The differences of Moscovian
and St.-Petersburg's speech

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The differences of speech

It is a complex of certain lexical differences and the differences in pronunciation in the speech of the citizens of two capitals: St.-Petersburg and Moscow. These two speeches are understood by almost every Russian-speaker but differ in some trifle aspects.

There are lexical differences and the differences in pronunciation.

Lexical differences

Lexical differences are more vivid than the differences in the pronunciation and there’s even a dictionary, which now consists of 76 entries. It was formed by the Union of translators of Russia “Association of the lexicographers “Lingvo”. There are some examples of word pairs which are typical for Moscow and St.-Petersburg:

  • Terminus: konechnaya-koltso
  • Chicken: kuritsa-kura
  • Rubber: lastik-rezinka
  • Cell phone: mobila-trubka
  • Porch: paradnoe-pod’ezd
  • Skipping-rope: prygalka-skakalka
  • Garden: skver-sadik
  • Donut: ponchik-pyshka
  • Card: proeznoi-kartochka
  • Way: platforma-put’
  • Bench: skameika-lavochka
  • Ladle: polovnik-povareshka
  • Credit card: creditka-kartochka
  • Curler: ploika-zavivalka
  • Touch: salki-pyatnashki

Also when you want to order a mash in the restaurants of St.-Petersburg you have to name this course as the mash but in Moscovian restaurants you can simply order potatoes. The big cities are the centres where the new words appear among the young and then they spread through the whole country, for example the word “tusovka” which means bash came from the young of Moscow, but “bratok” which is colloquial form of the word brother came from the youth of St.-Petersburg. Some streets were also differently named in different cities for example in 1970s the Kalinin prospect in Moscow have been called the Broadway by the citizens of Moscow. There are as well toponyms which have lived not so long in the speech of the particular city and they can disappear from the speech of this city very fast.

Differences in pronunciation

In St.-Petersburg there is a tendency to pronounce articulate ‘ch’ instead of Moscow’s ‘sh’. The sound ‘p’ is more precise in the speech of St.-Petersburg. One can recognize the citizen of St.-Petersburg by the extreme use of palatalization in his speech and by the reduced pretonic vowels. If Moscow citizen say sister as “sestra” than a St-Petersburger says “sistra”. Primordially the sound ‘e’ (=went, rent) was invented to be written in the loanwords which was the characteristic feature of St.-Petersburg’s speech but in the end it came to the Moscow speech as well.

Particular words of Soviet Russian language

In St.-Petersburg’s and Moscow’s varieties there are a lot of particular words. During 1940-1990 there formed a lot of unique words in Leningrad. There are some examples of them:

  • ‘raspashonka’ – normally it means a child baby’s jacket but the citizens of St.-Petersburg called the plan of an apartment which is similar to the shape of the baby’s jacket raspashonka. This term became popular in 60s.
  • ‘berezka’ – it’s a a tree but in common parlance it used to mean retail network in which tourists could buy food or goods in foreign currency, e.g. in US dollars, Italian liras, French francs and so on or in which soviet foreign workers could also buy the food or goods using certificates or cheques.
  • ‘Vertushka’ – this was the name of the four sign telephone number, which was called vertushka by many people of USSR. Primary, it came from the Moscovian Kremlin, where these phone numbers used to be used as internal connection. Also Russians used to name vertushka revolving arm-chairs, doorbells, and helicopters.
  • ‘pyjik’ – a cap made of fur which was popular in those times. “Chijik pyjik” was so popular those times that there were invented a lot of things connected with him. For example there is a poem dedicated to “chijik pyjik”. Also there is a memorial to him which was rebuilt for few times. There is a legend that if you drop a coin onto chijik pyjik’s memorial and think of a wish it will come true. There is also a legend among the newly married couples that if the bridegroom clink a glass with his beak, the coupe will be happy forever. “Chijik pyjik” is the smallest statue in St.-Petersburg, it weights 5 kg and its length is 11 cm.

The history and origin

Among citizens of Saint-Petersburg and Moscow one can meet people with absolutely different pronunciation. It’s quite difficult to divide these two groups but anyway it’s possible. There are a lot of traditional differences in speech, though not as vivid as centuries ago, but still connected to the historical development of the language. The Moscovian variety had been developing through the XIV-XVI c. while St.-Petersburg’s variety is quite modern and has been developing under the influence of foreign languages. The German language used to be very important from the times of Peter the Great – the foundation of St.-Petersburg - till the WWI, when it was more or less banned, as Russia was in war with Germany, the citizens of Saint-Petersburg rejected to use German words and St.-Petersburg changed its’ name to Petrograd. Moscovian dialect, on the other hand, had been struggling its way on the stages of capital’s theatres but in the end was also removed. Returned as the capital in 1918, Moscow has adopted a lot of features of the Petrograd’s and Leningrad’s speech.

Modern situation

Nowadays, two of these varieties are believed to be the standard but with favor of St.-Petersburg’s variety. Citizens of both capitals set the fashion of Russian language. These differences of speech make each city the unique one and emphasize their individualities. Though nowadays there are fewer differences in pronunciation but the lexical differences are still very common.


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  28. The differences of Moscovian and St.-Petersburg's speech
  29. Vowel reduction in Russian
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