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Is it acceptable in modern Russian to address a person as "господин Смирнов" / "госпожа Смирнова"? Or does that sound weird, outdated, or perhaps condescending?

  • This is a purely political issue. It is better to look - to whom you are addressing like this and what you want to express with this address. The reaction will also depend on him. Of course these words there are in Russian. Linguistically. And they means what they mean (too many connotations and alliterations), and this is not just a neutral adressing - just like the "comrade" too. –  Пилум Oct 31 '20 at 17:06
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Short answer: It is fully equivalent to Mr./Ms. nowadays.

Long answer: Господин/госпожа is a modern polite address, to be combined with the last name.

Господин Иванов!

A possible polite address is also first name + patronymic if you know it. It's more polite, but also somewhat closer. Not a clerk to a customer, but business partners to each other.

Сергей Иванович!

It was not acceptable in the Soviet times because of the "bourgeois" connotations, as it was the address in tsar era. Soviet times had товарищ (i.e. the over-used "comrade") and гражданин/гражданка ("citizen", used rather in unique circumstances when the addressed person "was not a comrade", i.e. that how a coroner could address the murderer suspect).

Товарищ Сидоров!

Still somewhat in use is гражданин/гражданка, as it has no "communist" connotation, although quite special, even if not in the above sense. When in doubt, use господин/госпожа.

To call out someone on the street ("Hey, you!", "Excuse me!", etc.) use молодой человек/девушка.

Девушка, вы обронили билет!

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    I would argue that it's not fully equivalent to mister. Russian children don't call their teacher господин Иванов, while Mr. Jones is the normal way of addressing a teacher or, say, a father-in-law in English. – Sergey Slepov Nov 27 '17 at 21:02
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    Also to me, born in the Soviet era, господин still sounds 'too bourgeois' and I would twitch if someone called me господин Слепов. I don't think I'll ever use it myself, even in a formal setting, unless I become a prosecutor or something. :) – Sergey Slepov Nov 27 '17 at 21:16
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    First name + patronymic. Сергей Иванович. There is no such option in English. – Oleg Lobachev Nov 27 '17 at 22:03
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    by the name and the patronymic, it's a standard way of addressing aquaintances who's your senior, and anyone in a formal setting... patronymic alone with simplified pronunciation is often used to address seniors in informal relationships, usually at workplaces – Баян Купи-ка Nov 27 '17 at 22:04
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    Can be used informally for irony, Да что вы такое говорите, господин хороший!. – Oleg Lobachev Nov 28 '17 at 8:17
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+50

I would say господин/госпожа are very rarely used nowadays! I could only remember Что? Где? Когда? TV show as an example. In most cases when you say Mr./Ms. we say First Name + Patronymic.

  • There's also "господин судья" - "your honor". – Ark-kun Dec 15 '17 at 10:05
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Nowadays, господин/госпожа are for sure acceptable, though one has to keep in mind - that these words are extremely official.

So during common conversation you should avoid these words. Господин/госпожа applicable in official messaging or if you want to address someone extremely officially, e.g. Mr. Petrov, we are going to arrest you/г-н Петров, мы собираемся арестовать вас

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