if I weren't worried about pronunciation)
Evgenii (pronounced Yevgeny), nn Zhenya
Nikita (I so wish pop culture hadn't made this a girl name over here)
@mclevine and @stripedsocks, I've known a Jelena and a Biljana, but they were both Serbian.
Wow, I wasn't expecting this many responses, haha. :D These are some awesome lists!
@mclevine, I'd definitely be interested in proper pronunciation of these names! I know some of them are self-explanatory, but my knowledge of pronunciation comes from watching movies like Fiddler on the Roof, Doctor Zhivago, Anna Karenina... so I'm not clear on the accuracy. I'm likely defaulting to a semi-German pronunciation, as I took that for a year, and I might be throwing in some Latin, which I also took for a year, and I wouldn't be surprised in I'm ridiculously far off the mark.
I'm also curious about the nicknames, since they seem to be less derived from their original names than in Western culture. More pet names than shortened names, I guess?
This article lists the typical nicknames for a lot of common Russian names.
-asha and -isha are common endings for Russian nicknames, sort of like adding -y or -ie. (So like Michael->Mikey, we have Mikhail->Misha). Other common endings are -ya (Borya for Boris, Anya for Anna) and -ek/-ok. Sometimes nicknames don't make as much sense to the English ear because you are seeing the anglicized version of the name. For example, Alexander in Russian is Aleksandr. You can see where the "s" comes from to make "Sasha. Others may just seem strange, but then again, English has Peggy for Margaret and Dick for Richard! :-)