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[Facts] Is Lenja a Russian nickname for Elena, Helena?
I've got another one: Lenja (also spelled Lenia, Lenya/ pronounced either lehn-ya (long eh sound) or more commonly lenn-ya). It was popular in Germany for a while making the top 100. Especially around 2010.Now lots of German sites claim that this is a Russian nickname for Helena or Elena (it's usually Helena).As far as I know Helena isn't even commonly used in Russia? And Elena was super common but all the Russian Elenas I know are ALWAYS Elena, never Lenja.I'm starting to think that this was made up in Germany (sort of like Svenja was) by combining the very popular Lena with -ja names such as Maja, Ronja, Anja (which are also popular in Germany).Any ideas?Please rate my list:
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Interesting topic! I'd like to add that Lénia is sometimes used in Portuguese, not as a variation of Lena (which isn't used as a full name) or as a nickname for Helena, but rather inspired by Russian-sounding names that were popular in Portugal in the 70s and 80s: Cátia, Tânia, Sónia, Nádia, Ânia, etc. Other similar "made up" names used in Portugal include Dânia and Vânia (Vanya) as a feminine name.So I support your theory that, in both languages, Lénia / Lenya was invented as a name as a "natural" alternative to other similar-sounding popular names.

This message was edited 1/14/2023, 8:45 AM

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Thank you, that's so interesting!
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I think you are right!
I've never heard/seen Lenja being used as a diminutive of Elena. Elena (Елена) is always Lena (Лена).
Of course, there are lots of nicknames for Elena¹, but it's never Lenja/Lenya.¹ (Alyona (Алёна), nowadays it's used as a stand alone name. Also, Lena (Лена), Lenusha (Ленуша), Lenusya (Ленуся), Lesya (Леся), Lyolya (Лёля), Lusya (Люся), Lelya (Леля), etc.
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Thank you!
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I think the German use of Lenja is inspired by the actress and singer Lotte Lenya (stage name) known for her performances of Brecht/Weill songs.
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Thank you, that is a likely explanation!
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First, let us get the following out of the way:1. Yelena is the standard English transcription of Russian Елена, whilst Jelena is the standard German transcription. In both languages, Elena is merely a variant transcription.2. The modern Russian alphabet does not really have a letter that is equivalent to the Latin letter H. The closest possible letter is Х, which is transcribed as Kh. So no, Helena is not used in Russia. Any Russian Helena that you see on social media has either grown up outside of Russia, or has made a conscious decision to spell their name in that fashion so as to be more "western" and thus appeal to a more international audience.3. Lenja would be written as Леня in Russian Cyrillic. The standard transcription of that is actually Lenya, with Lenia and Lenja being variant transcriptions. Well, for English, that is. For German, Lenja would be the standard transcription, as the Germans transcribe the Russian letter я in names as ja by default.With that said: technically it is certainly possible for Леня (Lenja/Lenya) to be a diminutive of Elena/Yelena, as -я (-ja/-ya) is a diminutive suffix for Russian given names. In other words: the name follows the Russian language's rules for diminutives. But in practice, the name is actually a diminutive of Leonid, meaning that Lenja/Lenya is actually a masculine name in Russia. Any actual use of Lenja/Lenya on Russian women officially named Elena/Yelena is either very rare or completely archaic.
QuoteAnd Elena was super common but all the Russian Elenas I know are ALWAYS Elena, never Lenja.
Well, to be fair, Russians only use diminutives amongst friends and family. They would never introduce themselves or others to strangers with a diminutive name. So, if you are not particularly close with all the Russian Elenas that you know, then of course you only know them by their official given name.

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Perrine, I forgot to mention...
QuoteNow lots of German sites claim that this is a Russian nickname for Helena or Elena (it's usually Helena).As far as I know Helena isn't even commonly used in Russia?
Perhaps you should seriously consider the possibility that when German sites say that Lenja is a Russian nickname for Helena, they do not mean to imply that Helena is used in Russia. They might simply use Helena instead of Elena/Jelena/Yelena because Helena is the most familiar to a German audience. After all, those websites are first and foremost intended for German visitors - not Russian visitors.Behind the Name tends to behave similarly in how it presents its information (though much more so in the past than nowadays), although here the focus is on an English-speaking audience rather than a German one. Take this example of Bartel, for instance: description does not imply that Bartholomew is used in the Dutch-speaking world. Bartholomew is only used in the description (instead of Bartholomeus) to make everything easier to understand (and also more relatable) for an Anglophone.
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Yes, that's true! Thank you!I have made slightly different experiences but I met Russian people mostly through friends and not in a business context so maybe that is the difference?They always introduced themselves by the nickname and used it pretty much exclusively and often I only found out later what it was short for.
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