Is there a standard Russian pronunciation? If yes, what are its most important features, such as:

  • quality of vowel reduction ([о], [е], and maybe other vowels in unstressed positions);
  • pronunciation of "e" that stems from "ять" (as in хлеб);
  • consonant palatalization and assimilation (дождь: [дош':] vs. [дош'т'] vs. [дошт'], клизма: [кл'из'мъ] vs. [кл'измъ]);
  • pronunciation of [г], [р], [в];
  • stress in present verbs 3rd sg (звонит) and in plural nouns (торты).

I believe that there was once a standard way to pronounce words. All Soviet actors were supposed to learn to pronounce endings of some adjectives without palatalization. For example, they would say стро[гы]й, not стро[г'и]й.

But is there a pronunciation norm now? Or is there only a bunch of accents, different for different parts of the country?

  • 3
    AFAIK this old training of actors had nothing to do with the Russian norms. It is a trick how to make yourself understandable in a large theatre hall without microphones.
    – texnic
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 10:05
  • Really? Wow, so the TV actors as well as reporters get a proper theater training, I didn't know that.
    – Olga
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 10:31
  • Olga, if you think it should be closed, flag it or vote to close. Don't make these edits. I proposed a rollback. And I don't think it's a dupe.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 0:38
  • There is a great article which is explaining differences in Russian language dialects ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – hazzik
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 22:04

3 Answers 3


While this may be a bit of a sad answer for the community, it seems that Russian doesn't have any official pronunciation norms. I have been looking for some a few years ago, and tried just now. I've never found one, nor heard from anyone about such a guide. There may be recommendations for actors, TV journalists and such, but there doesn't seem to be a common official one to be distributed to usual people.

There are rules about reducing unstressed vowels, there are rules about consonants, but they describe which phoneme to use. Actual pronunciation of those phonemes remains uncertain, and like you said, it is subject to a bunch of different accents.

You question has several subquestions, so a few comments on those:

  • Vowel reduction is described in books on phonetics, such as «Фонетика современного русского литературного языка» by Аванесов Р. И. (§43–49).

    I couldn't find it online for free to link here, unfortunately.

  • To answer your question about the sound for the letter ѣ (ять), it lost any difference with е long ago, this page is an example.

  • Pronunciation of the consonants is described on the level of phonemes, e.g. there are rules when г is to be pronounced as /г/ (горько), /к/ (стог), /х/ (бог) and /h/ (ага). This is described in the book by Аванесов as well.

  • Stressing has been answered by @shabunc.

  • You are wrong, phonetic analysis is standardized.
    – Anixx
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 23:58
  • 2
    I'm only claiming there isn't a standard to pronounce phonemes. Do you have proof that there is? Or you're saying I'm wrong in something else?
    – coverback
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 6:26
  • 2
    There are strict rules of using the allophones of phonemes of course. At least in Petersburg's norm.
    – Viridianus
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 19:55

I shall try to answer the given questions.

Quality of vowel reduction

There are two stages of reduction. First stage is in the syllable before the stressed one, in the absolute beginning and in the absolute end. Second stage is in all other unstressed positions. Here is the correct table (by Petersburg's norm, Moscow's is a bit different)

Stressed - 1st stage - 2nd stage

After a non-palatalised consonant

а/о - ^ (sound similar to а but with middle up-going of the tongue like in о) - ъ (sound like shwa); э (sometimes written as е) - ы - ъ; ы - ы - ы; у - у - у;

After a palatalised consonant

и - и - и; у (written as ю) - у - у; а (written as я)/о (written as ё)/э (written as е) - и - ь (another reduced sound a bit similar to ъ but pronounced close to teeth like э).

Pronunciation of е that stems from ять does not differ from pronunciation of е that stems from е for a long time.

Palatalisation and assimilation is another topic where Petersburg and Moscow are different in pronunciation. According to Petersburg's norm, there is no palatalising assimilation actually at all and there is no sound [ж']. The word дождь is pronounced [дошт']. Group зм always has non-palatalised з, the opposite is a dialectical thing.

Pronunciation of г is implosive (not fricative, as in Southern dialects and Ukrainian and modern-Greek languages, although it may be fricative in words like ага, эге, мгм, угу) voiced (unless in the position of absolute end or before a voiceless, in which cases it becomes voiceless itself) guttural sound ([бох] instead of [бок] for бог is old-fashioned and marginal, and then there are words лёгкий and мягкий and their derivates which have [x] not [к] before к and sometimes ч, but that's all), pronunciation of в is a voiced pair for ф, pronunciation of р is bilateral.

Stresses are directed by special dictionaries of stresses. For the word звонит it is on the last syllable, for the word торты it is not.

  • Is there a source—a publication or something similar—for this? It's just I've been looking for this myself and could not find a reliable reference.
    – coverback
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 20:34
  • Well... I am not sure if you can find everything in one place. It is information that we mostly learned in school or on cources preparing to the last tour of Russian language All-Russia Olympiad.
    – Viridianus
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 13:53

Well, first of all, I find that this question is not the best example of questions we should ask, since "most important features" of pronunciation is something one can hardly describe in one answer. I can try to provide some links, for example, here's one on the most common stress patterns in Russian, but, once again, I repeat it is very difficult to cover all aspects in one answer.

It looks like you are seeking something like Received Pronunciation, the standard accent of Standard English in Great Britain.

In Russia the usage of language norms is recommended by the Ministry of Education. Last regulatory document on language issues (or one of the last one, if I've missed something) is приказ Министерства образования и науки Российской Федерации (Минобрнауки России) от 8 июня 2009 г. N 195 "Об утверждении списка грамматик, словарей и справочников, содержащих нормы современного русского литературного языка при его использовании в качестве государственного языка Российской Федерации".

This act is basically a list of dictionaries considered to be an etalon reference. This list includes, among other dictionaries, "Словарь ударений русского языка".

What does this act means from the practical point of view is that all official tests and exams are "synced" with this list of dictionaries. If it is said in this dictionaries that this very word is written this very way, than there is no room for dispute left.

Pronunciation is something different. In USSR times there existed so-called "Словарь ударений для работников радио и телевидения", and in the country where any type of broadcasting was under government control this dictionary, as well as any other regulative norms about pronunciation was de-facto an indisputable regulatory document.

Though this dictionary continues to exist and to evolve nowadays, there is no such thing as regulating pronunciation in global context, even speaking about governmental TV and radio. I mean there is no governmental body which, say, penalties mispronunciation. In each separate case, it's all up to the local regulatory norm of this very editorial board.

It is worth mentioning that all this pronunciation norms are mainly about correct forms of words, not about neglecting any kind of dialectal differences. Russian stress patterns in words are often complicated even for native speakers. If you kill somebody who is mispronouncing a word, Russia quickly turns into an unmanned desert.

It is also worth mentioning that dialectal differences in modern Russian, though still existing, are in no way as crucial as Norwegian, German, British English, or even French. This also applies to pronunciation.

  • Thank you for your answer. It is very clear on the stress norms in Russian and also on the correct way of declining and conjugating words.
    – Olga
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 7:52
  • downvoter - please,explain.
    – shabunc
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 6:10
  • While your initial thought against this question is true for SEs in general, I found this question because I was about to ask the same one - seeking a guide to pronunciation in a standard / precise manner. Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 2:26

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