Russian Language Blog

Expressions for Navigating Russian Bureaucracy Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in when in Russia

I almost felt disingenuous as I typed the title of this post. Russian bureaucracy is notorious for penetrating all layers of society. However, there are certain concepts repeated in your daily interactions in Russia. An average person in Russia will know what they are and when they are used. Here are the top bureaucratic concepts that come to mind.

 1. Нотариально заверенный

Technically, this means “notarized” — like a notarized copy or translation (нотариально заверенная копия/нотариально заверенный перевод) — but the practice may not line up with your country’s. Many documents that will be used for official purposes in Russia need to be notarized. That means that you have to take your document to the notary (нотариус) and have them verify your identification documents and signature.

Notaries  in Russia are trained lawyers, and it is not possible to get something notarized in a bank or in a local government office. Notarized documents look quite formidable with a red ribbon connecting the notarization to the main document.

2. Доверенность

Доверенность is a power of attorney — a document that allows one person to act in another’s stead. It is used widely so that your relatives, lawyer, or accountant can manage your bank account, real estate, or whatever the case may be.

3. Заказное письмо

As I have written multiple times on this blog, Russian mail delivery leaves much to be desired. Unlike in countries where people trust postal services to deliver payment for their bills and official documents, Russian mail is more or less hit or miss. So, if you must send something by post in Russia, sending it as заказное письмо (registered mail) will increase its chances of being delivered.

Your letter will be given a barcode and a tracking number, which you should be able to check on on the Russian Post website. I still don’t recommend sending anything you cannot replace via Russian post!

4. С уведомлением

Another level of assurance you can for your mail is to send your letter as заказное с уведомлением. Уведомление is a delivery notice. What is interesting is that, as of 4 years ago, it was a physical piece of paper glued to the outside of the envelope. That piece of paper has your address and that of the recipient. Once your letter is delivered, that piece of paper is sent back to you as proof of delivery. This is a little old-fashioned, but I know people dealing with valuable, unique documents use this method.

5. Дубликат

Дубликат is, predictably, a duplicate. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like a word that belongs on this list. Well, let me explain. While there are technically records (записи) concerning various official states or events, such as birth, marriage, property ownership and so on, often, for all intents and purposes the original document you have is the primary, if not only, proof. You cannot simply request another copy of your marriage certificate (свидетельство о браке). That is, you can request a duplicate, but that voids the document you initially had. In other words, there is only one valid copy of your marriage certificate, birth certificate (свидетельство о рождении), etc. at any given moment. Do you see now why you should be extra careful when sending documents by Russian post?

6. Заявление

Заявление is technically an application, but I wouldn’t rely on the English translation in order to grasp this concept. Заявление is basically what you write when requesting something. Examples include copies of your lost documents, which we just dicsussed in number 5, or quitting your job. This document is usually hand-written and has a set format and formulaic language. Unless you deal with these requests every day, you wouldn’t know the verbiage by heart. Either people look it up, or they are given instructions by the office they are making the request from.

I hope you don’t have any complex interactions with the Russian bureaucracy, but if you do, hopefully these key concepts will help you navigate it. As always, additions are welcome in the comments!

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.