A history of the surname Khachiyan (and Kardashian)


A while ago, my sister dug up a trove of information about Armenian naming conventions on some obscure .ru domains. The below is an excerpt from what looks to be an older source like a book or similar document found on a Russian website dedicated to “paranormal activity, dream interpretation, and lost civilizations” that I translated into English three years ago now.   

In the event that several Ashots or Mhers lived in a single settlement, they were identified as follows: for example, “Ashot, grandson of Zurab” and “Mher, grandson of Sahak.”

Another, no less common method of identification was the use of nicknames, which contained a reference to some or other feature of the person (i.e. “Ashot the lame” or “Naira, who has ten children”).

However, for a long time, a significant part of the list of Armenian names were old national titles. In the past, most of the peoples of Europe and Asia believed in the fateful power of a name. As the name (or personal nickname) remained with a person through his entire life, it was believed that it could predestine the future and affect the nature of the individual. Therefore, in all times there were so-called “ceremonial names” that parents gave their children, hoping that in the future they would have success and well-being, health and wealth, power and savvy.

The surname Khachiyan originates from the name Khachi,* a derivative form of the Armenian name Khachik (“cross”) and Khachatur (“bearer of the cross”, “granting of the cross”). Such names were given to a child in order to protect it from future suffering and unhappiness.

The need for family naming appeared with the emergence of cities and the development of the mercantile and economic life of Armenia. The first to receive formally enshrined names were members of high society (Artsruni, Amatuni, Mamikonyan, Rshtuni). Later, to refer to eminent birth, words like “azg” (“clan”) or “tun” (“house”) were added to surnames. For example, “Clan Mamikonyan,” “Clan Rshtuni,” or “House Artsruni,” etc.

Over time, surnames began to appear in the worker-peasant milieu. For example, if someone from the family or several generations of its members became famous as the goldsmiths, masons, bakers, etc., then their descendants received the name derived from the name of craft that their ancestors had practiced. This is how surnames such as Voskerchyan (jeweler), Kartashyan** (mason), Hatstuhyan (baker), etc., came to be.

Armenian families occupy a significant place in Russian onomastics. This is due to the millennium-long relations between Armenia and Russia. The high social activity of Armenians began to manifest itself in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when many members of the nationality featured prominently in the cultural, mercantile and economic life of Russia. However, despite the close ties between Armenia and the Russian Empire, and its entry into its fold in 1878, the name Khachiyan, like many other Armenian surnames, has not undergone the process of Russification and retained its identity.

* In Russian, both “khachi” and “khachik” (plural: “khachiki”) are ethnic slurs used to describe “dark-skinned” peoples native to the Caucasus, which includes Armenians, but also Azeris, Chechens, and multiple other groups (Georgians, it should be noted, rarely get the treatment). Both terms are more or less equivalent to chernozhopii (“black-ass”).

** In case you’re slow to the vagaries of transliteration, Kartashyan = Kardashian, which totally explains why Kourtney named her son the initially incongruous sounding Mason. And here I thought they were going for something suited to Scott Disick’s “Jewish WASP” persona.

Original here.