As anyone who lives there will tell you, St. Petersburg is strikingly different from every other city in Russia. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as Russia’s great gateway to Europe, St. Petersburg now holds the distinction of being the cultural epicenter of Russian life, with hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting every year to enjoy the city’s palaces, museums, theaters, and nightlife. (St. Petersburg is perhaps best characterized as the over-achieving child prodigy of Russian cities that steals attention away from all its older siblings.)
Petersburgers (or петербуржцы) pride themselves on standing out from their compatriots not only in their mannerisms and dress, but also in their language. Should you ever plan a visit to this great город на Неве, you will benefit from learning a bit of the local lingo before you go.
First and foremost, it’s important to know how residents of St. Petersburg refer to their city. Санкт–Петербург can be quite a mouthful, even for Russians, so locals most often refer to it simply as Питер. (It is also worth noting that in written form, it is very common to see the term СПб used to describe the city.) Likewise, петербуржцы often call themselves питерцы.
Питер is filled with numerous streets and locales with long names, which the locals almost always shorten. Here are a few of the most common examples:
- Васильевский остров—Васька
- Гостиный двор—Гостинка
- Технологический институт—Техноложка
- Гражданский проспект—Гражданка
- Лиговский проспект—Лиговка
- Петроградская сторона—Петроградка
- Мариинский театр—Мариинка
Another nuance of local colloquialisms in Питер has to do with the way питерцы talk about their food. The way the words пышка and пончик are used in the city is particularly interesting. For most Russians, a пышка is a round donut with a fruit or cream filling and a пончик is the more traditional-looking donut with a hole in the center. In Питер, however, a filled donut is a пончик while a donut with a hole is a пышка. (On a side note, the most famous place to find пышки in Питер is located near Невский проспект at Большая Конюшенная улица, 25. Be sure to stop by during your visit!) Also in Питер, шаурма (shawarma) becomes шаверма, and гречка (buckwheat) becomes греча.
Other distinctly Petersburg terms include парадная instead of подъезд (stairwell, entryway) and поребрик instead of бордюр (curb). (Питерцы, by the way, are very proud of these different terms and will always be eager to point this out to you.) While this list is surely not exhaustive, it gives you a sampler of some of the local lingo used in Russia’s second largest city.
Now you can rest assured that you will sound like a true питерец the next time you take a trip to СПб and are taking a stroll around Васька or Петроградка while enjoying a шаверма!
Photo source: www.spbtur.ru