Russian cursive ((ру́сское) курси́вное письмо́ "(Russian) cursive writing", not to be confused with ско́ропись "tachygraphy") is the handwritten form of the modern Russian Cyrillic script, used instead of the block letters seen in printed material. In addition, Russian italics for the lowercase letters are often based on Russian cursive (such as lowercase Т, which looks like Latin m). Most handwritten Russian, especially personal letters and schoolwork, uses the cursive alphabet because it is much faster to write than block letters if learned correctly. In Russian schools, most children are taught by first grade how to write using this script.
Russian (and Cyrillic in general) cursive was developed during the 18th century on the base of earlier Cyrillic tachygraphy, re-shaped under the influence of contemporary Latin-based cursives. It became handwritten counterpart of so-called civil (or Petrine) script of printed books. In order, modern Cyrillic italic typefaces are based (in their lowercase part) mostly on the cursive shape of letters.
The Latin influence on the Russian cursive resulted in numerous characters that are similar or completely identical to Latin ones. For example, modern Russian cursive letters АВДЕИКНОРСУХавдезиопрстухч may coincide with Latin cursive ABDEUKHOPCYXabgezuonpcmyxr, respectively (despite on the completely different sound values in many cases); both upright and italic printed typefaces demonstrate less similarity.
Russian cursive is often more ambiguous than English cursive. Several letters look markedly different from their block counterparts and a few letters look similar to one another, especially in less accurate handwriting style. Another (and unavoidable, even in the "ideal" calligraphic cursive of ABC books) source of the ambiguity is the fact that several lowercase cursive letters consist (entirely or in part) of elements identical to dotless Latin cursive "i" or to a half of cursive "u": и=i+i, ш=i+i+i, м=л+i, щ=i+ц, ы=ь+i; therefore, certain combinations of these letters cannot be unambiguously "parsed" without a broader context. For example, л+i+i+i can be interpreted either as л+(i+i+i)=лш (as in волшебник "magician") or as (л+i)+(i+i)=ми (as in домик "little house"). There are examples of different words that become absolutely identical in cursive form, e.g. мщу "(I) revenge" and лицу "(to) a face": here (л+i)+(i+ц)=мщ, л+(i+i)+ц=лиц.
Unlike English cursive, however, the Russian cursive system is not considered a "formal" style of writing. It is standard practice for Russians to write in cursive almost exclusively. In informal cursive, the distinction may disappear between such letters as «и», «н» and «п» (plus «а» and «к» in a yet less accurate style; compare with Latin cursive u/n/a), as well as between «д» and «у» (compare with Latin cursive g/y), between «с» and «е» (compare with Latin cursive c/e), between «т» and «ш», etc. To alleviate the last case of the ambiguity, a horizontal bar can be written above the character if it is «т» or below if it is «ш».
Although it might seem complex at first, the Russian cursive system is easily learned by foreign language students with memorization and practice. Indeed, many introductory Russian language courses spend only a session or two teaching the cursive system. Mastery is gained naturally while further learning the language.
See also 
- A printed variant of Russian cursive (when it is reproduced in ABC books etc.) is typically referred to as (ру́сский) рукопи́сный шрифт" (Russian) handwritten font".
- "В XVIII веке скорописное письмо постепенно переходит в курсив" (Э. В. Шульгина, Русская книжная скоропись XV в., Saint-Petersburg, 2000, ISBN 5-86007-172-8, p. 16) - "during the 18th century, [Russian] tachygraphy gradually transitioned into cursive."
- "Термины 'скоропись' и 'курсив' в русской палеографии применяются параллельно, в то же время, в развитии русской скорописи намечаются тенденции, позволяющие выделить новый тип письма, схожий с латинским курсивным письмом, близким к современному. Если в частной сфере применения и в каллиграфии быстрее произошел переход к использованию курсивного письма, то в делопроизводственной традиции эти типы письма довольно долго сосуществовали" (Е. А. Белоконь, "Характеристика почерков XVIII-XIX вв. и термины в описаниях собраний рукописей", in: "Вспомогательные исторические дисциплины: специальные функции и гуманитарные перспективы", Moscow, 2001, p. 61) - "Terms 'tachygraphy' and 'cursive' coexist in the Russian palaeography; meanwhile, in the development of the Russian tachygraphy there are tendencies that allow us to separate a new type of writing, one closer to the Latin cursive similar to its modern form. In the private sphere and in calligraphy, transition to the cursive writing occurred faster, but in the tradition of record keeping, these types of writing coexisted for a long time."