Russian units of measurement

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Set of Russian customary units of measurement based on body proportions.

Traditional Russian units of measurement were standardized and used in Imperial Russia and after the Russian Revolution, but were abandoned after 21 July 1925, when the Soviet Union adopted the metric system, per the order of the Council of People's Commissars.

The Tatar system is very similar to the Russian one, but some names are different.[citation needed] The Polish system is also very close to the Russian.

The system existed since Kievan Rus', but under Peter the Great, the Russian units were redefined relative to the English system.[1] Until Peter the Great the system also used Cyrillic numerals, and only in the 18th century did Peter the Great replace it with the Hindu–Arabic numeral system.[1]


The basic unit was the Russian ell, called the arshin, which came into use in the 16th century. It was standardized by Peter the Great in the 18th century to measure exactly twenty-eight English inches (71.12 cm). Thus, 80 vershoks = 20 pyad's = 5 arshins = 140 English inches (355.60 cm).[2]

A pyad' (пядь, "palm", "five") or chyetvyert' (че́тверть, "quarter") is a hand span, the distance between ends of the spread thumb and index finger.[citation needed]

Unit Ratio Metric
English value
Russian Translation
Cyrillic Transliteration
то́чка toch'ka point 12800 0.254 mm 1100 inch
ли́ния liniya line 1280 2.54 mm 110 inch; cf. line
дюйм (перст) dyuym inch (finger) 128 2.54 cm 1 inch
вершо́к vyershok tip, top 116 4.445 cm 1+34 in; cf. 19" rack unit
ладонь ladon' palm 328 7.62 cm 3 in; cf. palm
пядь, че́тверть pyad', chyetvyert' quarter 14 17.78 cm 7 in; cf. span
фут fut foot 37 30.48 cm 1 ft
локоть lokot' elbow 914 45.72 cm 1+12 ft; cf. cubit/ell
шаг shag stride, step 1 71.12 cm cf. step
арши́н arshin yard 1 71.12 cm 2+13 ft
саже́нь, са́жень sazhen' fathom 3 2.1336 m 7 ft
верста́ vyersta turn (of a plough) 1500 1.0668 km 3,500 ft
ми́ля milya mile 10,500 7.4676 km 24,500 ft

Alternative units:

  • Swung sazhen' (маховая сажень, makhovaya sazhen', distance between tips of arms stretched sidewards) = 1.76 m
  • Skewed, or oblique sazhen' (косая сажень, kosaya sazhen', distance between tip of a raised arm and a tip of an opposite leg slightly put away) = 2.48 m / 2.4892 m to be exact, since 1 Kosaya Sazhen is equal to 3.5 Arshins which is equal to 98 inches
  • Double vyersta or border vyersta, (межевая верста, mezhevaya vyersta), used to measure land plots and distances between settlements = 2 vyerstas (comes from an older standard for vyersta)


  • Desyatina (десяти́на, "a tenth" or "ten"), approximately one hectare
    • Treasury/official desyatina (казённая десяти́на, kazyonnaya desyatina) = 10,925.4 m2 = 117,600 sq ft = 2.7 acres = 2,400 square sazhen'
    • Proprietor's (владе́льческая десяти́на, vladel'cheskaya desyatina) = 14,567.2 m2 = 156,800 sq ft = 3,200 square sazhen'
      • 3 proprietor's desyatinas = 4 official desyatinas
  • Soha (соха, "big plow")


As in many ancient systems of measurement the Russian distinguishes between dry and liquid measurements of capacity. Note that the chyetvyert' appears in both lists with vastly differing values.

Dry measures[edit]

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Cubic
chast' часть part 130 6+23 109.33 ml 4.380 fl oz 4.208 fl oz
kruzhka кру́жка mug 25 80 1.312 L 2.309 pints 2.773 pints
garnyec[2] га́рнец pot 1 200 3.279842 L 5.772 pints 3.466 quarts
vyedro ведро́ bucket 4 800 13.12 L 2.886 gal 3.466 gal
chyetvyerik четвери́к quarter 8 1,600 26.239 L 2.886 pecks 2.978 pecks
os'mina осьми́на one-eighth 32 6,400 104.955 L 2.886 bushels 2.978 bushels
chyetvyert' че́тверть quarter 64 12,800 209.91 L 5.772 bushels 5.957 bushels

Liquid measures[edit]

