Belarusian Latin alphabet

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Biełaruskaja hramatyka dla škoł (Belarusian grammar for schools) (1918)
Biscriptal street sign in Minsk, Belarus.
Simultaneous use of the digraphs ''sz/cz'' and their replacement diacritics ''š/č'' in the same text in a Newspaper Jednaść.

The Belarusian Latin alphabet or Łacinka (from Belarusian: лацінка, BGN/PCGN: latsinka, IPA: [laˈt͡sʲinka]) for the Latin script in general is the common name for writing Belarusian using Latin script. It is similar to the Sorbian alphabet and incorporates features of the Polish and Czech alphabets. Today, Belarusian most commonly uses the Cyrillic alphabet.


Łacinka was used in the Belarusian area from the 16th century until the 1930s. During the time of the occupation of Belarus by German Empire, the Łacinka script was the only one allowed to be studied on the "native language" lessons because the Cyrillic script was banned.

It is used occasionally in its current form by certain authors, groups and promoters in the Naša Niva weekly, the ARCHE journal, and some of the Belarusian diaspora press on the Internet.

The system of romanisation in the Łacinka is phonological rather than orthographical, and thus certain orthographic conventions must be known. For instance, the Łacinka equivalent to Cyrillic е can be je or ie, depending on its position in a word. Also, there is no soft sign in Łacinka; palatalisation is instead represented by a diacritic on the preceding consonant.

Belarusian Latin alphabet
(as seen in publications, c.1990s–2000s)
Łacinka Cyrillic IPA
A a А а /a/
B b Б б /b/
C c Ц ц /ts/
Ć ć Ць ць* /tsʲ/
Č č Ч ч /tʂ/
D d Д д /d/
Dz dz Дз дз /dz/
Dź dź Дзь дзь* /dzʲ/
Dž dž Дж дж /dʐ/
E e Э э /ɛ/
F f Ф ф /f/
G g (Ґ ґ) ~ ɟ/
Łacinka Cyrillic IPA
H h Г г ~ ʝ/
Ch ch Х х /x ~ ç/
I i І і* /i/, /ʲ/
J j Й й, ь* /j/
K k К к /k ~ c/
L l Ль ль* /lʲ/
Ł ł Л л /l/
M m М м /m/
N n Н н /n/
Ń ń Нь нь* /nʲ/
O o О о /ɔ/
P p П п /p/
Łacinka Cyrillic IPA
R r Р р /r/
S s С с /s/
Ś ś Сь сь* /sʲ/
Š š Ш ш /ʂ/
T t Т т /t/
U u У у /u/
Ŭ ŭ Ў ў /w/
V v В в /v/
Y y Ы ы /ɨ/
Z z З з /z/
Ź ź Зь зь* /zʲ/
Ž ž Ж ж /ʐ/
* Cyrillic е, ё, ю, я are equivalent to je, jo, ju, ja initially or after a vowel, to e, o, u, a after the consonant l (ля = la), and to ie, io, iu, ia after other consonants.

* Cyrillic л is generally romanised as ł, but it is transliterated as l if it appears before ь, і, е, ё, ю, я, or another л followed by these letters.

Instruction on transliteration of Belarusian geographical names with letters of Latin script is similar to Łacinka, but transliterates Cyrillic л in different ways: л = ł (Łacinka) = l (geographical), ль = l (Łacinka) = ĺ (geographical), ля = la (Łacinka) = lia (geographical). This may become a source of confusion because, for example, the Łacinka spelling of the word "столь" is indistinguishable from the geographical transliteration of a different word "стол" as they both look like "stol". Whereas the changes of the actual Łacinka were never disruptive or ambiguous during its lifetime, digraphs sz/cz were even sometimes used alongside with their modernized diacritic š/č replacements in the same text.


In the 16th century, the first known Latin renderings of Belarusian Cyrillic text occurred, in quotes of Ruthenian in Polish and Latin texts. The renderings were not standardised, and Polish orthography seems to have been used for Old Belarusian sounds.

In the 17th century, Belarusian Catholics gradually increased their use of the Latin script but still largely in parallel with the Cyrillic. Before the 17th century, the Belarusian Catholics had often used the Cyrillic script.

