Appendix:Russian alphabet

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The Russian alphabet is a variation of the Cyrillic alphabet, with 33 letters. Some obsolete letters, used mainly before 1918, may also appear in historical quotations, attestations, and etymologies.



In English-language and other Roman-alphabet sources, Russian words are often romanized (transliterated into the Latin alphabet). The table below includes the most common methods of transliteration used in language references and dictionaries.

  • Scholarly transliteration (a.k.a. the scientific or linguistic method, or the international system as part of the British Standard, below) is used in linguistics and Slavic studies.
  • Library of Congress (LOC or ALA-LC) romanization is used in library catalogues and in general publications throughout the English-speaking world.
  • British Standard transliteration (BS 2979) was used by Oxford publications (including the OED, in etymologies) and the British Library in the past, but has largely been superseded by LOC transliteration.

Romanization often strictly follows such a standard in linguistics, lexicography, cartography, and to a lesser degree in bibliographies. It is usually relaxed or modified for the sake of natural reading in running text, especially for proper names. For example, in a history book:

Russian names are spelled in this book according to the standard (Library of Congress) system of transliteration, but some Russian spellings are slightly altered. To accommodate common English spellings of well-known Russian names I have changed the Russian ‘ii’ ending to a ‘y’ in surnames (for example, Trotskii becomes Trotsky) but not in all first names (for example, Georgii) or place names. To aid pronunciation I have opted for Pyotr instead of Petr, Semyon instead of Semen, Andreyev instead of Andreev, Yevgeniia instead of Evgeniia, and so on. In other cases I have chosen simple and familiar spellings that help the reader to identify with Russian names that feature prominently in the text (for example, Julia instead of Iulia and Lydia instead of Lidiia). For the sake of clarity I have also dropped the Russian soft sign from all personal and place names (so that Iaroslavl’ becomes Iaroslavl and Noril’sk becomes Norilsk). However, bibliographical references in the notes preserve the Library of Congress transliteration to aid those readers who wish to consult the published sources cited. —Orlando Figes (2007), The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia, Metropolitan Books, p xiii

[Wiktionary uses an original scheme, closely based on, but not compatible with the standard scholarly method; see Wiktionary:Russian transliteration.]

Table of letters

Letters of the Russian alphabet, and their transliteration
Letter Sound Romanization
upright italic (IPA) Scholarly Library of Congress British Standard
А а А а [a] a a a
Б б Б б [b] b b b
В в В в [v] v v v
Г г Г г [ɡ] g g g
Д д Д д [d] d d d
Е е Е е [jɛ, ɛ] e e e
Ё ё Ё ё [jɔ, ɔ] ë ë ë
Ж ж Ж ж [ʒ] ž zh zh
З з З з [z] z z z
И и И и [i] i i i
Й й Й й [j] j ĭ ĭ
К к К к [k] k k k
Л л Л л [l] l l l
М м М м [m] m m m
Н н Н н [n] n n n
О о О о [ɔ] o o o
П п П п [p] p p p
Р р Р р [r] r r r
С с С с [s] s s s
Т т Т т [t] t t t
У у У у [u] u u u
Ф ф Ф ф [f] f f f
Х х Х х [x] x kh kh
Ц ц Ц ц [ts] c ts ts
Ч ч Ч ч [tʃʲ] č ch ch
Ш ш Ш ш [ʃ] š sh sh
Щ щ Щ щ [ɕɕ, ʃʲʃʲ] šč shch shch
Ъ ъ Ъ ъ
Ы ы Ы ы [ɨ] y y ȳ (ui)
Ь ь Ь ь
Э э Э э [ɛ] è ė é
Ю ю Ю ю [ju, u] ju i͡u yu
Я я Я я [ja, a] ja i͡a ya
Historical letters (pre-1918)
I і I і [i] i ī ī
Ѳ ѳ Ѳ ѳ [f] f
Ѣ ѣ Ѣ ѣ [ɛ] ě i͡e ê
Ѵ ѵ Ѵ ѵ [i] i
” or "
Historical letters (pre-1750)
Ѕ ѕ Ѕ ѕ [dzʲ, zʲ] dz
Ѯ ѯ Ѯ ѯ [ks] ks
Ѱ ѱ Ѱ ѱ [ps] ps
Ѡ ѡ Ѡ ѡ [ɔ] ō
Ѧ ѧ Ѧ ѧ [ɛ̃] ę
Ѩ ѩ Ѩ ѩ [jɛ̃]
Ѫ ѫ Ѫ ѫ [ɔ̃] ǫ
Ѭ ѭ Ѭ ѭ [jɔ̃]


  • The letter ё is usually written as е except in dictionaries, language textbooks, readers, and in hand-written texts. However, the common trend in the last years is to increase the usage of ё. In particular, on Wikipedia ё should be used[1]. Replacing е with ё is called ёфикация.
  • Romanization: in running text, diacritics, primes, and tie bars are often dropped.
    • Library of Congress, British Standard: ъ = at the end of a word is dropped.
    • British Standard: ы = ui was used by the British Museum. Diacritics may be omitted, and final -й, -ий, -ый in proper nouns may be simplified to -y (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Grozny).
  • Before 1918 the Russian alphabet had 35, not 33 letters:
    • Letters ё and й were officially not part of the Russian alphabet but were used.
    • Letter і had the same reading as и and was replaced with и.
    • Letter ѣ had the same reading as е and was replaced with е.
    • Letter ѳ had the same reading as ф and was replaced with ф.
    • Letter ѵ had the same reading as и and was replaced with и. Officially, this letter was not removed from the alphabet (the document describing the reform didn't mention it) but its usage was discontinued nevertheless.
    • Letter ъ, apart from its modern usage, was also used after consonants in the final position and had no phonetic value. Thus, all words ending in a consonant had to end in either ь or ъ. Letter ъ was not removed by the reform but its usage was reduced.

See also



  • Paul Cubberly, “The Slavic Alphabets”, s 27 in Peter T. Daniels and William Bright (1996), The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, →ISBN, p 351.
  • Paul Cubberly, “Alphabets and Transliteration”, ch 2 of Bernard Comrie and Greville G. Corbett (2002), The Slavonic Languages, Taylor & Francis, →ISBN, pp 55–58.
  • Robert M. Ritter (2002), The Oxford Guide to Style, Oxford University Press, →ISBN, pp 334, 350.
  • ALA-LC Romanization Tables at the Library of Congress
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