Russian Business Seminars. Issue #SE-02 [13Feb06]
SPELLING OF RUSSIAN NAMES
Russian alphabet is phonetic, or nearly phonetic. This means
that every SOUND in Russian language has a corresponding LETTER
in the alphabet. As a matter of fact, most of the writing in
other languages is phonetic.
The exception is English language, where same SOUND can be
spelled in several different ways. For instance "through" and
"thru" is pronounced the same way. There is no 100% correspondence between spelling word and the way it is pronounced. This is
why English speaking schools have subject Spelling. When a language has a phonetic spelling, there is no need for special
subject Spelling, since the key to the pronunciation is in the
In Russian language some Russian letters have one to one
correspondence between Russian and English letters, when applicable.
0 1 2 3
12345678 90 1234567890 12345 6 7 890 12 3
ABVGDEEZhZI JKLMNOPRST UFHCChShShch-Y- EYuYa
ÀÁÂÃÄÅ¨Æ ÇÈ ÉÊËÌÍÎÏÐÑÒ ÓÔÕÖ× Ø Ù ÚÛÜ ÝÞ ß
Also, some Russian letters do not have have equivalent
English letters. As a matter of fact different countries that use
Latin alphabet translate Russian letters differently. Below are
given examples of English, French and German translation:
Â V, FF, W
É J, Y
Õ H, KH
Ö C, TS
× CH, TCH, TSCH
Ø SH, CH, SCH
Ú Hard sign, cannot be translated
Û I, Y
Ü Soft Sign, cannot be translated
Þ YU, JU
ß YA, JA
What does this all mean? This means that the same Russian
name can be written with Latin letters in several different ways.
Most popular translation these days is English, since a lot of business
is done in English. On the other hand, Russian equivalent to our
State Department issues passports with French translation. At the
same time business people prefer English spelling on their
As mentioned earlier, the result is that the same name:
person, company or made up product name, in Russian can be
written only in one way and pronounced also only in one way and with Latin
alphabet it can be written in several different ways.
A very interesting consequence of the above facts is that
sometimes one can determine from the way Russian last name is
written, to which country that person moved first, from Russia.
As the political situation was changing, people moved from Russia
to Poland, or Yugoslavia, or France, or Germany, or USA etc.
From the way Russian name is written in Latin alphabet one can
see that that person (or his parents) moved from Russia say to
France. At that point Russian name was for the first time written
in Latin alphabet, and this spelling stays with the person
permanently or until he decides for some reason to change it.
Learn Russian Alphabet in Two Hours (SE-03)
Russian Business Seminars. Issue #SE-02 -
"Spelling of Russian Names"
se02nam.html, (14Jun95), 13Feb06
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