Russians enjoying a frozen Lake Baikal near Irkutsk in Siberia. Photo by SRAS Graduate Rylin McGee

Russian MiniLessons: Winter Clothes

Published: October 5, 2020

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

In the Soviet era, Russians had more limited choice of winter clothes than nowadays. Both men and women used to commonly wear a type of драповое пальто с подкладкой из ватина и меховым воротником . If a person wanted to look more fashionable, he/she wore дубленка rather than the драповое пальто.

Nowadays, of course, people still wear a зимнее пальто of some sort, but the most popular kind is кашемировое пальто. Дубленка is popular as a more expensive option, but the most common and cheapest winter coat is пуховик. These are usually made of a synthetic outer layer, but stuffed with natural down. A thick layer of natural down is a very good insulator and can keep one warm a long time in sub-zero temperatures.

The warmest winter coat, though, is the шуба из натурального меха . These are still very common and very popular in Russia, where the anti-fur movement has made little headway in dissuading Russians from what they consider a very practical and comfortable choice of clothing. The second warmest option is the качественный пуховик. The дубленка is rated third. The куртка на синтетическом утеплителе, while popular in the west, is one of the least practical options for living through a harsh winter.

As for the шуба, when choosing a material, самый тёплый мех is that of бобер, норка, соболь, каракуль, куница and олень. The fur of male animals is considered warmer than the fur of female animals.

Качество меха can be assessed by встряхивать шубу. You should be able to hear the шуршание, distinctly, then the fur is considered to be of good quality.

Another way is легонько дёрнуть за шерстинку, если волоски не отрываются, it means that the fur is of good quality.

As for пуховик, the warmest пух is that of the гага , then гусь, лебедь and утка. Пух из европейских стран is considered to have наилучшие свойства. The best ткань for пуховик is a смесь of натуральные и искусственные волокна.

In cities, Russians often wear зимние ботинки as winter footwear. These are often leather with a lining of insulation. In smaller towns, villages, and regions of the North, валенки  and унты can be seen. Валенки are often fitted with галоши, a protective rubber or plastic outer portion. Designer валенки are also gaining popularity in cities as well. Russian soldiers are outfitted with валенки as part of their standard issue winter uniforms. They are best suited for a сухая морозная зима and are generally not worn after the spring thaw begins.

Designer валенки are gaining popularity in Russian cities

Russians generally favor зимние сапоги made of кожа с внутренней подкладкой из натурального меха.

An important principle is that одежда должна быть многослойной. It is better to have два свитера потоньше и одну водолазку rather than one very thick sweater. This creates more layers of airs between you and the elements – which is what, in the end, will keep you warm.

Врачи не советуют выходить на улицу голодным. In winter, one should повысить калорийность рациона by adding more meat, fish, and fat.

There are some rules to keep to avoid обморожение. Голова (особенно уши), шея и лицо  should be защищены шарфом, шапкой, высоким воротом, шерстяной маской, особенно в ветреную погоду.

От отморожения нужно беречь конечности, а также нос и уши.. In frosty weather, more blood is removed from limbs to heart and brain, making the limbs more vulnerable to frostbite.

About the author

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov leads SRAS' Research Services, performing remote archive research and consultations for researchers around the globe. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He also studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and taught Russian at West Virginia University. As a journalist, he has reported in both Russian and English language outlets and has years of archival research experience. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the “real Russia” which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei also contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS Family of Sites.

Program attended: SRAS Staff Member

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Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson

Josh lived in Moscow from 2003, when he first arrived to study Russian with SRAS, until 2022. He holds an M.A. in Theatre and a B.A. in History from Idaho State University, where his masters thesis was written on the political economy of Soviet-era censorship organs affecting the stage. At SRAS, Josh assists in program development and leads our Internship Programs. He is also the editor-in-chief for the SRAS newsletter, the SRAS Family of Sites, and Vestnik. He has previously served as Communications Director to Bellerage Alinga and has served as a consultant or translator to several businesses and organizations with interests in Russia.

Program attended: SRAS Staff Member

View all posts by: Josh Wilson