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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.

November 6, 2015



Of course there are. Just not as diverse as the varieties of English in the world, unless you go to remote villages.


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.


This is not a good or a particularly interesting question. To my ear the rhythm is definitely more pronounced (stressed syllables are more powerful compared to the unstressed ones) and the vowel reduction is slightly different, [а] being reduced almost to [ə] in many unstressed syllables, which only happens in fully unstressed syllables in Moscow accent. Kazakhstan, though, is rather close to Moscow in terms of pronunciation. It has a shade of that Syberian rhytm, but it is very moderate.

Why is the question not that interesting? Siberia was not populated by Russians until times that are relatively recent on the linguistic scale. The accents there have a history of 300-400 years at the very best. That's if we assume that modern accents of Far East have some background tracing back to the conquest of Siberia, and were not coined in the last 100-150 centuries. Which is the topic I have not read much on. Might be the case :)

Vladivostok is about 150 years old.


Thanks for your reply. I had also heard once that the letter "щ" is indistinguishable from the letter "ш" in Russian speech in Siberia and that they tend to speak a little faster in the Far East. Is this true? Hmm....the variety of North American English has had about 400 years to develop from the English spoken in the British Isles and there are plenty of varieties. Still, I find it interesting that Poland, although smaller that Russia contains many dialects, but Russia, even just counting the land located in Europe, does not have much variety. What do you think the reason for this is? Sorry if the question is not interesting:/ I am just really curious about this aspect of Russian.


It is an interesting question. I have no idea why Shady_arc called it "not good or interesting".

I have visited my relatives in Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. Their accent in some intonations reminds me of that of the Ukranians. I don't know if they are really connected e.g. through massive people movement and exile in the USSR. Otherwise, there are no particular differencies, we totally understand each other and speak the same language.


Well, I think you mean the manner of pronunciation of г and ч, but this you can here not only in Ukraine but also in South and Central Russia, like Voronezh, Tula, Kursk, etc.


I'm not agree with Shady_arc. But I don't think there are a lot of information on this topic in English. If you have good level of Russian you can try to start by reading wikipedia articles https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Группы_говоров_русского_языка and https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Диалекты_русского_языка and here is video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssM0vMzOpDs . The girl is speaking with different local accents not 100% accurately but more or less correct.


You are not correct actually. Siberia has long history and Vladivostok actually is not in Siberia but in Far East. Here are examples of Siberian cities: Tomsk was founded in 1604, Tyumen in 1586, Omsk in 1716, Orenburg in 1743 and Irkutsk in 1661. And just for sure, NYC was settled in 1624 and there were enough time to build a NY accent. But difference between spoken language in different parts of Russia was blured by migrations and by television. And now in general we have few ways of pronounciation and a lot of local words and phrases.


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.


I can't for the life of me think where I read it, so attempting to remember who it was referring to is on a bit of a hiding to nothing, but weren't there even some politicians who were derided for having accents that were considered a bit hick/country/farmer ish?

As a foreigner, I rather loved it, to be honest, that the Russian I learned in St Pete and Ulyanovsk still enabled me to understand and be understood "out of the box", without difficulty, as far afield as Murmansk and Volgograd (and friends of mine did the Trans-Sib, and I don't think they had issues in Vladivostok, either).

Even within our host families, young people chatting amongst themselves, older people going в гости, the Russian they spoke was as we had been taught and knew it, in accents we could follow without trouble.

I think probably for a really talented/confident linguist it might almost be disappointing, but I really loved that my whole fear of making a complete dingbat of myself at least wasn't exacerbated by the way some countries seem to use the language differently from one town to the next, never mind a city several thousand miles away!

(Though I kind of wish I'd picked up the St Pete accent, which I find prettiest, rather than the Ulyanovsk drawl I ended up with! Oh well. That's life :))


Those reasons could be so, guess we will have to wait a couple of hundred years to see how much the Russian language changes. But I am sure it will change less than how english will change in the next 100 or 200 years.


I don't think it will change much provided that there is internet and TV, people hear and read the same language everywhere.


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.


This is partially true because the language is quite uniform across cities and towns, where 75% of population lives. But generally people are ignorant about dialects and only become surprised when someone (like me) tells them that actually not everyone speaks this way and no, this meaning of a word is not even found in dictionaries.

I think , the difference is mostly found in some of the everyday words that do not travel well. For example, you rarely talk about faucets(taps) or sweaters (pullovers) over skype or show them in a TV series, and no one forces you to use all the slang you know. This leads to regions occasionally having a few unique everyday nouns anv verbs, with people barely noticing anything. Grammar differences are hardly ever found (I only heard of one).

A good example is the usage of «почему» and «зачем» in Tatarstan. In the standard language the former means "why" in terms of "what is the cause", the latter more like "what for; what is the purpose". Influenced by Tatar and Bashkir languages, "what for" is universally used in both meanings there. Imagine their surprise when they say "What for is the TV not working?" somewhere far from their republic and get funny looks. Occasionally, it hapens—say, if they study at a university far from home.

  • 1966

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/


i.e. both of these are features of ukrainian


Hands-down best answer. 10 Lingots for you, мой друг


I think people from former Soviet countries speak with a different accent (noticeable at least for a Russian). I remember reading somewhere that in the Russian dubbing of the Lord of the Rings movies they gave all the elves Baltic accents and all the dwarves Caucasian accents.


It was a Russian who wrote that... who to believe?

Edit: Actually it was a Ukrainian. The exact quote was "There was a humoristic dubbing of the movie "Lord of the rings". Elves there were dubbed with Baltic accent and dwarves with Caucasian one. It was in a very good correspondence with our impression of these accents."


He was probably talking about "Goblin's translation" (unofficial parody by Dmitry Puchkov)

https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Перевод_Гоблина (in Russian)

Dwarf speaking with Caucasian accent in the beginning of the clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0JxEAZ2t5M


Thanks. At least my memory wasn't completely wrong.


I see that this is an old thread but still would like to add some!

I am a native speaker of Russian, but I only grew up in Canada so the only Russian I learned was from my mom. She grew up in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

When she speaks Russian compared to the Moscow standard, her pronunciation of some vowels is different. Э is not pronounced very much. For example, "этаж" sounds much more like just "таж". It is mainly slight changes in vowels, and still very understandable when compared to Moscow’s. The only other differences is some Kazakh or Kyrgyz loanwords that someone in Moscow probably wouldn’t know, or idioms like "Где? В Караганде!" (Kazakh town).

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