Name Spotlight: Valeriy


A dated name that rose to fame in the late 1930s, Valeriy is a ‘strong’ name…literally.


According to various sources, Valeriy is the Russian¹ and Ukrainian² form of Valerius, which is a Roman family name derived from Latin valēre³ meaning “to be strong¹.” With regards to how they’re written in Cyrillic, Валерий¹ is used in Russian while Валерій² is used in Ukrainian. Other (Russian) transcriptions of Valeriy include Valeri and Valery¹.

A name belonging to a well-known pilot

That well-known pilot is none other than Valery Chkalov. Born in 1904, he joined the Red Army’s air force in 1919 after he saw his first plane⁴. At that time, he was working as a “greaser on a mud dredger⁵.” Starting from 1921, he was sent to a number of aviation schools, the first being the Egoryevskaya Aviation School, then an “aviation school in the city of Borisoglebsk,” then the Moscow School of Stunt Aviation and, finally, the Serpukhov School of Aerial Combat⁵. After graduation from the last aviation school he went to in 1924⁴ ⁵, he was “admitted to the First Fighter Air Squadron as a fighter pilot⁵.” It wasn’t until 1930⁵ when he became a test pilot, when he was “reinstated to the Air Forces⁵” which followed an incident in February the year before when he flew his plane “under a bridge, accidentally tearing up the low-hanging electrical wires.⁵” For that, he was “detained for 15 days on hooliganism charges⁵.”

During his tenure as test pilot, he participated in several ultra-long flights in 1936 and 1937, which was, fortunately for him, a time when pilots were praised in the Soviet Union, in which aviation’s prominence as a cultural symbol of the Soviet Union was second to that of Joseph Stalin himself⁴. He died on December 15, 1938 when a prototype of the Polikarpov I-180 fighter he was piloting crashed⁴.

20th-century usage in Moscow

Data from the names of 21 million residents of Moscow (either born-and-bred or moved to that city from elsewhere) living in that city in the 1990s and 2000s, as prepared by the Mercator news agency⁶, suggests that from 1902-1935, Valeriy was in uncommon to moderate usage, bar a jump in 1910 (influence cannot be determined at this point, so it’s likely that some of the included Valeriys born in that year may have moved to Moscow from elsewhere). Ranking wise, Valeriy did appear in the boy/men’s top 30 on this data.

In 1936, the percentage rose from 0.23% (outside top 30) to 0.33% (24th place), coinciding with Chkalov starting to participate in ultra-long flights. As he continued to do ultra-long flights in 1937, the percentage jumped to 0.6% (20th) and then to 0.89% (15th) in 1938. After the crash on December the 15th of that year which resulted in his death, the percentage spiked in 1939 to 2.5% (7th place).
For the next 9 years, the percentage stayed above 2% and for 19 years after that, the percentage stayed above 1% (there was a jump to 2% in 1963 – so far, I could not find out where the influence of this jump came from). By 1980, it was out of the top 30, the percentage in that year being 0.27%, and for the last 19 years of the 20th century, the percentage levels would stay in the 0.2% mark, signalling that Valeriy was becoming a dated and unfashionable name.

Usage in Ukraine’s Lviv Oblast

Although data from the 20th century is not available in this oblast, let alone Ukraine, the available data from 2008 to April 2016⁷ show that Valeriy was already uncommon and becoming especially rare among babies since last year (only 1 baby with the name Valeriy was born in 2015).

Thoughts on this name or this post in general? Leave them in the comments section below the sources.

Behind the Name on Valeriy –¹
Ukrainian Wikipedia article on Valeriy –²
Wiktionary on valēre –³
Wikipedia article on Valery Chkalov –⁴
RT’s Russiapedia article on Chkalov –⁵
Mercator’s graph using data of ’21 million residents in Moscow’ –⁶
Lviv Oblast’s name finder (В/V) –⁷


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