Russian Language Blog

Unexpected Discoveries After Moving to Moscow (Part 2) Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

This post is continued from last week’s post. Read the beginning here.

3. Being Moscow-born matters

One of the things you will sometimes hear said with pride around Moscow is “Я коренной москвич/Я коренная москвичка” (I’m a native Muscovite: male/female). Коренной comes from the word корень (root). In other words, “My roots are here.” Interestingly, polls show that most people think your grandparents need to have been born in Moscow for you to be a native Muscovite.

That was the first time I had heard people emphasize being born in a specific town. There was never any talk about being native vs non-native in my hometown, Chelyabinsk. Perhaps this is a reaction to a large influx of newcomers to Moscow, who constitute 50 percent of the city’s population. A famous saying goes “Москва не резиновая,” literally, “Moscow is not made of rubber” (meaning it can’t be stretched indefinitely).

4. Street names don’t mean much

Elsewhere in Russia (with the possible exception of St. Petersburg), location is given by street name or, if it’s a very obscure street, by the neighborhood name. There are a few thousand streets in Moscow, and no one person could possibly keep track of all of them. Therefore, the primary identifier for any address is the closest metro station. So, a description of the address could be “метро Кропоткинская, улица Остоженка, дом 11.”

To make matters worse, house numeration can be fairly complex, rivaled, again, only by St. Petersburg. Instead of the usual улица (street) and проспект (avenue), you have переулок (alley), проезд (drive), тупик (dead end), etc. One дом (house) can be subdivided into different buildings called строение or корпус. Moreover, certain buildings can have 2 street numbers separated by a slash, e.g., дом 3/5 (pronounced три дробь пять) and there are also –not unique to Moscow–the good old letters that can follow the house numbers, so you can have 1a, 1б, etc.

5. Moscow accent can be quite noticeable (but not everyone does it)

When someone from outside Moscow wants to mock the Moscow accent, they stretch out their unstressed a-sounds. In most Russian accents, an unstressed а or о will be reduced both in quality and length to sound more like “uh.” So, if most people would say Москва as Musskvah, people from Moscow are more likely to say Mahskva. Until I moved to Moscow, I was convinced that this pronunciation was exaggerated and did not exist. In fact, yes, there are people who speak this way in all seriousness; they are not trying to mock you or sound whiny. To be fair, not everyone in Moscow has this accent, probably due to the large influx of people from other localities.

What things jumped out at you when you visited or moved to Moscow? I think mine stem from not knowing much about Moscow before my move and also having unrealistic expectations. I ended up liking my time there, but that city surely takes some adjusting.

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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. Arne Seim:

    I dont know if you tried to be polite,but Moscowitsh are looked upon as snobbs from the rest of the country.You get hiher pension and higher service than rest of the country.
    If you are a moscowitch by generation you are proud of it and will stick in anyones face if they belive you dont know)))
    Lived in Moscow from -95 till-00 and been back and till several times.You right about the dialekt you spot a Moscowitch any where in the country and they are proud of that))Its the prapiska,you cant live anywhere without one,and to get one in Moscow is the most expensive in the country.Thats why many get prapiska in the subburbs and trvel in and out to work)

    • Maria:

      @Arne Seim Arne, thanks for your comment. Luckily, as I soon find out not everyone in Moscow shares this sentiment, but you definitely run into this type. I was surprised at this regional-level chauvinism. You usually only see it on the national level.