This page is based on a
feature by Jan Paulsen, in
no. 2/1997, and
information found on the internet.
The encoding of this page is "Windows-1251" which is the most common
codeset on Russian web pages today. On older pages, you might find other
codesets as well, like the KOI-8. Even though neither Windows-1251 nor
KOI8 are the official international computer standard for Cyrillic
letters, they are the most common codesets on web pages. If your
web-browser does not automatically recognize "Windows-1251", you might see
some "funny characters", or letters from quite different alphabets,
instead of Cyrillic letters. The first thing to try then,
(or maybe you should do it
right away), at least
if your web-browser is Microsoft Internet Explorer, is to open up the "View"
menu and check "Encoding". If the encoding is not set to something with "Cyrillic
(Windows)" in it, you must change it. "Cyrillic (KOI8)", "Cyrillic (ISO)"
or any other "Cyrillic" codeset than the Windows-1251 will, on this page,
show false characters.
Newer web-browsers will automatically detect whether you have the correct
Cyrillic codeset installed on your computer, or not. If not, the computer
will ask if you want to download a codeset from the internet. Follow the
instructions. If you are working within a computer network, or uses
Windows NT, make sure that you have the neccessary permits to install
programs. (Administrator access).
From Cyrillic to
Translation (or transliteration, to use the correct term) from Cyrillic
letters to our Latin alphabet is not always simple. One reason for that,
is that there is no international agreement on a single unified system of
converting from Cyrillic letters into Latin letters. Indeed, each
language has one or more methods of converting Russian into English or
German or French, based on their own pronunciation of sounds. In addition
there is an official Russian transliteration from Cyrillic.
The principal differences between the different transliterations are
mostly found when translating the letters
(y, ay, ai, oy or ij in Latin),
(ya, ia or ja in Latin),
(ch, tch, tsj or tsch in Latin),
(sh or sch in Latin) and
(shch or stsch in Latin).
A close example is the word Moskvich, (Ìîñêâè÷
in Russian), a word that ends with the letter
and thereby will get a variety of different spellings in Western Europe.
Some Eastern European countries translate the letter as
č, and Moskvich
becomes Moskvič. And to make it even more confusing, the East Europeans
translate the letter Æ with
č or Ž as well. This letter is
used in the syllable (and car make) IZh, (ÈÆ
in Russian), which thereby will be written Ič in some countries, and Iž in
other countries, like in the Czech Republic. The Russians and some East
Europeans will then only use two letters when writing the word ÈÆ,
while we will use three letters in Western Europe.
The Germans will use W instead of V, as they pronounce the letter V as
F(au). The Germans will often also use S instead of Z, meaning that ZIS
and ZIL becomes SIS and SIL. And when English speaking countries uses ch,
the Germans will use tsch. Moskvich/Moskwitsch and Chaika/Tschaika can be
used as examples. (In Norway, we will in most cases use tch in names, like
Moskvitch and Tchaika, even if the "official" Norwegian
transliteration of the letter × is tsj). And
when it comes to proper names, (cities, rivers, areas etc.), these are
often written in different ways as well. An example: Ìîñêâà (Russian),
Moskva (Norwegian), Moscow (English), Moskau (German) and Moscou (French).
There are programs (web-pages) on the internet that actually translates
Russian texts (and even web-pages) into English or German. Two of the best
(to our knowledge) are
Do not expect perfect translations, (the grammar will in most cases not be
perfect either), but things will at least be presented in letters and
words that you can interprete.
Then comes the pronunciation. A chapter of its own. As an example, how do
we pronunce the word IZh? Like "Itsj" or like "Iiisj", with a looong i?
According to the Berlitz dictionary for travellers, the letter
should be pronunced as the "ee" in the word "see", and the
as the "g" in the word massage, (or as the "j" in the French word
"jour"). In other words, a "normal" i, and a "hush-sound" in the end.
in Russian), is more simple, at least in writing. There are 5 letters, no
matter whether you use Cyrillic or Latin letters. The letter Î is the clue
here. It should be pronunced something like the "o" in the English word
"port". But to get the absolutely correct pronunciation, you probably need
to be a native Russian. (The same o-sound is found in Moskvich).
Cyrillic codesets on the computer
As mentioned in
the section about "Encoding", the computer will, in most cases,
automatically detect whether you have the correct Cyrillic codeset
installed, or not. (Same thing with other codesets, like Japanese,
Chinese, Korean etc.). If you do not have the proper codeset, the computer
will ask if you want to download and install it from the internet. Just
follow the instructions. Manual installation demands a bit more computer
knowledge, but is normally an easy thing to do.
If your operating system is Windows 2000 or Windows XP, the standard web
browser is the Microsoft Internet Explorer, and the codesets are
found under "Settings" and "Control Panel". Choose "Regional
settings" and mark out the codesets (languages) you wish to install. The
system might ask you to insert the Windows 2000/Windows XP disc.
procedure is mainly as for Windows 2000, but instead of using "Regional
settings" you need to use "Add/remove programs". Then you will need the
correct program, like "Cyrillic Language Support" or "Pan-European
Language Support", on a disc or downloaded from the internet. If you want
to be sofisticated, and use a Cyrillic keyboard, you need to visit
"Regional settings" here as well. (Remember that Windows NT will require
the permit to install programs. ("Administrator access")).
Probably, only a few of us uses Mac computers, as these are mainly used by
newspapers, magazines and advertising agencies. (They are supposed
to be better than Windows-based computers on artwork and pictures).
Therefore, we will not deal in particular with Mac computers here, but
refer to two features on Macs found here
If Netscape is
your web browser, you will need version 3.X or higher to read Cyrillic
codesets. The same feature as mentioned in the section about Mac
computers, also have a section on Netscape. If you have problems with
viewing Cyrillic letters in Netscape, you need to enter the "Edit"-menu
and from there "Preferences" (or "General preferences") to see whether you
have Cyrillic codesets on your computer or not. If not, they (or it)
need(s) to be installed. As in Microsoft Internet Explorer, you can
change codeset in the "View"-menu. (Under "Encoding" or "Character
Other web browsers,
like Opera, Linux and Eudora, have their own, but usually rather similar
methods of reading Cyrillic letters. Check your software manual, click the
"Help" button or search the web for tips.
The most common search engines, like Google and other, do find Russian
web-sites as well. (They also have Russian (Cyrillic) versions).
Additionally there are also pure Russian (Cyrillic) search engines, like
http://www.rambler.ru . You will have
to search in Cyrillic letters, and without a Cyrillic keyboard, you will
have to "cut and paste" the letters from a symbol chart, a text file o.a.
The best Cyrillic search engine for users in "non-Cyrillic" countries, is
Yandex , were a
"keyboard" on the screen allows you to write in Cyrillic letters without
cutting and pasting.
Below is an overview of the Cyrillic Alphabet, an alphabet named after the
Greek missionary Cyrill, who contributed to the christening of Russia
during the 9th century. Cyrill, and his brother Method, a christian
missionary as well, based their alphabet on the Greek alphabet.
Find a pen and some paper, and start practicing. Begin with something
simple, like ZIL. When you manage Zaporozhets, you are beginning to get a
hold of it. And if this last word should end up totally wrong, write Yalta
instead, as that was the export-name used on the Zaporozhets cars, when
they were marketed in Western Europe during the 1960's. Please note that
the alphabet includes two characters that shall not be pronunced. (Ú and
Ü). Their task is only to tell you whether the consonant in front shall
have a "hard" or a "soft" pronunciation.
If your computer
should completely refuse to show the Cyrillic characters, click
for a scanned version (jpg file) of the Cyrillic Alphabet.