Moscow and St. Petersburg are the two biggest cities in Russia with a population of over 17,500,000 people in total.
Like two blood relatives, they have so many similarities that sometimes you can be confused as to which city you are in!
Both cities are the capitals. Surprised? Right, you know that the official capital of Russia is Moscow, however, St. Petersburg is called the “Northern Capital” because there are several important federal institutions located there. It's also referred to as the ‘’Cultural Capital’’ due to the fact that there are so many museums, palaces and historical monuments.
If you have ever travelled between Moscow and St. Petersburg by train you might have noticed that "Moscow" railway station is in St. Petersburg, and "St. Petersburg" railway station is in Moscow.
And the inside and outside of both buildings are completely the same. The only difference is the monuments, with Peter the Great in St. Petersburg and Lenin in Moscow.
Speaking about the metro stations, we cannot ignore the fact that their names, such as Mayakovskaya, Pushkinskaya, Mezhdunarodnaya, Leninskiy prospekt, Akademicheskaya, etc. are the same in the two metropolises. And we haven’t compared the streets names yet!
So what are the differences between the cities?
Apart from a different mentality and way of life of the inhabitants, there is a difference in their speech which characterizes in special pronunciation, lexicon and accent. Both versions are normative, meaning they are understood by the overwhelming majority of Russian speakers regardless of location or residence. But their speech does differ in a few particular areas.
Moscow people pronounce the letter “a” in the syllable preceding the stressed syllable a little bit longer than people in St. Petersburg do. Some people say that Moscow citizens stretch the vowels and «а́кают» («akayut»). For example, in the phrase «Моско́вский акце́нт» (Moscow accent) sounds like «Мааско́вский аакце́нт».
Many citizens of St. Petersburg pronounce the letter «ч» in «чн» combination just like the sound ch, while in Moscow it is normal to say it like «шн» (shn sound). For instance, «бу́лочная» - «бу́лошная» (bakery), «яи́чница» - «яи́шница» (scrambled eggs), «подсве́чник» - «подсве́шник» (candlestick).
In Moscow, these pairs of consonants are usually pronounced with the long and soft «жь» zh’. Here are several examples «дожьжьи́» (in Moscow) vs. «дожди́» (in St. Petersburg) (rains), «е́жьжьу» vs. «е́зжу» (I go), «по́жьжье» vs. «по́зже» (later) accordingly.
In St. Petersburg, people pronounce clear solid "p" in the words «четве́рг» (Thursday), «пе́рвый» (first), instead of Moscow's soft «четве́рьг» and «пе́рьвый».
There are also some lexical distinctions. On the left side, there are several Moscow words and on the right side are the St. Petersburg’s equivalents:
Бе́лый хлеб Belyy khleb, бато́н baton – Бу́лка bulka
Бордю́р Bordyur – Поре́брик Porebrik
Водола́зка Vodolazka – Бадло́н Badlon
Гре́чка Grechka – Гре́ча Grecha
Кио́ск Kiosk, пала́тка palatka – Ларёк Laryok
Ку́рицаKuritsa – Ку́ра Kura
Ла́вочка Lavochka – Скаме́йка Skameyka
Маршру́тка Marshrutka – Тэ́шка Teshka (mini bus)
Подъе́зд Pod"yezd – Пара́дная Paradnaya
Шаурма́ Shaurma – Шаве́рма Shaverma etc.
Due to the fact that language is a living organism which is constantly evolving, nowadays these distinctions are disappearing day by day. However, Moscow residents will always distinguish St. Petersburg’s speech and St. Petersburg's residents will always distinguish Moscow's speech. And now you can too!