Romanization of Russian

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

As well as its primary use for citing Russian names and words in languages which use a Latin alphabet, romanization is also essential for computer 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.

Systematic transliterations of Cyrillic to Latin

There are a number of incompatible standards for the Romanization of Russian Cyrillic, with none of them having received much popularity and in reality transliteration is often carried out without any uniform standards.[1]

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.


OST 8483

OST 8483 was the first Soviet standard on romanization of Russian, introduced in 16 October 1935.[2]

GOST 16876-71 (1973)

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 7.79-2000 (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 is 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 an ICAO standard for travel documents. It was used in Russian passports for a short period during 2010–2013 (see below). The standard was substituted in 2013 by GOST R ISO/IEC 7501-1-2013, which does not contain romanization, but directly refers to the ICAO romanization (see below).

Street and road signs

Names on street and road signs in the Soviet Union were romanized according to GOST 10807-78 (tables 17, 18), which was amended by newer Russian GOST R 52290-2004 (tables Г.4, Г.5), the romanizations in both the standards are practically identical.



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,[3] and a variation was used by the British Library to catalogue publications acquired up to 1975 (the Library of Congress system is used for newer acquisitions).[4]


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

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.[5]

In 1997, with the introduction of new Russian passports, a diacritic-free English-oriented system was established by the Ministry of Internal Affairs,[5][6] but this system was also abandoned in 2010.

In 2006, GOST 52535.1-2006 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,[7] 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 wanted to retain the old version of a name's transliteration, especially which had been in the old pre-2010 passport, might apply to the local migratory office before acquiring a new passport. The standard was abandoned in 2013.

In 2013, Order No. 320[8] 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". This system differs from the GOST 52535.1-2006 system in two things: ц is transliterated into ts (as in pre-2010 systems), ъ is transliterated into ie (a novelty).

Transliteration table

Common systems for romanizing Russian
Cyrillic Scholarly


ISO/R 9:1968 GOST 16876-71(1);
UNGEGN (1987)
GOST 16876-71(2) ISO 9:1995; GOST 7.79-2000(A) GOST 7.79-2000(B) Road
ALA-LC BS 2979:1958 BGN/PCGN Passport (1997) Passport (2010) Passport (2013), ICAO
Аа aaaaaaaaaaaaa
Бб bbbbbbbbbbbbb
Вв vvvvvvvvvvvvv
Гг ggggggggggggg
Дд ddddddddddddd
Ее eeeeeee (ye)⁵eee (ye)¹²e (ye)¹⁴ee
Ёё ëëëjoëyoe (ye, yo)⁶ëë ë (yë)¹²e (ye)¹⁴ee
Жж žžžzhžzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzh
Зз zzzzzzzzzzzzz
Ии iiiiiiiiiiiii
Йй jjjjjjyĭĭ y ¹³y ¹⁵ii
Кк kkkkkkkkkkkkk
Лл lllllllllllll
Мм mmmmmmmmmmmmm
Нн nnnnnnnnnnnnn
Оо ooooooooooooo
Пп ppppppppppppp
Рр rrrrrrrrrrrrr
Сс sssssssss ssss
Тт ttttttttt tttt
Уу uuuuuuuuuuuuu
Фф fffffffffffff
Хх x (ch)chhkhhxkhkhkhkhkhkhkh
Цц ccccccz (c)³tst͡sts ts ¹³tstcts
Чч čččchčchchchchchchchch
Шш šššshšshshshshshshshsh
Щщ ščščŝshhŝshhshchshchshchshch ¹³shchshchshch
Ъъ ʺʺʺʺʺʺʺ ⁷” (")¹⁰ˮʺie
Ыы yyyyyy'yyȳ (ui)¹¹y ¹³yyy
Ьь ʹʹʹʹʹʹʹ’ (')ʼ
Ээ èèėehèe'eėé e ¹³eee
Юю jujujujuûyuyui͡uyuyuyuiuiu
Яя jajajajaâyayai͡ayayayaiaia
Pre-1918 letters
Іі iiiìi (i’)⁴īī
Ѳѳ f (th)¹fh
Ѣѣ ěěěěyei͡eê
Ѵѵ i (ü)¹yh
Pre-18th century letters
Єє (j)e¹-ē
Ѥѥ je¹-i͡e
Ѕѕ dz (ʒ)¹-jsż
Ѡѡ ô (o)¹-ō
Ѿѿ ôt (ot)¹-ō͡t
Ѫѫ ǫ (u)¹-ǎǫ
Ѧѧ ę (ja)¹-ę
Ѭѭ (ju)¹-i͡ǫ
Ѩѩ (ja)¹-i͡ę
Ѯѯ ks-k͡s
Ѱѱ ps-p͡s
Cyrillic Scholarly ISO/R 9:1968 GOST 1971(1);
UNGEGN (1987)
GOST 1971(2) ISO9:1995; GOST 2002(A) GOST 2002(B) Road
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.
GOST 16876-71 and GOST 7.79-2000
³ It is recommended to use c before i, e, y, 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 міръ), it is transliterated with an apostrophe i’.
Street and road signs
⁵ е = ye initially, after vowels, and after ъ and ь.
⁶ ё
= ye after consonants except ч, ш, щ, ж (ch, sh, shch, zh);
= e after ч, ш, щ, ж (ch, sh, shch, zh);
= yo initially, after vowels, and after ъ and ь.
⁷ ъ is not romanized at the end of a word.
British Standard
⁸ Diacritics may be omitted when back-transliteration is not required.
⁹ тс is romanized t-s to distinguish it from ц = ts.
¹⁰ ъ is not romanized at the end of a word.
¹¹ The British Library uses ы = ui, ый = uy.
¹² The digraphs ye and are used to indicate iotation at the beginning of a word, after vowels, and after й, ъ or ь.
¹³ An optional middle dot (·) may be used to signify:
  • non-digraphs (тс = t·s, шч = sh·ch);
  • = й before а, у, ы, э (йа = y·a, йу = y·u, йы = y·y, йэ = y·e);
  • = ы before а, у, ы, э (ыа = y·a, ыу = y·u, ыы = y·y, ыэ = y·e);
  • ·y = ы after vowels;
  • ·e = э after consonants except й.
Passport (1997)
¹⁴ ye after ь.
¹⁵ ий is either iy or y, and ый is either y or yy.

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 bind 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.[11]

See also


  1. Ivanov, L. Streamlined Romanization of Russian Cyrillic. Contrastive Linguistics. XLII (2017) No. 2. pp. 66-73. ISSN 0204-8701
  2. Vinogradov, N. V. (1941). Karty i atlasy (in Russian). p. 44. ISBN 978-5-4475-6305-9.
  3. Waddingham, Anne (2014). New Hart's Rules: The Oxford Style Guide. Oxford University Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-19-957002-7.
  4. "Search for Cyrillic items in the catalogue". British Library. 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  5. Ministry of Internal Affairs. "Order No. 310 (26 May 1997)" (in Russian).
  6. Ministry of Internal Affairs (22 January 2004). "Order No. 1047 (31 December 2003)" (in Russian) (3386). Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
  7. Federal Migratory Service (5 March 2010). "Order No. 26 (3 February 2010)" (in Russian) (5125). Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
  8. Federal Migratory Service (27 March 2013). "Order No. 320 (15 October 2012)" (in Russian) (6041). Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
  9. Lunt, Horace Grey (2001). Old Church Slavonic Grammar (7 ed.). Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 17–18. ISBN 3-11-016284-9.
  10. Timberlake, Alan (2004). A Reference Grammar of Russian. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521772921.
  11. "О латинизации русского алфавита"


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