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Luca Reyes
Luca Reyes

The Cyrillic Script: A Guide to the Russian Alphabet



The table below gives you the normal printed version of the russian characters, and the cursive (italic) version of the character.The letters which are significantly different are noted in red. It is worth learning these. The cursive characters are often used in signs and they also are similar to the hand-written form of Russian.


This short course is divided in 7 lesson and you can complete all of them in just one or two days. So, don't rush and finish this course before visiting other resources from our website. The time you spend learning how to read is well invested time. Russian uses a special set of letters: the Cyrillic alphabet. They are 33 letters which are very easy to learn. Below you will find every letter of the Russian alphabet:




russian alphabet



The Cyrillic alphabet is a writing system developed in the 10th Century in Bulgaria. This writing system is the source used to create the alphabets of different languages such as Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bulgarian or Russian. The Russian alphabet (that's the one you learn in these lessons) is a form of the Cyrillic alphabet and is the script used to write the Russian language.


The Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters: 10 vowels (а, е, ё, и, о, у, ы, э, ю, я), 21 consonants and 2 signs (hard and soft) that are not pronounced. The Russian alphabet uses the Cyrillic script.


Some letters of the Russian alphabet look like and sound similar to the letters of the Latin alphabet. But there are also significant differences. The phonetic transcription helps pronounce a word more or less correctly. It might be difficult, though, to get exactly the right sound just reading the transcription. It is better to learn the Russian alphabet using audio samples.


In the middle of the 9th century, the Byzantine philosopher Cyril together with his brother Methodius created the Glagolic alphabet. It was one of the first Slavic alphabets and was used to write down religious texts. The Cyrillic alphabet developed from the Glagolic and Greek scripts and was named after Cyril.


Russian is written in the Cyrillic script. The early Russian alphabet consisted of 43 letters. With time, the number was reduced to 33 eliminating some letter and introducing new ones. The last reform of Russian orthography took place in 1917/1918.


In Russian, the alphabet is also called азбука [ásbuka]. This word is derived from old names of the letters A = азъ [as] and Б = буки [búkji]. So the word азбука corresponds to the English ABC.


Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters divided into 10 vowels, 21 consonants and 2 letters which do not designate any sounds. Each letter can be either capital or small. The letters can also be printed or handwritten.


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Let's take another look at the Russian handwritten alphabet. You will find that it is very different from print letters and you need to pay special attention to how the letters are connected with each other. The benefit of knowing Russian cursive letters is that they are much faster to write as compared to print letters.


The Russian alphabet is derived from the Cyrillic alphabet (pronounced si-'ri-lik). In turn, the Cyrillic alphabet was developed at the Preslav Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century. It was later formalized by a Greek monk St. Cyril. The contemporary Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters, some of which were borrowed from Greek and Hebrew.


You will find it relatively easy to get started with the Cyrillic alphabet because many letters remind those in English. There are six exact sound and look-alikes (A, E, K, M, O, T) while many other Russian letters are similar to their English counterparts by either how they look or sound. However, keep in mind that Russian and English sounds are never absolutely identical and only constant practice will help you acquire the perfect Russian accent.


The Russian alphabet is traditionally listed in the order from A to Я as shown here. To help you learn the alphabet faster, we have grouped the letters by look and sound and compared them with their English counterparts below.


Here's how the Russian handwritten alphabet looks like. You will find that it is very different from print letters and you need to pay attention to how the letters connect with each other. Additional study time is required if you want to learn how to write in Russian cursive.


With few exceptions, Russian consonant letters can be pronounced either "soft" or "hard" depending on the type of a letter that comes after them. For this reason, the 20 consonant letters of the Russian alphabet can designate 37 distinct consonant sounds!


Five letters in the Russian alphabet will look and sound familiar. For instance, to an anglophone, Russian capital letters A, K, M, O, and T look and are pronounced in a word exactly the same way. Though, the same case letters might look a bit different. Small M you write as м, while T as т.