а б в г д е ё ж з зь і й к л ль м н нь о п
р с сь т у ў ф х ц ць ч ш ы ь э ю я

It was used in works by Dunin-Marcinkievič, Kalinoŭski, Francišak Bahuševič, Ałaiza Paškievič (Ciotka) and the newspaper Naša Niva as well as newspapers from c.1917 to the 1920s.

a b w h d je1 jo1 ż z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u u2 f ch c ć cz sz y e ju1 ja1

It was used in the contemporary works of Jan Stankievič and in the 5th (unofficial) edition of Branisłaŭ Taraškievič's Belarusian grammar (1929).

a b w h d je1 jo1 ž z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u ŭ f ch c ć č š y e ju1 ja1

It was used in the later works of Jan Stankievič.

a b v h d je1 jo1 ž z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u ŭ f ch c ć č š y e ju1 ja1

It was used in the newspaper Naša Niva and the journal Arche.

a b v h d je1 jo1 ž z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u ŭ f ch c ć č š y e ju1 ja1
  1. The variant with "j" was used at the start of words or after vowels, with "i" elsewhere.
  2. Dunin-Marcinkievič used u ("u" in cursive) for the "short U".
  • The "soft sign" is denoted not by a separate grapheme but by using the "Ll" variant preceding it or by the acute accent over the preceding consonant.
  • The plosive sounds "g" ([ɡ] or [ɡʲ]), which are not represented in the standard Belarusian alphabet (see also Ge with upturn), has been proposed by some authors, including Jan Stankievič. It is not distinguished in Latin renderings at all, or it can be represented by either "Gg" or "HGhg".
  • The apostrophe is not used.
Naša Niva in Cyrillic and Latin scripts

In the 18th century, the Latin script was used, in parallel with Cyrillic, in some literary works, like in drama for contemporary Belarusian.

In the 19th century, some Polish and Belarusian writers of Polish cultural background sometimes or always used the Latin script in their works in Belarusian, notably Jan Čačot, Paŭluk Bahrym, Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievič, Francišak Bahuševič, and Adam Hurynovič. The Revolutionary Democrat Kastuś Kalinoŭski used only the Latin script in his newspaper Peasants’ Truth (Belarusian: Мужыцкая праўда, in Latin script: Mużyckaja prauda, or Mužyckaja praŭda; six issues in 1862–1863).

Such introduction of the Latin script for the language broke with the long Cyrillic tradition and is sometimes explained by the unfamiliarity of the 19th century writers with the history of the language or with the language itself or by the impossibility of acquiring or using the Cyrillic type at the printers that the writers had been using.

The custom of using the Latin script for Belarusian text gradually ceased to be common, but at the beginning of the 20th century, there were still several examples of use of the Latin script in Belarusian printing:

  • Newspaper Naša Dola (1906).
  • Newspaper Naša Niva (the issues during 10.11.1906 – 31.10.1912) — issues in both Cyrillic and Latin (with the subheading: Printed weekly in Russian and in Polish letters (in Latin script: Wychodzić szto tydzień ruskimi i polskimi literami)).
  • Ciotka’s Belarusian Violin (Belarusian: Скрыпка беларуская, Skrypka biełaruskaja), Baptism to Freedom (Belarusian: Хрэст на свабоду, Chrest na swabodu) — books of poetry.
  • Ciotka’s First reading for Belarusian children (Belarusian: Першае чытанне для дзетак-беларусаў, Perszaje czytannie dla dzietak-biełarusaŭ) — an attempt at creating a Belarusian elementary reading book.
  • Janka Kupała’s Zither Player (Belarusian: Гусляр, Huslar; 1910) — book of poetry.
  • rev. Balasłaŭ Pačopka’s Belarusian Grammar (1915, publ. in 1918) — Belarusian grammar, based entirely on Latin script, but is claimed by Belarusian linguists, however, to be prepared unscientifically and breaking the traditions of the Belarusian language. See also Belarusian grammar.

In the 1920s in the Belarusian SSR, like the Belarusian Academic Conference (1926), some suggestions were made to consider a transition of the Belarusian grammar to the Latin script (for example, Źmicier Žyłunovič for "making the Belarusian grammar more progressive"). However, they were rejected by the Belarusian linguists (such as Vacłaŭ Łastoŭski).

From the 1920s to 1939, after the partition of Belarus (1921), the use of a modified Latin script was reintroduced to Belarusian printing in Western Belarus, chiefly for political reasons. The proposed form of the Belarusian Latin alphabet and some grammar rules were introduced for the first time in the 5th (unofficial) edition of Taraškievič's grammar (Vilnia, 1929).

Belarusian Latin alphabet
(Taraškievič, 1929)
A a B b C c Ć ć Č č D d E e F f G g H h
I i J j K k L l Ł ł M m N n Ń ń O o P p
R r S s Ś ś Š š T t U u Ŭ ŭ W w Y y Z z
Ź ź Ž ž

Belarusian was written in the Latin script in 1941 to 1944 in the German-occupied Belarusian territories and by the Belarusian diaspora in Prague (1920s – c.1945).

After the Second World War, Belarusian was occasionally written in the Latin script by the Belarusian diaspora in Western Europe and the Americas (notably in West Germany and the United States). In 1962, Jan Stankievič proposed a completely new Belarusian Latin alphabet.

