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Русский and Российский

I somewhat understand the difference between Русь and Россия, but what I don't really understand is the adjective Российский and when I should use it instead of Русский. Can someone help?

November 12, 2015



"Русский" is either nationality of the person, or something wich belongs to the Russian Culture
Пушкин - великий русский поэт

"Российский" is everything what is related to Russian Federation (or Russian Empire in the past): российские законы, российские граждане etc.

[deactivated user]

    Adding my two cents.

    Sometimes they can be contrasted:

    • Ла́ндыш Нигматзя́нова — росси́йская, но не ру́сская певи́ца. 'Landış Niğmätcänova is a singer from Russia, but she’s not an ethnically Russian singer.'
    • Влади́мир Набо́ков — ру́сский, но не росси́йский писа́тель. 'Vladimir Nabokov was an ethnically Russian writer, but wasn’t a writer living in Russia.'

    Please note that in colloquial speech, when there’s no contrast, ру́сский is often used for both meanings. So, ру́сский па́спорт 'Russian passport' may be considered incorrect, but you’ll often see this usage.


    Thanks, guys. So basically, the meanings of Русский and Российский parallel those of Русь and Россия (as you would expect), but unless you're focusing on the distinction between them it's common to say Русский even if Российский is really the correct adjective?

    Any cases where Российский absolutely has to be used?

    [deactivated user]

      parallel those of Русь and Россия

      Being half-Belarusian half-Ukrainian, I might disagree with this statement. ;)

      Русь is the name of the historical country, which is a common history of all East Slavic people. Ру́сский is usually used for modern people (although it can refer to a historical country too). You can't say that the modern notion parallels a historical notion.

      While those notions are cerainly related, you can’t set up direct correspondences. It’s like equating the historical Lusitania and modern Portugal: sure, they’re mostly the same, but Lusitania also included some parts of modern Spain.

      Any cases where Российский absolutely has to be used?

      In formal speech, I guess.

      Also, we don’t capitalise the adjectives related to countries, languages and people in Russian.


      "Being half-Belarusian half-Ukrainian, I might disagree with this statement" Oh... embarrassed face

      Doesn't the Ukrainian word for Russian equate to российский rather than русский? The sentiment I see from a lot of Ukrainian nationalists is that Ukraine is the real Русь and the Russians aren't really русские. I don't really know that much about Belarus.

      I know adjectives shouldn't be capitalised, but I need reminders sometimes. Thanks.

      [deactivated user]

        Doesn't the Ukrainian word for Russian equate to российский rather than русский?

        Yes. In Ukrainian, «руський» is only used for historial state, 'Ruthenian', while «російський» is used both for Russia as a state and for Russian people.

        is the real Русь

        I don’t really think such statements make sense. It’s pretty clear that all the East Slavic people share common history, so it makes little sense arguing who is 'more real'.

        I don't really know that much about Belarus.

        Some Belarusian nationalists claim that Belarus is the real Литва́ (Lithuania)... This is equally unfounded, :) although some parts of Belarus did belong to a historical Lithuania.


        One should not listen to whatever any nationalists say. That's doubly true for Ukrainian nationalists. Any so-called historical facts against Ukrainian would-be world dominance is considered the worldwide fake to oppress the Ukrainian nation. Did you know that Rome was a Ukrainian province in ancient times? And the Latin language is of Ukrainian origin? Evidences? Ukrainian has some words similar to Latin! Or should we say it is Latin had some words similar to Ukrainian. Russian and Polish languages have come from Ukrainian too. It is easy as 90% of Ukrainian language consists of the words borrowed from other languages. After all, the territory of the modern Ukraine was most of the time divided between other countries, so you can boldly assert that "Ukraine" was the cradle of civilization. Nationalism in multi-national country or in global world is a pure destructive force. Ukrainian nationalists ruined my country. Russian nationalists are going to ruin Russia as well.

        There is one more distinction between "русский" and "российский". Российский is always an adjective. Русский can be an adjective or a noun. As a noun, русский means two things:
        1) Russian language.
        2) The Russian people (i.e. nationality, ethnic group). Actually, the nationality is called русские (plural). However, a person of Russian nationality is often called русский. For example: "Какой русский не любит быстрой езды".

        In general, it is safe to use "российский" and "русский" (as an adjective) interchangeably when you speak about something belonging to Russia from the outsiders' point of view: русская/российская школа, глубинка; русский/российский корабль, etc. However, "русский" was a word of choice in old times. Therefore, most of the classic books use the word "русский". In the modern language, especially if we speak about the official language (i.e. news broadcasting, etc.), they tend to use "российский" whenever possible to avoid offending other nations that are part of Russia. Note, the language is always "русский", not "российский". Traditions are always "русские" too.


        "I don’t really think such statements make sense. It’s pretty clear that all the East Slavic people share common history, so it makes little sense arguing who is 'more real'."

        I agree. I never said that I agree with the aforementioned Ukrainian nationalists.

        Sorry, I wasn't intending to start political debates here.


        I find that interesting considering the pre imperial history of the русь principalities, most being in the ukraine and belarus. I wonder if someone may have a better etymological explanation for why russians connect more with the contemporary use of русский over российский?


        If it's any further help, compare 'British' and 'English.'


        Well, that's a completely different thing. Because English can refer to England, which is a part of Britain, but used carelessly by foreigners to mean the same thing as British, or when talking about language it refers to a language spoken by half the world, not just Britain.


        This is not a perfect analogy (in more ways than one), but the point is that 'British' now is generally used to describe something that has to do with all the UK, while 'English' currently means something more specific and regional.

        This dimension is present in the difference between 'российский' and 'русский', e.g. the former always refers to the entire country (and is ethnically neutral, which irritates some 'PC gone mad' people, even though the term is old and well-established), while the latter is ethnically (and somewhat regionally) marked and refers to a specific ethnic group of people in Russia or in other countries.

        This is the main difference, although there are still idiomatic and other peculiarities that muddle up this distinction: i.e. you don't use 'российский' as a predicate in sentences like 'You are Russian.' If you want to stress the nationality, you say 'Ты — из России.' (or something similar), but not 'Ты — российский.' However, if you want to point out the ethnic background of the person, you can very rightly say 'Ты — русский.'

        This is not the only pair of words like this in Russian, e.g. 'латвийский' and 'латышский' that both translate as 'Latvian' into English. And I, personally, call myself 'латвиец' – 'a Latvian', because this is my nation and my motherland, but I would never call myself 'латыш' – 'a Latvian', because I am not Latvian ethnically.


        OK, I see what you mean.

        Here in Scotland I know a couple Latvians, who in English talk about "Latvian Latvians" and "Russian Latvians". I guess they would say, like you, they're латвийцы but not латыши, and though not российские they would consider themselves русские


        Русский means Russian Российский means related to Russian Federation

        hope this helped xx

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