Russian Language Blog

Regional Expressions In Russia Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in Culture, when in Russia

curb stone

Бордюр or поребрик

Even though Russian is fairly uniform and cannot boast the same dialectal variety as some other languages, regional differences do exist. They tend to be more subtle so that most people in the region may not realize the word is a regionalism. Of course, there are the cases everyone talks about, like Moscow vs St. Petersburg (бордю́р vs поре́брик, respectively, for a curbstone, подъезд vs парадная for the lobby/landing in an apartment building). However, other Russian cities do not get as much coverage. That’s why I was so excited to stumble across the “Languages of Russian Cities” dictionary (Языки русских городов) by ABBYY.

Taking advantage of my privileged position as the post author, I would like to share a few words I recognized on that list from living in Chelyabinsk and Moscow and hearing from my relatives raised in Northern Caucasus and in Moldova. I did not even realize some of them were not universally understood! The examples come from the same dictionary by ABBYY. Russian natives (and visitors), are you familiar with any other words on the list?

  1. би́рка – a coat check token
    Сдав оде́жду в гардеро́б, ребе́нок получи́л би́рку и про́сто от не́чего де́лать наде́л ее на па́лец (Once the child checked his coat, he got a token, and placed it on his finger for no good reason) (Московский комсомолец, Пермь; 24.09.2003);
  2. бич – homeless person
    Как ходи́ли бичи́ с пусты́ми буты́лками по го́роду, так и хо́дят (The bums are still walking around town with empty bottles like they used to) (АиФ в Западной Сибири, Тюмень; 2005).
  3. бомби́ла – an illegal cab driver
    Ка́ждый день я сажу́сь в маши́ну к са́мым ра́зным “бомби́лам”, и ка́ждый день с ними разгова́риваю (Every day I get a ride from various unlicensed cabbies, so I talk to them every day) (Комсомольская правда. Московский выпуск; 25.04.2005);
  4. бомж-паке́т – instant noodles/ramen
    Мили́ция да́же не дала́ дое́сть суп, сва́ренный из карто́шки и так называ́емых бомж-паке́тов (вода́ плюс лапша́ с мясны́м за́пахом) (The police didn’t even let me finish the soup made with potatoes and so-called “bum packages” (water plus meat-scented noodles)) (Вечерний Петербург; 2005).
  5. газя́ва – any fizzy drink or sparkling water
    Одна́ко эта газя́ва должна́ стоя́ть в холоди́льнике у ка́ждого. (But this soft drink should be in everyone’s fridge) (блог, Екатеринбург);
  6. жу́лькать – to crumple
    Мину́ты две я жу́лькаю чек в по́тной ладо́шке (So I crumple the receipt in my sweaty palm) (Комок, Красноярск; 31.10.1999).
  7. засоня – a person who likes to sleep
    — Хва́тит дры́хнуть, засо́ня! (Wake up, sleepyhead!) (лит. журнал “Сибирские огни”, Новосибирск);
  8. полу́торка – a one room (not one bedroom, one room total) apartment; the kitchen is separate — I remember this one used a lot in Chelyabinsk!
    Одноко́мнатные кварти́ры (так называ́емые «полу́торки») отстаю́т не намно́го (The one room apartments, so-called 1.5-rooms, are not far behind) (сайт «Недвижимость Челябинска и области»).
  9. ремо́к – a homeless person, unkempt person
    Получа́лось, что я, во-пе́рвых, безнадёжно отста́лый. Во-вторы́х, оде́тый, как «ремо́к» (It turned out that, first of all, I was hopelessly behind the times. Second, I was dressed like a hobo.) (Р. Неумоев (Тюмень), «Мифология музыки, мифология жизни №5. Кружатся диски»).
  10. си́ненькие – eggplant/aubergine
    Все люби́тели си́неньких зна́ют, что пе́ред приготовле́нием их сле́дует наре́зать, присоли́ть и не́которое вре́мя вы́держать под пре́ссом ли́бо провари́ть в соле́ной воде́. (Every eggplant lover knows that, before cooking them, you need to chop, salt, and put some weight on them or boil them in salt water.) («Кубанская правда», Краснодар; 23.08.2004)

What words from the list do you know? Any others?

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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.


  1. Glenn Nordin:

    This blog is a great gift to a recovering backsliding learner of Russian. Thanks Maria and Transparent Language.

    • Maria:

      @Glenn Nordin Thank you, Glenn, for your kind words. Успехов в изучении русского языка!

  2. natalia:

    About “polutorka”: this is an apartament consisting of a kitchen and two rooms (the main one+a tiny bedroom). It’s not always convenient and very often one-room flat (a large room+ a kitchen) is more preferable.

    • Maria:

      @natalia Natalia, thank you for the addition. I’ve always heard полуторка as referring to a one-room apartment in Chelyabinsk, but I don’t see why that cannot include an extra small room (perhaps, a storage room).