The Chernobylskis


Senior Member
Fr & NL
hello again!
i'm still studying englished versions of Nabokov russian stories and i came across a family with a perplexing name -the Chernobylskis. the story has been written in russian in the 1930's and translated into english in the early 1970's so there is no way that the name could be connected with the nuclear plant. what would the russian speaker make of that name then? (ok i know it's not the first question i ask on that topic, i'm just starting russian and i've ordered a book about russian names in modern literature... but it's taking ages to actually come within access) is it another common pointless name or does it have any connotation?
thanks A LOT for any suggestion
  • Eddie

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Hi, Leon.

    I can't answer the question as to why the word was used as a last name, but I can pass this little piece of information on to you.

    Chernobyl is the Russian name of a plant which in English is called: mugwort. That's why you shouldn't be surprised to see the word being used before the construction of the nuclear plant.


    Hope that helps.


    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    :idea: Chernobyl it's not only the the nuclear accident, it is a city in Ukraine as well so 'the Chernobylskis' can be somehow associated with this city me think, maybe they lived nearby the city or the acton of the novel you are reading is somehow connected with it.



    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    i've found sth that may interest you :

    Name origin

    The city is named after the Ukrainian word for mugwort Artemisia vulgaris), which is "chornobyl". The word is a combination of chornyi (чорний, black) and byllia (билля, grass blades or stalks), hence it literally means black grass or black stalks.

    Sometimes chornobyl is erroneously translated as simply "wormwood" (which most commonly refers to Artemisia absinthium), with consequent apocalyptic associations, probably originating from a New York Times article by Serge Schmemann, Chernobyl Fallout: Apocalyptic Tale, July 25, 1986. The article quoted an unnamed "prominent Russian writer" as claiming the Ukrainian word for wormwood was chernobyl.

    It fact, there are over 160 kinds of Artemisia, and the terminology is not generally accepted. Some sources refer to Artemisia vulgaris as "common wormwood", while other claim that "common wormwood" is Artemisia absinthium.

    Wormwood is a different (but related) plant, Artemisia absinthium, Полин (Polyn). "Polyn" has no English equivalent, but corresponds to the botanical genus Artemisia. Botanically, mugwort is "Common Polyn" ; while wormwood is "Bitter Polyn" .

    Still more confusion comes from the fact that the word "wormwood" is used in the English text of the Apocalypsis, whose usage as the name of a plant not necessarily matches to that of the orginal.

    Chernobyl bears poetic connotations in folklore, for a number of reasons. Its strong smell is evocative of the steppe, as various species of Artemisia are widespread there. Chernobyl roots were used in folk medicine to heal neurotic conditions, although an overdose could lead to neurological disorders, including memory loss.
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


    Russia / English
    The thing about Russia is that there are a lot of cities/towns, and in order to be original many of them end up taking common Russian words and setting them as city/town names. For example, my grandfather grew up in a Russian town called "vysoley" which translates into something like "joyous."