Russian sayings

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Russian sayings give an insight into many aspects of Russian history, culture, and national character. The Russian language is replete with many hundreds of proverbs (пословица [pʌˈslovitsʌ]) and sayings (поговоркa [pəɡʌˈvorkʌ]). These were already tabulated by the seventeenth century, and collected and studied in the nineteenth and twentieth, with the folk-tales being an especially fertile source. Quite a few sayings are of literary origin.

Sample sayings

В тридевятом царстве. (V tridevyátom tsárstve.)
[f trʲɪdʲɪˈvʲatʌm ˈtsarstvʲə]
"In the three-ninth kingdom", a typical beginning of a fairy tale; often used ironically in a reference to a place far away.

Со времён царя Гороха. (So vremyón tsaryá Gorókha.)
[ˌsʌ vrʲɪˈmʲon tsʌˈrʲa ɡʌˈroxʌ]
"Since the times of Tsar Green-pea."; c.f. English, "since time immemorial" = "с незапамятных времён".

Ни к селу, ни к городу. (Ni k selú, ni k górodu.)
[ni k sʲɪˈlu, ni ɡ ˈɡorʌdu]
"Neither for a village nor for a city."; c.f. English, "of no use or relevance whatsoever."

Хоть кол на голове теши. (Khot' kol na golové teshí.)
[ˌхʌtʲ ˈkol na ɡəlʌˈvʲe tʲɪˈʃi]
"Even if you whittled a spike on his head...", said of someone especially stubborn or recalcitrant.

Делать из мухи слона. (Délat' iz múkhi sloná.)
[ˈdʲelatʲ iz ˈmuхi slʌˈna]
"To make an elephant out of a fly."; c.f. English, "to make a mountain out of a mole-hill."

Палить из пушки по воробьям. (Palít' iz púshki po vorob'yám.)
[pʌˈlitʲ is ˈpuʃki pʌ vʌrʌbˈjam]
"To shoot sparrows with a cannon", c.f. English, "crack a nut with a sledgehammer."

Бить баклуши. (bit' baklúshi)
[ˈbitʲ bʌkˈluʃi]
c.f. English, "to fool (away)," "to waste time."

Когда рак (на горе) свистнет. (Kogdá rak (na goré) svístnet.)
[kʌɡˌda ˈrak (na ɡʌˈre) ˈsvʲisnʲet]
"When a crayfish whistles (on the mountain)", c.f. English, "when pigs fly", meaning "never."

Показать, где раки зимуют. (Pokazát', gde ráki zimúyut.)
[pəkʌˈzatʲ, ɡde ˈraki ziˈmujut]
"To show one where the crayfish spend winter", c.f. English, "to punish; to give a piece of one's mind."

Показать Кузькину мать. (Pokazát' Kuz'kinu mat'.)
[pʌkʌˈzatʲ kuzʲkinu ˈmatʲ]
"To show one Kuzma's mother", see above.

Есть человек, есть проблема. Нет человека, нет проблемы.[dubious ] (Yest' chelovék, yest' probléma. Net chelovéka, net problémy.)
[jestʲ tʃʲɪlʌˈvʲek, jestʲ prʌbˈlʲemʌ. nʲet tʃʲɪlkˈvеkʌ, nʲet prʌˈblʲemɨ]
"If there is a person, there is a problem. If there is no person, then there is no problem."

This is commonly incorrectly attributed to Joseph Stalin, the political leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death in 1953. In fact this phrase was used by Soviet writer Anatoly Rybakov in his novel Children of the Arbat[1].

Щи да каша — пища наша (Shchi da kásha ― píshcha násha.)
[ɕːi dʌ kʌˈʃa ― ˈpiɕːʌ nʌˈʃa]
"Shchi and kasha are our food.", c.f. English, "We are simple people, for this is all we eat."


  1. Russian language
  2. Russian alphabet
  3. Russian orthography
  4. Russian phonology
  5. Russian grammar
  6. IPA for Russian
  7. Russian-Cyrillic alphabet
  8. Informal romanizations of Russian
  9. Languages of Russia
  10. List of countries where Russian is an official language
  11. List of English words of Russian origin
  12. List of languages of Russia
  13. Spelling rule
  14. Romanization of Russian
  15. Russian language-History of the Russian language
  16. List of Russian language television channels
  17. Reduplication in the Russian language
  18. Reforms of Russian orthography
  19. Rules of Russian Orthography and Punctuation
  20. Russian language-Runglish
  21. Russian exonyms
  22. Russian Morse code
  23. Russian sayings
  24. Russianism
  25. Russophone
  26. Slavic languages
  27. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language
  28. The differences of Moscovian and St.-Petersburg's speech
  29. Vowel reduction in Russian
  30. Russian proverbs
  31. Russian proverbs:USSR
  32. ALA-LC romanization for Russian
  33. Great Russian language
  34. Olympiada of Spoken Russian
  35. Russian cursive
  36. Russian jokes
  37. Russian National Corpus


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