Romanization of Russian

Romanization of the Russian alphabet is the process of transliterating the Russian language from the Cyrillic script into the Latin alphabet.

As well as its primary use for citing Russian names and words in languages which use the Latin alphabet, romanization is also essential for users to input Russian text who either do not have a keyboard or word processor set up for inputting Cyrillic, or else are not capable of typing rapidly using a native Russian keyboard layout (JCUKEN). In the latter case, they would type using a system of transliteration fitted for their keyboard layout, such as for English QWERTY keyboards, and then use an automated tool to convert the text into Cyrillic.

Sergei Gonchar (Cyrillic: Сергей Гончар), an NHL and international ice hockey player, wearing a sweater with Latin characters
A street sign in Russia with the name of the street shown in Cyrillic and Latin characters

Systematic transliterations of Cyrillic to Latin

Scientific transliteration

Scientific transliteration, also known as the International Scholarly System, is a system that has been used in linguistics since the 19th century. It is based on the Czech alphabet and formed the basis of the GOST and ISO systems.


GOST 16876 (1971)

Main article: GOST 16876-71

Developed by the National Administration for Geodesy and Cartography at the USSR Council of Ministers, GOST 16876-71 has been in service for over 30 years and is the only romanization system that does not use diacritics. Replaced by GOST 7.79-2000.

ST SEV 1362 (1978)

This standard is an equivalent of GOST 16876-71 and was adopted as an official standard of the COMECON.

GOST 7.79 (2002)

GOST 7.79-2000 System of Standards on Information, Librarianship, and Publishing-–Rules for Transliteration of the Cyrillic Characters Using the Latin Alphabet is an adoption of ISO 9:1995. It was the official standard of both Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

GOST 52535.1-2006 (2006)

GOST 52535.1-2006 Identification cards. Machine readable travel documents. Part 1. Machine readable passports is an adoption of Doc 9303 «Machine Readable Travel Documents», Part 1, Volume 1.[1]


Main article: ISO 9


ISO/R 9, established in 1954 and updated in 1968, was the adoption of the scientific transliteration by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It covers Russian and seven other Slavic languages.


ISO 9:1995 is the current transliteration standard from ISO. It is based on its predecessor ISO/R 9:1968, which it deprecates; for Russian, the two are the same except in the treatment of five modern letters. ISO 9:1995 is the first language-independent, univocal system of one character for one character equivalents (by the use of diacritics) that faithfully represents the original and allows for reverse transliteration for Cyrillic text in any contemporary language.

United Nations romanization system

The UNGEGN, a Working Group of the United Nations, in 1987 recommended a romanization system for geographical names, which was based on the 1983 version of GOST 16876-71. It may be found in some international cartographic products.


American Library Association and Library of Congress (ALA-LC) romanization tables for Slavic alphabets (updated 1997) are used in North American libraries and in the British Library since 1975.

The formal, unambiguous version of the system requires some diacritics and two-letter tie characters, which are often omitted in practice.

British Standard

British Standard 2979:1958 is the main system of the Oxford University Press,[2] and a variation is used by the British Library to catalogue publications acquired up to 1975 (the Library of Congress system is used for newer acquisitions).[3]


The BGN/PCGN system is relatively intuitive for Anglophones to read and pronounce. In many publications, a simplified form of the system is used to render English versions of Russian names, typically converting ë to yo, simplifying -iy and -yy endings to -y, and omitting apostrophes for ъ and ь. It can be rendered using only the basic letters and punctuation found on English-language keyboards: no diacritics or unusual letters are required, although the interpunct character (·) may be used to avoid ambiguity.

This particular standard is part of the BGN/PCGN romanization system which was developed by the United States Board on Geographic Names and by the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use. The portion of the system pertaining to the Russian language was adopted by BGN in 1944 and by PCGN in 1947.

Transliteration of the names in Russian passports

Before 1997

In Soviet international passports, transliteration was based on French rules (but without diacritics), so all of the names were transliterated in a French-style system.


In 1997, with the introduction of new Russian passports, a diacritic-free English-oriented system was established by the Ministry of Internal Affairs,[4] but this system was also abandoned in 2010.


In 2006, GOST 52535.1-2006[5] was adopted, which defines technical requirements and standards for Russian international passports and introduces its own system of transliteration. In 2010, the Federal Migratory Service of Russia approved Order No. 26, stating that all personal names in the passports issued after 2010 must be transliterated using GOST 52535.1-2006. Because of some differences between the new system and the old one, citizens who want to retain the old version of a name's transliteration, especially which was in the old pre-2010 passport, may apply to the local migratory office before acquiring a new passport.

After 2013

In 2013, Order No. 320[6] of the Federal Migratory Service of Russia came into force. It states that all personal names in the passports must be transliterated using the ICAO system, which is published in Doc 9303 «Machine Readable Travel Documents», Part 3.[1] This system differs from the GOST 52535.1-2006 system in two things: Ц is transliterated into TS (as in the old system), Ъ is transliterated into IE (a novelty).

