Cyrillic alphabet

Cyrillic alphabet

Infobox Writing system |name=Cyrillic alphabet
time=Earliest variants exist circa 940
languages=Many East and South Slavic languages, and almost all languages in the former Soviet Union (see Languages using Cyrillic)
fam1=Phoenician alphabet
fam2=Greek alphabet
fam3=Glagolitic alphabet
fam4=Early Cyrillic alphabet
sisters=Latin alphabet
Coptic alphabet
Armenian alphabet
unicode= U+0400 to U+04FF
U+0500 to U+052F
U+2DE0 to U+2DFF
U+A640 to U+A69F
Cyrs (Old Church Slavonic variant)
The Cyrillic alphabet (pronEng|səˈrɪlɪk; also called "azbuka", from the old name of the first two letters) is actually a family of alphabets, subsets of which are used by six Slavic national languages (Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian) as well as non-Slavic (Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik of the former Soviet Union, and Mongolian). It is also used by many other languages of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Siberia and other languages in the past. Not all letters in the Cyrillic alphabet are used in every language that is written with it.

The alphabet has official status with many organisations. With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Cyrillic became the third official alphabet of the EU.


The layout of the early Cyrillic alphabet shares a common root with the ninth-century Glagolitic alphabet [Encyclopedia Britannica, "Glagolitic alphabet", 2008, O.Ed., citation: "it is probably closely related to the Cyrillic alphabet. Slavic tradition is generally inconsistent as to which script to attribute to the Eastern Orthodox "apostle to the Slavs", St. Cyril (or Constantine). Although dissimilar to Cyrillic in letter form, Glagolitic had approximately the same number of letters as Cyrillic and identical sound values for the letters; this implies a common origin for the two systems"."] , which was based on the Greek uncial script and the Latin alphabet. The original mother letter-forms, called "ustav", are closely related to uncial cursive Greek. Saints Cyril and Methodius are usually credited with the Glagolitic alphabet's development.alphabet

Although it is widely accepted that the Glagolitic alphabet was invented by Saints Cyril and Methodius, the origins of the early Cyrillic alphabet are still a source of much controversy. It has been attributed to Saint Clement of Ohrid, disciple of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius and founder of Ohrid Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire (located in the modern Republic of Macedonia). Recent studies have suggested that the Cyrillic alphabet was more likely developed at the Preslav Literary School in modern northeastern Bulgaria.

Among the reasons for the replacement of the Glagolitic with the Cyrillic alphabet is the greater simplicity and ease of use of the latter and its closeness with the Bulgar and Greek alphabets, which were widely in use among the population of the Bulgarian Empire.

There are also other theories regarding the origins of the Cyrillic alphabet, namely that the alphabet was created by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius themselves, or that it preceded the Glagolitic alphabet, representing a "transitional" stage between Greek and Glagolitic cursive, but these have been disproved. Although Cyril is almost certainly not the author of the Cyrillic alphabet, his contributions to the Glagolitic and hence to the Cyrillic alphabet are still recognised, as the latter is named after him.

The alphabet was disseminated along with the Old Church Slavonic liturgical language, and the alphabet used for modern Church Slavonic language in Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic rites still resembles early Cyrillic. However, over the following ten centuries, the Cyrillic alphabet adapted to changes in spoken language, developed regional variations to suit the features of national languages, and was subjected to academic reforms and political decrees. Today, dozens of languages in Eastern Europe and Asia are written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

As the Cyrillic alphabet spread throughout the East and South Slavic territories, it was adopted for writing local languages, such as Old Ruthenian. Its adaptation to the characteristics of local languages led to the development of its many modern variants, below.

As used in various languages

Sounds are indicated using the .These are only approximate indicators.While these languages by and large have phonemic orthographies, there are occasional exceptions-for example, Russian его ("yego", 'him/his'), which is pronounced IPA| [jɪˈvo] instead of IPA| [jɪˈgo] .

Note that transliterated spellings of names may vary, especially "y"/"j"/"i", but also "gh"/"g"/"h" and "zh"/"j".

Derived alphabets

The first alphabet partly derived from Cyrillic is Abur, applied to the Komi language. Other writing systems derived from Cyrillic were applied to Caucasian languages and the Molodtsov alphabet for Komi language.

Relationship to other writing systems

Latin alphabet

A number of languages written in the Cyrillic alphabet have also been written in the Latin alphabet, such as Azerbaijani, Uzbek and Moldavian. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, official status shifted from Cyrillic to Latin. The transition is complete in most of Moldova and Azerbaijan, but Uzbekistan still uses both systems.


There are various systems for romanization of Cyrillic text, including transliteration to convey Cyrillic spelling in Latin characters, and transcription to convey pronunciation.

Standard Cyrillic-to-Latin transliteration systems include:
*Scientific transliteration, used in linguistics, is based on the Latin Croatian alphabet.
*The [ Working Group on Romanization Systems] of the United Nations recommends different systems for specific languages. These are the most commonly used around the world.
*ISO 9:1995, from the International Organization for Standardization.
*American Library Association and Library of Congress Romanization tables for Slavic alphabets (ALA-LC Romanization), used in North American libraries.
*BGN/PCGN romanization (1947), United States Board on Geographic Names & Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use).
*GOST 16876, a now defunct Soviet transliteration standard. Replaced by GOST 7.79, which is ISO 9 equivalent.
*Volapuk encoding, an informal rendering of Cyrillic text over Latin-alphabet ASCII.

