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 in 1924 when the Soviet Union adopted the metric system.

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. Until Peter the Great the system also used Cyrillic numerals, and only in the 18th century Peter the Great replaced it with the Hindu-Arabic numeral system.

Contents

Length

The basic unit is the Russian cubit, called 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 (71.1 cm). Thus, 80 vershoks = 20 piads = 5 arshins = 140 English inches.[1]

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 Russian Translation Ratio Metric
Value
English units
tochka то́чка point 1/2800 0.254 mm 1/100 inch
liniya ли́ния line 1/280 2.54 mm 1/10 inch; cf. line
diuym дюйм inch 1/28 2.54 cm 1 inch
vershok вершо́к “tip” or “top” 1/16 4.445 cm 1 ¾ in; cf. 19" rack unit
piad, chetvert пядь, че́тверть “palm”, quarter 1/4 17.78 cm 7 in; cf. span
fut фут foot 3/7 30.48 cm 1 ft
arshin арши́н yard 1 71.12 cm 2 ⅓ ft
sazhen са́жень fathom 3 2.1336 m 7 ft
versta верста́ turn (of a plough) 1500 1.0668 km 3,500 ft
milia ми́ля 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)

Area

  • Desiatina (десяти́на, “a tenth” or “ten”)
    • Treasury/official desiatina (казённая десяти́на, kazionnaya desiatina) = 10,925.4 m² = 117,600 ft² = 2,400 square sazhen
    • Proprietor's (владе́льческая десяти́на, vladelcheskaya desiatina) = 14,5672 m² = 156,800 ft² = 3,200 square sazhen
      • 3 proprietor's desiatinas = 4 official desiatinas

Volume

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 Metric value Imperial value US Customary
chast часть part 1/30 109.33 cm3 0.219 pt 0.263 pt
kruzhka кру́жка mug 2/5 1.312 L 2.309 pt 2.773 pt
garnets[1] га́рнец pot 1 3.279842 L 2.886 qt 3.466 qt
vedro ведро́ bucket 4 13.12 L 2.886 gal. 3.466 gal.
chetverik четвери́к quarter 8 26.239 L 2.886 p. 2.978 p.
osmina осьми́на one-eighth 32 104.955 L 2.886 bsh. 2.978 bsh.
chetvert че́тверть quarter 64 209.91 L 5.772 bsh. 5.957 bsh.

Liquid measures

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Metric value Imperial US Customary
shkalik, kosushka шка́лик, косу́шка measure, shot 1/200 61.5 mL 2.16 fl. oz. 2.08 fl. oz.
charka ча́рка a wine glass 1/100 123 mL 4.33 fl. oz. 4.16 fl. oz.
butylka (vodochnaya) буты́лка (во́дочная) bottle (vodka) 1/20 615 mL 21.64 fl. oz. (1.08 pt) 20.796 fl. oz. (1.3 pt)
butylka (vinnaya) буты́лка (ви́нная) bottle (wine) 1/16 768.7 mL 1.35 pt 1.625 pt
kruzhka кру́жка mug 1/10 1.23 L 2.16 pt (1.08 qt) 2.6 pt (1.3 qt)
chetvert че́тверть quarter 1/8 1.537 L 1.35 qt 1.624 qt
vedro[1] ведро́ bucket 1 12.29941 L 10.821 qt (2.71 gal.) 12.997 qt (3.249 gal.)
bochka бо́чка barrel 40 491.98 L 108.22 gal. 129.967 gal.

Weight/mass

Unit Russian Translation Ratio Metric value Imperial and US Customary 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[1] 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 used in Russia, Finland, Belarus and Ukraine. 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.

References


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