Belarusian Latin alphabet
(Stankievič, 1962)
O o A a E e B b C c Ć ć Č č D d F f G g
H h Ch ch I i J j K k L l Ł ł M m N n Ń ń
P p R r Ś ś Š š T t V v U u Ŭ ŭ Dz dz Dź dź
Dž dž Z z Ź ź Ž ž


Nowadays, Łacinka is used rarely apart from some posters and badges. Yet, some books continue to be published in this script. For instance:

  • Uładzimir Arłoŭ. 2015. Patria Aeterna. Apaviadańni [Patria Aeterna: Short Stories]. Minsk: A. N. Varaksin. ISBN 9789857128129[1]
  • Ričardas Gavelis. 2018. Vilenski pokier [Vilnius Poker] (translated from the Lithuanian by Paŭlina Vituščanka). Vilnius: Logvino literatūros namai and Minsk: Lohvinaŭ. ISBN 9786098213249. NB: The paper book was published in Cyrillic in Taraškievica. Yet, the ebook is available in three orthographically and scriptaly different versions, namely, also in Łacinka and official orthography, apart from the faithful copy of the paper edition.[2]
  • Alhierd Bacharevič. 2022. Vieršy Вершы [Poems]. Prague: Vydaviectva Viasna Выдавецтва Вясна.ISBN 9788090735958, 142pp. NB: Each poem is given in Łacinka and Cyrillic.[3]
  • In Vilnius since 1997 functions a magazine Рунь (Ruń, ISNN 1392-7671), recent issues of which include articles in both Cyrillic Taraškievica and Łacinka.

In late 2021 a VK project of the Latin alphabet-based Belarusian Wikipedia, that is, the Biełaruskaja Wikipedyja łacinkaj, commenced.[4]

On the occasion of the International Mother Language Day (February 21) in 2023, a machine-converted website edition of Naša Niva in Łacinka[5] was launched.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  • Ad. Stankiewič. Biełaruskaja mowa ŭ škołach Biełarusi – Wilnia : Wydawiectwa „Biełaruskaje krynicy“. Bieł. Druk. Im. Fr. Skaryny ŭ Wilni Ludwisarskaja 1, 1928; Менск : Беларускае коопэрацыйна-выдавецкае таварыства ″Адраджэньне″, 1993 [факсімільн.]
  • Б. Тарашкевіч. Беларуская граматыка для школ. – Вільня : Беларуская друкарня ім. Фр. Скарыны, 1929; Мн. : «Народная асвета», 1991 [факсімільн.]. – Выданьне пятае пераробленае і пашыранае.
  • Да рэформы беларускай азбукі. // Працы акадэмічнае канферэнцыі па рэформе беларускага правапісу і азбукі. – Мн. : [б. м.], 1927.
  • Дунін-Марцінкевіч В. Творы / [Уклад., прадм. і камент. Я. Янушкевіча]. – Мн. : Маст. літ., 1984.
  • К. Калиновский: Из печатного и рукописного наследия/Ин-т истории партии при ЦК КП Белоруссии – фил. Ин-та марксизма-ленинизма при ЦК КПСС. – Мн.: Беларусь, 1988. ISBN 5-338-00024-5
  • Сцяпан Некрашэвіч. Садаклад па рэформе беларускага правапісу на акадэмічнай канферэнцыі 1926 г. // Выбраныя навуковыя працы акадэміка С. Н. Некрашэвіча: Да 120-годдзя з дня нараджэння / НАН Беларусі; Ін-т мовазнаўства імя Я. Коласа; Навук. рэд. А. І. Падлужны. – Мн. : 2004. ISBN 985-08-0580-3
  • Як правільна гаварыць і пісаць пабеларуску. Беларускія корэспондэнцыйныя курсы ў Празе. – Прага : Dr. Jan Ermačenko, Běloruské vydavatelství, 1941; Менск : Беларускае коопэрацыйна-выдавецкае таварыства ″Адраджэньне″, 1992 [факсімільн.]. – Міжнародная асацыяцыя беларусістаў, 1992. – Беларускае таварыства архівістаў, 1992.
  • Ян Станкевіч. Б. Тарашкевіч: Беларуская граматыка для школ. Выданьне пятае пераробленае і пашыранае. Вільня. 1929 г., бал. 132 + IV [1930–1931] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 1. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Ян Станкевіч. Беларуская Акадэмічная Конфэрэнцыя 14.—21.XI.1926 і яе працы дзеля рэформы беларускае абэцэды й правапісу (агульны агляд) [1927] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 1. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Ян Станкевіч. Як правільна гаварыць і пісаць пабеларуску (Пастановы Зборкаў Чысьціні Беларускае Мовы) [Вільня, 1937] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 1. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Ян Станкевіч. Які мае быць парадак літараў беларускае абэцады [1962] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 2. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6

External links[edit]