In Canada we have the idiom "selling ice to the eskimos" to illustrate someone doing something redundant. What is it in russian that illustrates redundancy? I've looked at lists of idioms but haven't seen any that illustrate redundancy.

  • 3
    Concerning snow - there is an expression that describes a very greedy person: "У него/неё зимой снега не выпросишь".
    – Artemix
    Dec 21, 2014 at 7:48

7 Answers 7


For a native idiom, you are looking for

ездить в Тулу со своим самоваром

See the "Culture" section of the Wikipedia page about Tula for more information.


There is also a phrase similar to taking coals to Newcastle:

дрова в лес возить

which means to carry wood back into the forest, to do something that is not needed.


When Israel sold snow-making machines to Russia for the Winter Olympiad in Sochi, there were lots of jokes that "jews sold to russians snow in winter". The expression продать снег зимой is quite well known. Although I don't think it's about redundancy; rather it means executing a clever con.

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    I agree, that meaning is quite different from redundancy. Sell ice to the Eskimos = To persuade people to go against their best interests or to accept something unnecessary or preposterous. Dec 21, 2014 at 1:05

There's also a series of idioms that follow the pattern of "...like [an animal] needs [an object]", e.g. "Мне это нужно, как зайцу велосипед" или "Им это нужно, как рыбе зонтик" etc.

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    Как зайцу стопсигнал Dec 23, 2014 at 10:08
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    Как собаке пятая нога Dec 24, 2014 at 8:34

You can use in Russian the literal translation,

Продавать снег эскимосам "Sell snow to the eskimos"

But it would be understood as a hopeless enterprise, defective by design business rather than "persuading people against their will" as you say it means in Canada.

  • 1
    That sounds artificial. Better to say "продавать снег чукчам" May 7, 2017 at 13:13
  • @SomeWittyUsername to me that sounds similar, and eskimos have an advantage of ice cream being named after them
    – Anixx
    Dec 23, 2020 at 2:14

Two more idioms for redundancy. Both are used to describe an action, performed with an inappropriate instrument:

Стрелять из пушки по воробьям (To shoot sparrows from a cannon).

Микроскопом гвозди забивать (To hammer nails with a microscope).

  • 6
    that's not redundancy, that's overkill.
    – Qwerty
    Dec 23, 2014 at 15:43

Russian idiom with means redundant is 'Масло масленное', literally in english: 'Buttery butter'.

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