Russian Alphabet



The early Russian alphabet started to form on the basis of the early Cyrillic alphabet in the IX century. It consisted of 43 letters and, from the very beginning, did not quite correspond to phonemes of the spoken Russian language. With time, this lack of correspondence aggravated and so called “dead” letters appeared.

By the XVIII century, the formation of the Russian language mainly completed in the process of the formation of the Russian nation and state. By then, the Russian alphabet accumulated many duplicate or “dead” letters that were not used in the spoken language. The first reform, which led to the removal of seven unnecessary letters (, , , , , , ) from the alphabet, was the reform of 1708-1710 implemented by the Russian tsar Peter I. In addition, he introduced a new letter “э” and replaced the letter with the letter “я”.

The Russian alphabet got rid of other duplicate letters gradually as a result of further reforms and accepted a few new letters (й, ё). The modern Russian alphabet, which consists of 33 letters, has been approved in 1917.

Russian
letter
Transli-
teration 1/
Comparable
English sound
А аaarm
Б бbback
В вvvalerian
Г гggain
Д дddahlia
Е еeyes
Ё ёyoyogurt
Ж жzhpleasure
З зzzeal
И иibee
Й йyboy
К кkkarma
Л лllab
М мmmade
Н нnname
О оomore
П пppacific
Р рrreal
С сssong
Т тttongue
У уufood
Ф фffirst
Х хkhChanukah
Ц цtsquartz
Ч чchteach
Ш шshshaft
Щ щshchThere is no a similar sound in English. If you pronounce words “English Channel” with no break in between you’ll get this sound.
Ъ ъHard signDoes not have an equivalent sound in English. Makes a letter standing before it sound hard.
Ы ыyit
Ь ьSoft sign (or omitted). Makes a letter standing before it sound soft.
Э эeten
Ю юiuyou
Я яiayahoo

1/ Since there is no a uniform Russian-English transliteration system, the above transliteration is based on the most frequently used transliteration options.

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_____________________________________________________________________ Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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