Are there different Russian accents used throughout Russia?
I'm curious--Are there different Russian accents used throughout the country? (Like in the US, how there's different accents, Southern, Boston, New Yorker etc.) I remember from my Russian college course my professor believed that when she was visiting a city in Eastern Russia they tended to pronounce every vowel like it was stressed.
How is the accent in Vladivostok and the Far East in general different from that which is spoken in Moscow and St. Petersburg? I have heard only a very slight difference in Russian when the speaker is from Kyrgyzstan of Tajikistan. It is like a a very slight Turkish accent.
From my experience: I lived in St Petersburg for a few months and then in a fairly provincial city called Ulyanovsk, which is on the Volga about a twelve hour train ride from Moscow. Also visited Volgograd, Kazan, Moscow, Murmansk and Archangelsk. With the disclaimer that I'm not a native speaker, and disregarding actual dialects (though I heard the latter hardly at all); the biggest surprise was how similar all the accents were.
If you had someone from Peter and someone from out in the sticks side by side talking, you'd hear a difference, but it wouldn't be huge and wouldn't be a significant barrier to understanding even for the learner, let alone the native speaker. There's more difference in accents within my hometown of 5,000-ish people, and as a native speaker of English, there are people who live in my town who have different enough accents from me I'd have trouble understanding them in some circumstances.
The main difference I remember was that in Ulyanovsk the language seemed more drawled and drawn out. They also tended to swallow some letters more, especially в, so in a word like правильно it came out sounding more like пра-ильно. The endings of adverbs and other words ending in о were often stretched a bit, and often with the vowel sounding like it had turned into an unstressed version of itself, so instead of хорошо ничего ладно, it sounded more like хорохоааа, ничегоааа ладнаааа! (I'm exaggerating a bit, but just to give you an idea ;))
There were also a few usages that I think are less common (off the top of my head, I can't say if they are not standard Russian or just uncommon, someone who's a native might be able to help more). For example, instead of saying из Англии, из России to describe where you're from, the teenagers would often use с, and there was a strong preference to using про+accusative to talk 'about something' instead of о+prepositional. I don't know, however, if those were regional things or generational things or what.
Besides actual slang though (which the younger people did sometimes use), the language in its essentials and how it sounded to my ears were very similar even if Petersburgers spoke it more 'properly' and the Ulyanovsk speakers spoke in a more relaxed fashion. And similarly, up as far as Murmansk and down as far as Volgograd, I heard less variation in accent than there is between me and some of my neighbours, though I only visited those places so I was not exposed to the language there over a long period.
To this foreigner, there were definitely differences in accent, but for such a large country with so many people spread over large distances, it was more surprising how comparatively homogenous it was.
Would you be surprised if I told you that some 10 years ago different accent of English sounded quite similar to me? I would have to pay attention to obvious clues to tell someone stereotypically British from someone who is obviously from the U.S.—no matter where the actors were from, I just listened to what they say.
I still only notice accents that are quite different from what I am used to, like Northern English or the speech of some people in western films and their parodies. I am not sure I can reliably identify that someone is from Australia or New Zealand.
Actually, there are. Moscow people tend to prolong the "а" sound, certain regions pronounce unstressed "о" as "о" (as opposed to the common pronunciation of turning it to "а"). I am sure there are many more, as Russia is a very big country, including many nationalities.
I think the difference is so slight that it is negligible.
Unless you are perhaps speaking to someone from a village who's 1st language is a local ethnic minority language and who speak Russian as their 2nd language, then these people may indeed have strong accents. But in general the difference in accent is so small, especially considering how large a country Russia is. I think this is because Russian is a strong language and isn't easy influenced, at least that is my opinion :)
English for example has such a diverse range of regional accents even some native speakers of English (from London for example) may find it difficult to understand a Scottish person with a really strong accent. And foreigners who learn English sometimes have difficulty understanding people with northern accents. People from East london, west london, cornwall, manchester, scotland, wales, ireland all have different accents, and there are also far more different accents within the UK then just these regions not to mention the different accents from other English speaking countries and regions within those countries.
I think that Russian being pretty uniform compared to English and German has to do with the following three facts:
- the population was moved much in the Soviet times
- standard language was encouraged in Soviet times—I don't know if it would be correct to say enforced but speaking a dialect was surely not chic.
- in any case, modern Russian is a language that expanded from a relatively small area when compared to the size of the country. Also, in the first half of the 19th century number of educated people were expelled to Siberia due to involvement with the Decembrist revolt. Much later, they were reprived; after decades of living there, some preferred to stay.
Consider the rapid industrialisation and urbanization, too. As late as in 1926 more than 80% lived in villages. 50 years later, less than 35% of the population lived there. It means that if we were to consider a modern adult, their grandfather or great grandmother most likely lived in some village that is nowhere near where they currently live.
There are remarkably few accents / dialects for such a large and old country. Part of the reason is found in the 7 decades of the Soviet Union.
As you may have heard, the leaders of the USSR had a reputation for heavy-handedness. Early on, the Russian language was "standardized", and teachers were trained by the State, usual in Moscow, and then sent from there to all corners of the Empire. By so doing, a uniform language was taught, but also approved political theory, history, etc. (Some would refer to this as indoctrination, or propaganda, but nearly every empire has done similarly)
A testament to the effectiveness of their system is how deeply entrenched Russian remains even in the former Soviet republics. In Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and even the Ukraine and Estonia, you can survive just speaking Russian, despite the tense or nationalist sentiments that otherwise exist.
I once was talking to a Russian about the language (in English, of course). I asked a question about her dialect, since I knew she wasn't from Moscow, and she gave me a slightly confused look before explaining that there aren't really dialects outside of remote villages.
I felt kind of dumb because I'd already read that the Soviets had done a great job of standardizing the language throughout the country.
Some most distinctive features:
Northern Russian dialects don't reduce unstressed vowels, so "молоко" (milk) would sound like [moloˈko] not as standard [məlɐˈko]. So, if you want to sound like a person from the North (or as a parody of Old Russian speech) pronounce words without reduction. This feature is called okanye https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel_reduction_in_Russian
Southern dialects have reduction but change sound "г" from voiced velar stop [ɡ] to fricative /ɣ/