Grandfathers in Russian Culture and Language

Family Ties Remain Strong in the Modern Age

Russian grandfather and grandson playing together
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The Russian name for grandfather is dedushka, a term used to address one's own grandfather as well as any man of grandfatherly age. It is a somewhat informal but not impolite term. Dedushka is sometimes shortened to deda. A related endearment for a grandfather is dedulya. Because Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, these terms have been transliterated. For that reason, you may see them spelled more than one way. A great-grandfather is called praded, and a great-great-grandfather is praskchur

The importance of family is demonstrated by the number of kinship terms in the Russian language. There are around 50, with specific names for relatives such as the female cousin of one's parent. There are also special terms for the parents of a child's spouse. 

Learn the Russian names for grandmothers. See also a list of ethnic names for grandfathers.

The Russian Family

Years of Soviet rule led to mistrust of government and larger entities. Many Russians instead relied on extended family to meet their needs and enable survival. Perhaps for that reason, most Russians place a high value on family structure. The traditional Russian family is a large, multigenerational household. As in many areas of the world, however, this ideal is changing. Many young Russian families want their own homes, although they may want to return to the family fold on weekends and special occasions.

Due to concerns about the birth rate, the Russian government supports young families in several ways.The government pays a baby bonus, and parents with three or more children get discounts on utilities and other services. A special program makes it easier for young families to buy their own houses.  Parental leave is generous, and a comprehensive child-care system is planned, although it is not yet fully implemented. In the interim, many Russian grandparents are assisting with childcare. However, most Russian mothers take parental leave and stay home with their babies until they are at least 18 months old.

Ties With the Land

Even Russians who have migrated to the cities retain strong ties with the natural world. Many workers own simple dachas, or weekend homes, and enjoy hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Many Russians have gardens, both for pleasure and to supplement their diets. Even Russian cities have great swathes of parkland and communal forest land, a vestige of their heritage of communal land. It is common to see people enjoying themselves outdoors, even in very cold weather. Chess is a favored activity, and people often play in the open air in parks. Soccer and hockey are the most popular team sports. Skiing and skating are popular with people of all ages, and many Russians have also taken up tennis. 

In May of 2016, President Vladimir Putin signed a bill giving 2.5 acres of land in the Far Eastern Federal District to any citizen who wants it. If after five years the owners have made improvements on the property, they will receive legal title to the land. Although Russians are naturally attracted to owning land, few are expected to move to the area where the free land is being given away. The area is costly to occupy because of its remoteness. It also has a harsh climate and is very sparsely populated.

Russian Proverbs

Grandfathers are traditional fonts of wisdom. You might hear these gems from a Russian grandfather:

  • An empty barrel makes the most sound. Empty-headed people like to talk.
  • Eggs cannot teach a hen. Don't try to teach those who are older and wiser than you. 
  • Not everyone who wears a cowl is a monk. Appearances can be deceiving.
  • The cobbler shouldn't start making pies. People should stick to what they know.
  • Once burned by milk, you will blow on cold water. Having a bad experience leads to extra caution.
  • Beware of a quiet dog and still water. The greatest dangers don't announce themselves.
  • Every sandpiper praises his own swamp. It's natural to love one's one home and belongings.
  • Your tongue can get you all the way to Kiev. You can learn a lot by asking questions.
  • Berry by berry, the basket will be full. Small steps lead to larger accomplishments.