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

A native system of weights and measures was used in Imperial Russia and after the Russian Revolution, but it was 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 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 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 piads = 5 arshins = 140 English inches (355.60 cm).[2]

A pyad (пядь, "palm", "five") or chetvert (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 tochka 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 vershok tip, top 116 4.445 cm 1+34 in; cf. 19" rack unit
ладонь ladon palm 7.5 cm 2+1516 in; cf. palm
пядь, че́тверть pyad, chetvert quarter 14 17.78 cm 7 in; cf. span
фут fut foot 37 30.48 cm 1 ft
локоть lokot elbow 45 cm 1+12 ft; cf. cubit/ell
шаг shag stride ~71 cm cf. step
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:



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 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
garnets[2] га́рнец pot 1 200 3.279842 L 5.772 pints 3.466 quarts
vedro ведро́ bucket 4 800 13.12 L 2.886 gal 3.466 gal
chetverik четвери́к quarter 8 1,600 26.239 L 2.886 pecks 2.978 pecks
osmina осьми́на one-eighth 32 6,400 104.955 L 2.886 bushels 2.978 bushels
chetvert че́тверть quarter 64 12,800 209.91 L 5.772 bushels 5.957 bushels

Liquid measures

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

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Metric value Avoirdupois value
dolya до́ля part 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
berkovets 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

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
drakhma драхма dram 60 3.7326 g 57.602 gr 78 zolotnik
untsiya 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:

See also


  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