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 Russia. A typeface designed to emulate Cyrillic is classed as an ethnic typeface.

Letters are substituted regardless of phonetic matching. For example, R and N in RUSSIAN may be replaced with Cyrillic Я ("ya") and И ("i") to form the faux-cyrillic "ЯUSSIAИ" . Other examples include the use of Ш for W, 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 (from Serbian) can act as a substitute for U, Ғ (from Turkic languages) for F, Ә (from Turkic languages, Abkhaz, Dungan, Itelmen, Kalmyk and Kurdish) or Є (from Ukrainian) for E, Ө (from Turkic, Mongolic and Uralic languages) for O, Һ (from Turkic and Mongolic languages and Kildin Sámi) for H, and Ћ (Serbian) for Th. A reversed is also sometimes used for G.[4] A common substitution is $ for S. Further variants include an inverted K (ꓘ), which is not used 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. Most Cyrillic letter-forms were derived from the Greek alphabet in the 9th century, but the modern forms have more closely resembled those in the Latin alphabet since Peter the Great's civil script reform of 1708.

Many versions of Tetris, including those by Atari/Tengen and Spectrum Holobyte, used faux Cyrillic to spell the name as TETЯIS to emphasize the game's Russian origins. The mockumentary film Borat (stylized as BORДT) makes use of faux cyrillic; in Russian the word would be spelt Борат.


Cyrillic letter Latin look-alike Actual pronunciation
Б B, G, S, numeral 5 and numeral 6 /b/ as in boy
В B, ß /v/ as in vault, /w/ as in wind (Ukrainian)
Г r, upside-down L, same as Γ, T /ɡ/ as in goat, [ɦ]~[ɣ] similar to hill (Belarusian, Ukrainian)
Д A, O /d/ as in door
Ж X, asterisk, 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 (Ukrainian)
Й N, Ñ, Ň /j/ as in you
К K /k/ as in car
Л N, JI, JΠ, same as uppercase Λ but in different fonts. /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/ as in rope (trilled)
С C /s/ as in soup
У Y in lowercase /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 mirror-flipped L connected /ts/ as in cats
Ч Y, U, numeral 4 // similar to check
Ш W, rotated E, upside down M /ʂ/ similar to shrunk
Щ W, rotated E, backwards and mirror-flipped L connected /ɕː/ similar to wish sheep (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 , numeral 3 and Pan-Nigerian letter Ǝ. /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*, У, 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. ^ 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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