Transliteration table

Common systems for romanizing Russian
Cyrillic Scholarly


GOST 1971(1);
UNGEGN (1987)
GOST 1971(2) ISO9:1995; GOST 2002(A) GOST 2002(B) ALA-LC BS 2979:1958 BGN/PCGN Passport (1997) Passport (2010) Passport (2013), ICAO
А а a a a a a a a a a a a
Б б b b b b b b b b b b b
В в v v v v v v v v v v v
Г г g g g g g g g g g g g
Д д d d d d d d d d d d d
Е е e e e e e e e e (ye)⁹ ye (e) e e
Ё ё ë ë jo ë yo ë ë ë (yë)⁹ ye (e) e e
Ж ж ž ž zh ž zh zh zh zh zh zh zh
З з z z z z z z z z z z z
И и i i i i i i i i i i i
Й й j j jj j j ĭ ĭ y y i i
К к k k k k k k k k k k k
Л л l l l l l l l l l l l
М м m m m m m m m m m m m
Н н n n n n n n n n n n n
О о o o o o o o o o o o o
П п p p p p p p p p p p p
Р р r r r r r r r r r r r
С с s s s s s s s s s s s
Т т t t t t t t t t t t t
У у u u u u u u u u u u u
Ф ф f f f f f f f f f f f
Х х h (x) h (ch)² kh h x kh kh kh kh kh kh
Ц ц c c c c cz (c)³ t͡s ts ts ts tc ts
Ч ч č č ch č ch ch ch ch ch ch ch
Ш ш š š sh š sh sh sh sh sh sh sh
Щ щ šč ŝ (šč)² shh ŝ shh shch shch shch shch shch shch
Ъ ъ ʺ ʺ ʺ ʺ ʺ ʺ ⁶ ” (")⁶ ˮ ʺ ie
Ы ы y y y y y' y ȳ (ui)⁷ y y y y
Ь ь ʹ ʹ ʹ ʹ ʹ ʹ ’ (') ʼ
Э э è ė (è)² eh è e' ė é e e e e
Ю ю ju ju ju û yu i͡u yu yu yu iu iu
Я я ja ja ja â ya i͡a ya ya ya ia ia
Pre-1918 letters
І і i i ì i (ih, i’)⁴ ī ī
Ѳ ѳ f (th)¹ fh
Ѣ ѣ ě ě ě ye i͡e ê
Ѵ ѵ i (ü)¹ yh
Pre-18th century letters
Ѕ ѕ dz (ʒ)¹ js
Ѯ ѯ ks
Ѱ ѱ ps
Ѡ ѡ ô (o)¹
Ѫ ѫ ǫ (u)¹ ǎ
Ѧ ѧ ę (ja)¹
Ѭ ѭ (ju)¹
Ѩ ѩ (ja)¹
Cyrillic Scholarly ISO/R9:1968;
GOST 1971(1);
UNGEGN (1987)
GOST 1971(2) ISO9:1995; GOST 2002(A) GOST 2002(B) ALA-LC BS 2979:1958 BGN/PCGN Passport (1997) Passport (2010) Passport (2013), ICAO

Table notes

¹ Some archaic letters are transcribed in different ways. Ligatures ѭ and ѩ are always treated as separate letters in transliteration.
1968; GOST 1971(1); UNGEGN (1987)
² For х, щ and э, ISO uses the alternative in parentheses.
GOST 16876-71 and GOST 7.79-2000
³ It is recommended to use c before i, e, y, and j but cz in all other cases.
⁴ In GOST 7.79-2000 Cyrillic і in Ukrainian and Bulgarian is always transliterated as Latin i as well as in Old Russian and Old Bulgarian texts where it is usually used before vowels. In the rare case that it falls before a consonant (for example, in the word мiръ), it is transliterated with an apostrophe i’ .
⁶ ъ is not romanized at the end of a word.
British Standard
⁵ Diacritics may be omitted when back-transliteration is not required
⁶ ъ is not romanized at the end of a word.
⁷ The British Library uses ы = ui, ый = uy.
⁸ тс is romanized t-s to distinguish it from ц = ts
⁹ The digraphs ye and are used to indicate iotation at the beginning of a word and after vowels й, ъ or ь.

Latin script

In a second sense, the romanization of Russian may also indicate the introduction of a dedicated Latin alphabet for writing the Russian language. Such an alphabet would not necessarily bound closely to the traditional Cyrillic orthography. The transition from Cyrillic to Latin has been proposed several times through history (especially during the Soviet era), but was never conducted on a large scale, except for graphemic (such as the Volapuk) and phonemic (such as translit) ad hoc transcriptions.

The most serious possibility of adoption of the Latin alphabet for the Russian language was discussed in 1929–30 during the campaign of latinisation of the languages of the USSR, when a special commission was created to propose a latinisation system for Russian.[9]

See also


  1. 1 2 Machine Readable Travel Documents, Doc 9303, Part 3 (PDF) (Seventh ed.). ICAO. 2015. p. 33-34. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  2. Oxford Style Manual (2003), “Slavonic Languages”, s 11.41.2, p 350. Oxford University Press.
  3. Searching for Cyrillic items in the catalogues of the British Library: guidelines and transliteration tables
  4. Order No. 1047(Russian), dated December 31, 2003
  5. GOST 52535.1-2006(Russian)
  6. Order No. 320(Russian), dated 15 October 2012
  7. Lunt, Horace Grey (2001). Old Church Slavonic Grammar (7 ed.). Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 17–18. ISBN 3-11-016284-9.
  8. Timberlake, Alan (2004). A Reference Grammar of Russian. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521772921.
  9. "О латинизации русского алфавита"


External links

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