From Russia with love

Russian Podcast for Beginners

Just arrived or ready to depart – there is always a good time to get some souvenirs from Russia, otherwise who'd ever believe that you've been here! A nesting doll is always a good choice, but there are plenty of other goodies to bring home and show off – let's see what they are!

In today's grammar, we'll learn about the pronouns "этот/тот" (this/that), and their modifiers "вот/вон" (here/there).

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Тури́ст: Ух ты! А мо́жно посмотре́ть вон тот самова́р?
Продавщи́ца: Како́й? Кра́сный и́ли чёрный?
Тури́ст: Вот э́тот!
Продавщи́ца: Коне́чно!
Тури́ст: Ой, э́то шапки-ушанки! Класс!
Продавщи́ца: Э́та ша́пка стоит пять тысяч, а та семь, а…
Тури́ст: Ого́, матрёшки как Путин! Оди́н, два, три, четы́ре,пять, шесть...
Продавщи́ца: Ох…

Tourist: Wow! May I look at that samovar there?
Saleslady: Which one? The red one or the black one?
Tourist: This one!
Saleslady: Of course!
Tourist: Oh, those are ear-flapped hats! Awesome!
Saleslady: This hat costs 5 thousand, and that one (costs) seven, and…
Tourist: Whoa, there are Putin-like nesting dolls! One, two, three, four, five, six…
Saleslady: (sighs in exasperation)


The full podcast is 17 minutes 30 seconds long. Enjoy!


Мо́жно посмотре́ть…?
May I look at…?

мо́жно – may one, "(is) allowed"
посмотре ть – to look

вон тот самова́р
that samovar over there

вон – over there
тот (m) – that
самовар (m) – samovar
вон та ша́пка – that hat over there
вон то пальто́ – that coat over there

вот э́тот
this one here

вот – over here
э́тот (m) – this
вот э́тот самова́р – this samovar here
вот э́та ю́бка – this skirt here

Closer look

  • Ух ты! — Wow! (interjection of admiration)
  • кра́сный (m) — red
  • чёрный (m) — black
  • ша́пки-уша́нки (pl) <– ша́пка-уша́нка (f) — fur hat with flaps, ushanka
  • Класс! — Awesome!
  • матрёшки (pl) <- матрёшка (m) — matryoshka, Russian nesting doll
  • Ого́! — Whoa! (interjection of admiration or surprise)
Items to keep in mind when looking for Russian souvenirs:

  • матрёшка (m) – nesting doll
  • шапка-ушанка (m) fur hat with flaps
  • самова́р (m) - samovar
  • часы́ (pl) - watch
  • плато́к (m) – shawl
  • ва́ленки (pl) – felt boots
  • продаве́ц (m) - vendor
  • продавщи́ца (f) - saleslady
  • цена́ (f) - price


Э́тот / тот – this /that

Этот/тот – this/that are the pronouns that are used together with nouns to bring more attention to them. They are called "demonstrative pronouns." Like in English, there are two sets of demonstrative pronouns in Russian: for things next to you (like "this" and "these") and for things far away ("that" and "those"). Additionally, Russian demonstrative pronouns have three genders – depending on the noun they are combined with:

This: That:

этот cамовар (m) - this samovar
эта матрёшка (f) – this nesting doll
это пальто́ (n) – this coat

тот самова́р (m) – that samovar
та матрёшка (f) – that nesting doll
то пальто́ (n) – that coat

In the plural, there is no more gender distinction:

These: Those:

эти самова́ры – these samovars

те матрёшки – those nesting dolls

Э́тот самова́р / Э́то самова́р – This samovar/This is a samovar

There are two types of sentences that shouldn't be confused:

Это матрёшка. – This is a nesting doll.
"Э́то" means "this is/are" and is used no matter what the gender and what the number.

Эта матрёшка там. – This nesting doll is there.
Этот/эта/это/эти are used only to modify the noun, never to say "this is". Compare:

This is... This/these:

Э́то чёрный самова́р. – This is a black samovar.
Э́то кра́сная ша́пка. – This is a red hat.
Э́то ужа́сное пальто́. – This is an awful coat.
Э́то мои́ часы́. – This is my watch.

Э́тот самова́р чёрный. – This samovar is black.
Э́та ша́пка кра́сная. – This hat is red.
Э́то пальто́ ужа́сное. – This coat is awful.
Э́ти часы́ – мои́. – This watch is mine.

Вот э́та – вон та

If we want to bring attention to an object and also to show where it is, we use the "pointers" – "вот" (here, over here) and "вон" (over there). "Вот" is used in combination with этот/эта/это/эти (this/these), and "вон" is combinable with тот/та/то/те (that/those):

вот этот... – this over here вон тот… – that over there

вот э́тот самова́р
вот э́та ша́пка
вот э́то пальто́
вот э́ти часы́

вон тот самова́р
вон та ша́пка
вон то пальто́
вон те часы́

You can use вот and вон without the pronouns, e.g., with respective adverbs:

Где ша́пка? – Вот тут!
(Where is the hat? – Over here!)

А где самова́р? – Вон там!
(And where is the samovar? – Over there!)

Used alone, "вот" and "вон" are said when pointing at something:

Вот! = Here it is!

Вон! = There!

Cultural Tips

To buy or not to buy?

One of the first items on everyone's to-do list in a foreign country is usually: "Souvenirs!" One has to get them just to prove that one had been there. And then some of us think twice about it and start having misgivings: It's all so kitschy, and useless, and everybody brings them home, and then you don't know what to do with them, and it's just boring. This souvenir dilemma is easily solved: Get something that is really worth it. Something useful, or nice, or both. And Russia does have something to offer in this respect. You just need to know what and where to look for.

Russian souvenirs

The choices are plenty: Nesting dolls, dishes, Soviet relics, scarves, table- and glassware, fur hats… Let's pick out some of the most reliable options:

Матрёшка – A Russian nesting doll is the most obvious pick. Yes, it isn't authentically Russian and originates in Japan – but so what? It has become the embodiment of Russia and it still remains one of its cutest souvenirs. Choose any kind you want: a kitschy or a modern one, but there is nothing better than the timeless classic nesting dolls – they will always go great as a decoration or a present.

Shawls and scarves – every woman around the world will appreciate those. There are two kinds of high-quality shawls that are definitely worth getting:
Павлопосадские платки – Pavlovo Posad Shawls - are colorful and flowery silk or woolen shawls.
Оренбургские платки – Orenburg Shawls - are finely knit woolen shawls of the "wedding ring" type. They are very fine and very warm at the same time.

Палех - Palekh boxes – are those black-lacquered boxes with fine miniatures on them. Very stylish and iconic.

Хохлома - Hohloma – is another well-known brand of painting – a style with red and golden flowery patterns. They produce all kinds of handicraft.

Гжель – Gzhel – is a village and a style of ceramics that is produced in it: blue on white earthenware and porcelain.

Валенки – felt boots – are coming into style again. Forget the Ugg boots and try Valenki: they are incredibly warm and rugged. And not without style, at least some designer versions.

Where to buy souvenirs

Some of the sites in our link-section provide the addresses of the official outlets of the manufacturers in Moscow and other cities. Many of the souvenirs can be found in bigger shopping malls. There are also favorite spots in Moscow where you can buy souvenirs on the street, but watch out for fake stuff there. The most popular locations in Moscow are Red Square (next to the History museum and Moskva Hotel) and the Arbat street.

Useful links

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Word: закон
Meaning: law, act, statute
Pronunciation: [zuh-KOHN]

Learn Russian words »


Russian: Почта
English: Post office


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