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Cubic
Imperial U.S.
shkalik шка́лик measure 1200 3+34 61.5 ml 2.16 fl oz 2.08 fl oz
kosushka косу́шка shot
charka ча́рка wine glass 1100 7+12 123 ml 4.33 fl oz 4.16 fl oz
butylka (vodochnaya) буты́лка (во́дочная) bottle (vodka) 120 37+12 615 ml 1.08 pints 1.3 pints
butylka (vinnaya) буты́лка (ви́нная) bottle (wine) 116 46+78 768.7 ml 1.35 pints 1.625 pints
kruzhka кру́жка mug 110 75 1.23 L 2.16 pints 1.3 quarts
shtof штоф flagon
chetvert че́тверть quarter 18 93+34 1.537 L 2.70 pints 1.624 quarts
vedro[2] ведро́ bucket 1 750 12.29941 L 2.71 gal 3.249 gal
bochka бо́чка barrel 40 30,000 491.98 L 108.22 gal 129.967 gal


Two systems of weight were in use, an ordinary one in common use, and an apothecaries' system.

Ordinary system[edit]

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Metric value Avoirdupois value
dolya до́ля part, portion 19216 = 1962 44.435 mg 0.686 gr
zolotnik золотни́к "golden one" 196 4.26580 g 65.831 gr (0.152 oz)
lot лот 132 12.7974 g 0.451 oz
funt[2] фунт pound 1 409.51718 g 14.445 oz (0.903 lb)
pood пуд 40 16.3807 kg 36.121 lb
byerkovyec берковец 400 163.807 kg 361.206 lb (25.8 stone)

The pood was first mentioned in a number of documents of the twelfth century.[citation needed] It may still be encountered in documents dealing with agricultural production (especially with reference to cereals), and has been revived in determining weights when casting bells in belfries following the rebirth of the Orthodox Churches in the former Soviet lands.

Apothecaries' system[edit]

The Imperial Russian apothecaries' weight was defined by setting the grain (Russian: гран) to be exactly seven-fifths of a dolya. The only unit name shared between the two was the funt (pound), but the one in the apothecaries' system is exactly seven-eighths of the ordinary funt.

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Metric value Avoirdupois value Ordinary value
gran гран grain 1 62.210 mg 0.96004 gr 1.4 dolya
scrupul скрупул scruple 20 1.2442 g 19.201 gr 28 dolya
drahma драхма dram 60 3.7326 g 57.602 gr 78 zolotnik
unciya унция ounce 480 29.861 g 1.0533 oz or 460.82 gr 7 zolotnik
funt фунт pound 5760 358.328 g 12.640 oz or 5529.8 gr 84 zolotnik

Idiomatic expressions[edit]

The obsolete units of measurement survived in Russian culture in a number of idiomatic expressions and proverbs, for example:

  • Слышно за версту: (It) can be heard a verst away – about something very loud
  • Бешеной собаке семь вёрст не крюк: 7 versts is not a detour for a mad dog – about excessive energy or hassle
  • Милому дружку семь вёрст не околица: 7 verst is not too far for a darling friend
  • Верста коломенская: Kolomna verst – about a very tall and slim person (in this case the reference is to the verst pole road mark: verstovoy stolb)
  • Косая сажень в плечах: A slanted sazhen in the shoulders – about a strong, wide-shouldered person
  • Мерить всех на свой аршин: To gauge everybody by the same [literally: one's own] yardstick
  • Проглотить аршин: To swallow an arshin (yardstick) – about standing very straight and still
  • От горшка два вершка: Two vershok above the pot – a very young child
  • Сто пудов: a hundred poods – a very large amount. In modern colloquial Russian it is used in a generic meanings of "very much" and "very", as well as "most surely".[3] The adjective stopudovy and the adverb stopudovo derive from this expression, although it is more likely a mangled contraction of "100%" (stoprocentny).
  • Семь пядей во лбу: Seven pyad across the forehead – very smart
  • Не семь пядей во лбу: Not seven pyad across the forehead – not so smart
  • Мал золотник, да до́рог: A zolotnik is small, but expensive: when quality rather than quantity is important
  • Идти семимильными шагами: To walk in 7-mile steps – any kind of very fast progress, e.g., of improvement
  • Узнать, почём фунт лиха: To learn how much a pound of likho costs – to experience something bad
  • Ни пяди земли (не уступить): Do not give up (even) a pyad of land
  • Съесть пуд соли (вместе с кем-либо): To eat a 'pood' of salt (with somebody) – to have a long common experience with somebody (with the implication "to know someone well")

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Шостьин Н. А. Очерки истории русской метрологии XI – начала XX века. М.: 1975.
  2. ^ a b c d Cardarelli, F. (2004). Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures: Their SI Equivalences and Origins (2nd ed.). Springer. pp. 120–124. ISBN 1-85233-682-X.
  3. ^ English-Russian-English dictionary of slang, jargon and Russian names. 2012

External links[edit]