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Writing a Formal Letter in Russian Posted by on Jul 13, 2015 in General reference article

Perhaps some of our readers are learning Russian for more than personal enrichment. Some may want to study, work, or do business in Russia. If that’s the case, you need more that a few conversational phrases, and being familiar with and being able to write a business letter (делово́е письмо́) may come in handy.

writing

There are obviously degrees of formality depending on the situation, addressee, your relationship with them, and the medium. Those curious about the most technical requirements are welcome to read the Russian GOST standard. A hard-copy letter from a governmental agency will be different from an email from a business partner. However, there are some principles that are common to most formal letters.

Header

The most formal of letters will likely start with the name and address of your organization in the nominative case. The GOST standard also calls for listing all sorts of tax and financial information, but even Russians don’t know that information off the top of their heads. If you somehow end up working for a Russian bank or the government, they will provide the necessary details. Traditionally, this block appears in the upper left-hand corner. Here is an example from an official letter:

ФЕДЕРАЛЬНАЯ
АРХИВНАЯ СЛУЖБА
РОССИИ
(РОСАРХИВ)
Ильинка ул., 12, Москва, 103132
Тел. 206-35-31, Факс 206-55-87
Л/с 69120037369 в УФК МФ РФ
по г. Москве
Сч. 40105810700000010079
Отделение Nо. 1
ГУ ЦБ РФ по г. Москве

_____________ Nо. _____________
На Nо. ________________________

The next part is the name of the addressee or their organization, which usually appears in the upper right-hand corner. The name/job title of the addressee needs to be in the dative case:

Председателю
Государственного комитета
Российской Федерации по
стандартизации и метрологии

Ленинский просп., д. 9,
Москва, 117049

Finally, a formal letter will list the subject under the address of the sender. The subject will normally start with “О…” or “По вопро́су о…” + noun in the prepositional case; sometimes also “Каса́тельно…” + noun in the genitive case. For example: “О програ́мме сотру́дничества” (“About collaboration program”) or “Каса́тельно поста́вки то́плива” (“Regarding fuel delivery”) All of these expressions mean “regarding…”

Mind that the points above apply to the most formal letters. The header section can be toned down quite a bit for less formal business letters, like this thank you letter from a bank to a designer.

Salutation

man looking at tabletThe standard opening line in formal letters is “Уважа́емый/уважа́емая + first name + patronymic!”, for example, “Уважа́емый Па́вел Ильи́ч!” Note the exclamation point at the end of the phrase — commas are uncommon. A more recent development is the use of “Уважа́емая госпожа́/Уважа́емый господи́н” + last name (Dear Ms./Mr.), but that may sound odd to some recipients, especially older people who are not used to hearing господи́н or госпожа́.

Set Phrases

The language of a formal letter is quite fixed and full of set phrases (шабло́ны). I will list some of them here with a pretty literal as opposed to idiomatic translation so you can know what each part means. The purpose of each phrase is given in the subheadings. These phrases and many more can be found here.
Letters from an individual will use the first person singular, while a letter from an organization will use the first person plural.
Confirming receipt

Мы получи́ли Ва́ше письмо́ от + date (dd.mm.yyyy) + в отноше́нии + noun in genitive  – we have received your letter of (date) regarding…
Благодарю́ Вас за Ваше письмо́ от + date – thank you for your letter of (date)
Подтвержда́ем получе́ние + noun in genitive case – we confirm receipt of…

Addressing Points

В соотве́тствии с Вашим письмо́м (запро́сом) от + date – in accordance with your letter/request of (date)…
Во исполне́ние Ва́шего поруче́ния от + date + докла́дываю (информи́рую, направля́ю)… – in compliance with your request of (date), we are informing/sending you…

Informing

(Настоя́щим) сообща́ем Вам, что  – we (hereby) inform you
Информи́рую Вас, что… – I inform you that
Ста́вим Вас в изве́стность, что – we inform you that
Извеща́ем Вас, что – we inform you that
Уведомля́ем Вас – we inform you

Expressing Gratitude

Благодари́м Вас за + noun in accusative – thank you for
Зара́нее благодари́м за… – thank you in advance for
Мы бы́ли бы Вам о́чень призна́тельны, е́сли бы Вы + noun in the “past” tense (it’s technically the subjunctive) – we would be grateful if you…

Apologizing

Пожа́луйста, прими́те на́ши извине́ния за + accusative – please accept our apologies for
Извини́те за заде́ржку отве́та – Sorry for the delayed response

Requests

man wearing bow tieПро́сим (прове́рить, напра́вить, вы́слать, приня́ть ме́ры)… – we request (that you verify, provide, send, take measures)
Убеди́тельно про́сим – we kindly ask
Обраща́емся к Вам с про́сьбой + verb – we ask you (to do something)

Linking phrases

В связи́ с… (тяжёлым положе́нием, проведе́нием совме́стных рабо́т)… – due to/in connection with (the difficult situation, our collaboration…)
В соотве́тствии с (письмо́м, докуме́нтом, протоко́лом)… – according to (the letter, document, protocol)
В поря́дке оказа́ния (по́мощи, подде́ржки)… – in order to provide help/support
В це́лях (усиле́ния контро́ля, расшире́ния возмо́жностей)… – in order to (increase oversight, expand our capacities, etc.)
В подтвержде́ние (на́шей договорённости, на́шего телефо́нного разгово́ра)… – to confirm (our agreement, our phone conversation)
На основа́нии (подпи́санного соглаше́ния, при́нятого обяза́тельства)… – based on (the signed agreement, the undertaken commitment)

Reminders

Напомина́ем, что… – we remind you that

Suggestions

Предлага́ем Вам (приобрести́, рассмотре́ть, утверди́ть)… – we suggest you (purchase, consider, approve…)
Про́сим приня́ть уча́стие в (обсужде́нии прое́кта, рассмотре́нии вопро́са о…) – we invite you to take part in (discussing the project, considering the matter of, etc.)

Rejection

Ва́ше предложе́ние отклонено́ по сле́дующим причи́нам:… – your offer was turned down for the following reasons

Signature

The standard phrase for closing the letter is С уваже́нием, followed by a comma. That is followed by a signature and a typed name. Other set phrases may be used for the closing line.

Благодарю́ – thank you
Жела́ем успе́хов – best wishes
Прино́сим извине́ния – our apologies

Have you had to write or read a business letter in Russian? Which of the elements did it have?

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About the Author:Maria

Maria is a trained Russian translator. Originally hailing from Russia, she now lives in Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. When she's not at her computer, she is dancing, out taking photographs or practicing German or Spanish at local language meetups. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


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