See also romanization of Belarusian, Bulgarian, Kyrgyz, Russian, and Ukrainian.


Representing other writing systems with Cyrillic letters is called Cyrillization.

Computer encoding

In Unicode 5.1, letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, including national and historical varieties, are represented by four blocks:

* Cyrillic 0400–04FF
* Cyrillic Supplement 0500–052F
* Cyrillic Extended-A 2DE0–2DFF
* Cyrillic Extended-B A640–A69F

The characters in the range U+0400 to U+045F are basically the characters from ISO 8859-5 moved upward by 864 positions. The characters in the range U+0460 to U+0489 are historic letters, not used now. The characters in the range U+048A to U+052F are additional letters for various languages that are written with Cyrillic script.

Unicode does not include accented Cyrillic letters, but they can be combined by adding U+0301 ("combining acute accent") after the accented vowel (e.g., ы́ э́ ю́ я́). Some languages, including modern Church Slavonic, are still not fully supported.

Unicode 5.1, released on April 4, 2008, introduces major changes to the Cyrillic blocks. Revisions to the existing Cyrillic blocks, and the addition of Cyrillic Extended A (2DE0...2DFF) and Cyrillic Extended B (A640...A69F), significantly improve support for the early Cyrillic alphabet, Abkhaz, Aleut, Chuvash, Kurdish, and Mordvin. [ [ n3194r-cyrillic ] ]

Punctuation for Cyrillic text is similar to that used in European Latin-alphabet languages.

Other character encoding systems for Cyrillic:
*CP866 – 8-bit Cyrillic character encoding established by Microsoft for use in MS-DOS also known as GOST-alternative
*ISO/IEC 8859-5 – 8-bit Cyrillic character encoding established by International Organization for Standardization
*KOI8-R – 8-bit native Russian character encoding
*KOI8-U – KOI8-R with addition of Ukrainian letters
*MIK – 8-bit native Bulgarian character encoding for use in DOS
*Windows-1251 – 8-bit Cyrillic character encoding established by Microsoft for use in Microsoft Windows. Former standard encoding in some Linux distributions for Belarusian and Bulgarian, but currently displaced by UTF-8.
*GB 2312 - Principally simplified Chinese encodings, but there are also basic 33 Russian Cyrillic letters (in upper- and lower-case).
*JIS and Shift JIS - Principally Japanese encodings, but there are also basic 33 Russian Cyrillic letters (in upper- and lower-case).

Keyboard layouts

Each language has its own standard keyboard layout, adopted from typewriters. With the flexibility of computer input methods, there are also transliterating or homophonic keyboard layouts made for typists who are more familiar with other layouts, like the common English qwerty keyboard. When practical Cyrillic keyboard layouts or fonts are not available, computer users sometimes use transliteration or look-alike "volapuk" encoding to type languages which are normally written with the Cyrillic alphabet.

See Keyboard layouts for non-Roman alphabetic scripts.


*Bringhurst, Robert (2002). "The Elements of Typographic Style" (version 2.5), pp. 262–264. Vancouver, Hartley & Marks. ISBN 0-88179-133-4.
*Nezirović, M. (1992). "Jevrejsko-španjolska književnost". Sarajevo: Svjetlost. [cited in Šmid, 2002]
*Šmid, Katja (2002). "PDFlink| [ Los problemas del estudio de la lengua sefardí] |603 KiB", in "Verba Hispanica", vol X. Liubliana: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Liubliana. ISSN 0353-9660.

See also

*Languages using Cyrillic
*List of Cyrillic letters
*Faux Cyrillic, real or fake Cyrillic letters used to give Latin-alphabet text a Soviet or Russian feel
*Russian Manual Alphabet (the fingerspelled Cyrillic alphabet)
*Cyrillic Alphabet Day
*Vladislav the Grammarian
*Russian cursive

External links

* [ Minority Languages of Russia on the Net] , a list of resources.
* [ Information on Cyrillic transliteration] and the handwritten script form of Cyrillic.
* [ A Survey of the Use of Modern Cyrillic Script] , including the complete required repertoire of graphic characters, by J. W. van Wingen.
* [ Tipometar: Serbian Cyrillic typography and typefaces]
* [ The Cyrillic Charset Soup] , Roman Czyborra’s overview and history of Cyrillic charsets.
*PDFlink| [ Unicode Code Charts "Cyrillic"] |174 KB
*PDFlink| [ Unicode Code Charts "Cyrillic Supplement"] |69.8 KB
* [ Transliteration of Non-Roman Scripts] , a collection of writing systems and transliteration tables, by Thomas T. Pedersen. Includes PDF reference charts for many languages' transliteration systems.
* [ Rusklaviatura: Real-time Cyrillic Converter]

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