How are the Russian letters written and read? Where do I find them on the keyboard? How do I write them by hand? Will I ever be able to remember and understand them? Today we will answer all the questions related to the Russian alphabet.


Each letter has two types of lettering: printed and written. Printed letters are used in books, on websites, when you are just learning the alphabet. Written letters are written by hand, they will be useful to you in further training, when you write texts, do exercises. In Russian, it is customary to write by hand in written letters.


The Russian alphabet is the Cyrillic (si-'ri-lik) alphabet, and it's pretty similar to Serbian, Bulgarian and Belorussian Cyrillic. Like the others, Russians used the Church Slavonic language until the XVII century. In the time of the Russian emperor Peter the Great, the writing form of the Russian language appeared for the first time.


While this article covers quite a bit of the Russian alphabet, it is just the start. After you learn all the printed Russian letters, you will realize that Russian handwritten alphabet looks very different from print letters. You'll also realize that you need to learn how to make a connection between letters.


Reading Russian records can be very challenging for non-Russian speakers. The handout below provides the Russian alphabet in print and handwritten form, with equivalent letters or sounds in English, Polish, and German. The handout below is also available in pdf format: .


The first list is sorted alphabetically according to the letters, the second list by the frequencies of the letters. Accordingly, the letters О, Е and А are the most frequent letters in the Russian language.


The following table shows the letters from the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russian. The Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters. The Cyrillic letters partly correspond to the look of the letters from the Latin and the Greek alphabet, but the pronunciation can differ from the Latin and Greek letters.


This is not the most exciting way, but it is quite effective to write each letter over and over until you memorize it. A few people have cited this as the way that they memorized the Cyrillic alphabet although it can be time consuming.


Lots of exposure to the symbols of the Russian alphabet is key. You can learn Russian online by finding lessons to suit your interests in the LingQ library. There are even lessons that focus solely on the alphabet, so you can master reading and pronouncing the letters. LingQ is also available for Android and iOS. All the Russian letters can be divided into the following four categories, which makes it easier for an English speaker to memorize the Cyrillic script:


These are the letters that look the same as in English but designate a different sound: 3) New friends These are the symbols that look unfamiliar but have English equivalent letters that sound similar: 4) Strangers Both look and sound different: The Russian alphabet is an absolute must on your path of learning the language. Once you have mastered it, you will start to be able to read and write a few Russian phrases. Eventually you may find yourself reading novels and watching movies in Russian


In English-language and other Roman-alphabet sources, Russian words are often romanized (transliterated into the Latin alphabet). The table below includes the most common methods of transliteration used in language references and dictionaries.


The alphabets of these languages differ from each other, though most of the letters are the same. With more than 250 millions of speakers worldwide, Russian is the most spoken language that uses the Cyrillic script.


If you use the techniques recommended in this post and take time to build in some review, you can comfortably learn the Russian alphabet and the rough and ready English pronunciation approximations in a week.


You might notice that several Cyrillic letters look and sound extremely similar to letters in the Latin alphabet. This is because both alphabets borrowed some letters from Greek! Take these letters, for example:


With so many languages that contain so many unique sounds using this script, there is no "one size fits all" set of letters that can satisfy everyone. Just like how in Spanish, you'll see ñ, and in French, you'll see ç, you'll find some symbols in the Cyrillic script that show up in some languages' alphabets and not others! Here two of my favorites:


Plus, learning an alphabet song can help you remember the names of letters. While you can guess some letter names based on their pronunciations, other letters are less obvious. For instance, who could guess that Ь would be called мягкий знак (myagkii znak)? Memorizing an alphabet song can help you remember the names of even the trickiest letters.


Finally, some alphabet songs can even help you learn some vocabulary. Some songs have introductions and other words, like animal names, integrated into the song, so you can learn helpful vocabulary words alongside letters.


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