Obsolete Russian units of measurement

A native system of weights and measures was used in Imperial Russia and after the Russian Revolution, but it was abandoned after July 21, 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.

The system existed since ancient 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 is the Russian cubit, called the arshin, which has been in use since 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 piads = 5 arshins = 140 English inches (355.60 cm).[2]

A piad (пядь, “palm”, “five”) or chetvert (че́тверть, “quarter”) is a hand span, the distance between ends of the spread thumb and index finger.

Unit Ratio Metric
English value
Russian Translation
Cyrillic Transliteration
то́чка tochka point 12800 0.254 mm 1100 inch
ли́ния liniya line 1280 2.54 mm 110 inch; cf. line
дюйм dyuim inch 128 2.54 cm 1 inch
вершо́к vershok tip, top 116 4.445 cm 1 34 in; cf. 19" rack unit
пядь, че́тверть piad, chetvert palm, quarter 14 17.78 cm 7 in; cf. span
фут fut foot 37 30.48 cm 1 ft
арши́н arshin yard 1 71.12 cm 2 13 ft
саже́нь, са́жень sazhen fathom 3 2.1336 m 7 ft
верста́ versta 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
  • Double versta or border versta, (межевая верста, mezhevaya versta), used to measure land plots and distances between settlements = 2 verstas (comes from an older standard for versta)


  • Desiatina (desyatina : десяти́на, “a tenth” or “ten”), approximately one hectare
    • Treasury/official desiatina казённая десяти́на, kazionnaya desiatina) = 10,925.4 m² = 117,600 ft² = 2.7 acres = 2,400 square sazhen
    • Proprietor's (владе́льческая десяти́на, vladelcheskaya desiatina) = 14,567.2 m² = 156,800 ft² = 3,200 square sazhen
      • 3 proprietor's desiatinas = 4 official desiatinas


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

Dry measures

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Cubic
chast часть part 1/30 20/3 109.33 ml 0.219 pint 0.263 pint
kruzhka кру́жка mug 2/5 80 1.312 L 2.309 pint 2.773 pint
garnets[2] га́рнец pot 1 200 3.279842 L 2.886 qt. 3.466 qt.
vedro ведро́ bucket 4 800 13.12 L 2.886 gal. 3.466 gal.
chetverik четвери́к quarter 8 1600 26.239 L 2.886 peck 2.978 peck
osmina осьми́на one-eighth 32 6400 104.955 L 2.886 bsh. 2.978 bsh.
chetvert че́тверть quarter 64 12800 209.91 L 5.772 bsh. 5.957 bsh.

Liquid measures

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Cubic
Imperial U.S.
shkalik шка́лик measure 1/200 61.5 mL 2.16 fl. oz. 2.08 fl. oz.
kosushka косу́шка shot
charka ча́рка wine glass 1/100 123 mL 4.33 fl. oz. 4.16 fl. oz.
butylka (vodochnaya) буты́лка (во́дочная) bottle (vodka) 1/20 37½ 615 mL 1.08 pint 1.3 pint
butylka (vinnaya) буты́лка (ви́нная) bottle (wine) 1/16 46⅞ 768.7 mL 1.35 pint 1.625 pint
kruzhka кру́жка mug 1/10 75 1.23 L 1.08 qt. 1.3 qt.
shtof штоф flagon
chetvert че́тверть quarter 1/8 93 ¾ 1.537 L 1.35 qt. 1.624 qt.
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

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Metric value Avoirdupois value
dolia до́ля part 1/9216 = 1/962 44.435 mg 0.686 gr
zolotnik золотни́к “golden one” 1/96 4.26580 g 65.831 gr (0.152 oz)
lot лот 1/32 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
berkovets берковец 400 163.807 kg 361.206 lb (25.8 st)

The pood was first mentioned in a number of documents of the twelfth century. 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. It is also popular in the modern fitness industry of the 21st century, as the pood is used when referencing the weight of a kettlebell, a Russian invention, especially in CrossFit.

Apothecaries' system

The Imperial Russian apothecaries' weight was defined by setting the grain (Russian: гран) to be exactly seven-fifths of a dolia. 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 dolia
scrupul скрупул scruple 20 1.2442 g 19.201 gr. 28 dolia
drachma драхма dram 60 3.7326 g 57.602 gr. ⅞ zolotnik
uncia 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

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: Skew 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. - Very young kid
  • Сто пудов. - Hundred poods - 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


  1. 1 2 Шостьин Н. А. Очерки истории русской метрологии XI — начала XX века. М.: 1975.
  2. 1 2 3 4 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
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