Faux Cyrillic

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A faux Russian T-shirt print reads "ШЗ́ДЯ" (WEAR). A Russian-speaker would read this as "shzdya ", a word that does not exist in the language. Moreover, the accent over the letter З never occurs in Russian, although it is a Cyrillic letter.

Faux Cyrillic, pseudo-Cyrillic, pseudo-Russian[1] or faux Russian typography is the use of Cyrillic letters in Latin text, usually to evoke the Soviet Union or Russia, though it may be used in other contexts as well. It is a common Western trope used in book covers, film titles, comic book lettering, artwork for computer games, or product packaging[2][3] which are set in or wish to evoke Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, or the Russian Federation. A typeface designed to emulate Cyrillic is classed as an ethnic typeface. The use of faux Cyrillic is considered offensive for Russian speakers.[4]

Letters are substituted regardless of phonetic matching. For example, R and N in RUSSIAN may be replaced by Cyrillic Я and И, to create "ЯUSSIAИ". Other examples include Ш for portraited E, Ц for U, Я/Г for R/backwards and upside-down L, Ф for O, Д for A, Б, Ь, or Ъ for B/b, З, Э, or Ё for E, Ч or У for Y. Outside the Russian alphabet, Џ (Serbian) can act as a substitute for U, Ғ (USSR Turkic languages) for F, Ә (USSR Turkic languages, Abkhaz, Dungan, Itelmen, Kalmyk and Kurdish) or Є (Ukrainian) for E, Ө (USSR Turkic, Mongolic and Uralic languages) for O, Һ (USSR Turkic and Mongolic languages and Kildin Sámi) for H, and Ћ (Serbian) for Th. A reversed is also sometimes used for G.[5] Further variants include an inverted K (ꓘ), which does not occur in any language.

This effect is usually restricted to text set in all caps, because Cyrillic letter-forms do not match well with lower case Latin letters. In Cyrillic typography, most upright lower case letters resemble smaller upper case letters, unlike the more distinctive forms of Latin-alphabet type. Cursive Cyrillic upper and lower case letters are more differentiated. Cyrillic letter-forms were derived from 10th-century Greek, but the modern forms have more closely resembled those in the Latin alphabet since Peter the Great's civil script reform of 1708.


Cyrillic letter Latin look-alike Actual pronunciation
Б B, G, numeral 6 /b/ as in boy
В B /w/ as in wind (Ukrainian), /v/ as in vault
Г R, upside-down L, same as Γ /ɡ/ as in goat
Д A, O /d/ as in door
Ж X, backwards and forwards K /ʐ/ similar to treasure
З E, numeral 3 /z/ as in zoo
И backwards N /i/ as in tree or [ɪ] as in him
Й N, Ñ, Ň // as in pay
К K /k/ as in car
Л N, JI, JΠ /l/ as in love or [ɫ] as in coal
Н H /n/ as in nose
П N, H (lowercase n, h, same as Π) /p/ as in spot
Р P /r/ similar to stutter in some accents
С C /s/ as in soup
У Y /u/ as in rule
Ф I, O, Q, Ø, numeral 0, same as Φ /f/ as in fawn
Х X /x/ as in Scottish English loch
Ц U, backwards and portraited L connected /ts/ as in cats
Ч Y, U, numeral 4 // similar to check
Ш W, portraited E /ʂ/ similar to shrunk
Щ W, portraited E, backwards and portraited L connected /ɕː/ similar to sure (Russian), /ʃ/ as in fresh cheese (Ukrainian and Rusyn), /ʃt/ as in schtick (Bulgarian)
Ы BI, backwards and upside-down P, letter L, numeral 61 /ɨ/ similar to roses in some dialects
Ь B, backwards and upside-down P, indicates the palatalization of the previous consonant, as in union as opposed to unite
Э E, backwards C and numeral 3 /ɛ/ as in echo
Ю IO, numeral 10 /ju/ as in you
Я backwards R /ja/ as in yard

The letters А, В, Е, Ѕ*, І*, Ј*, К, М, Н, О, Р, С, Т, Ү*, Ғ*, Ѵ*, and Х are strongly homoglyphic or related to Latin letters, depending on intended sound values to the point that their substitution may not be noticed, unlike those listed above. If compatibility issues arise that limit mixing of scripts, these can be used with faux Cyrillic letters in lieu of their Latin counterparts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jen Chen, "Sweater Hip Check", The Pitch (Kansas City), February 15, 2007 online
  2. ^ "American Perceptions of Vodka Shaken, Not Stirred: An Analysis of the Importance of Vodka’s Foreign Branding Cues and Country-of-Origin Information", Jon Kurland, October 26, 2004 full text
  3. ^ Englis, Basil G. (1994). Global and Multinational Advertising. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 123. ISBN 0-8058-1395-0.
  4. ^ "The trouble with Яussiaи The West's reprehensible misuse of Cyrillic continues" full text
  5. ^ A reversed hammer and sickle is used for the word-finishing Gs on the poster for The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, as can be seen here.

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