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Faux Russian T-shirt print "ШЗДЯ" (WEAR)

Faux Cyrillic, pseudo-Cyrillic, pseudo-Russian[1] or faux Russian typography is the use of Cyrillic letters in Latin text to evoke the Soviet Union or Russia, regardless of whether the letters are phonetic matches. For example, R and N in RUSSIAN may be replaced by Cyrillic Я and И, giving "ЯUSSIAИ". Other examples include Ш for W, Ц for U, Г for r, Ф for O, Д for A, Б or Ь or Ъ for B, З or Э or Ё for E, Hammer and Sickle sign for G and Ч or У for Y.

This effect is usually restricted to text set in all caps, because Cyrillic letter-forms do not match well with lower case Latin letters.[2]

This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

This is a common Western trope used in book covers, film titles, comic book lettering, artwork for computer games, or product packaging[3][4] which are set in or wish to evoke Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, or the Russian Federation. An early example was the logo for Norman Jewison's film The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming; more are listed below.

Not all examples of typography with mirror-imaged Latin characters are Faux Cyrillic. For example, Toys "R" Us and Korn use a backwards letter R, both with the intent to mimic a child's handwriting. "NIИ" wordmark of Nine Inch Nails uses a reversed capital N to create a formalistic symmetry. Furthermore, Cyrillic is not the only alphabet that provides transformed characters: for instance, the Latin Zhuang alphabet features "tone two" (ƨ), which resembles a reversed S, used often to symbolize childlike script, and the International Phonetic Alphabet features numerous "turned" characters for use as phonetic symbols and to rotate text upside-down.



Cyrillic letter Latin look-alike Actual pronunciation
Б G, S /b/ as in "boy"
Г r, L, F /ɡ/ as in "goat" or /h/ as in "hot"
г s, z /ɡ/ as in "goat" (cursive form of same letter as above)
Д A /d/ as in "day"
Ж X /ʐ/ similar to "treasure"
З E /z/ as in "zoo"
И N /i/ as in "machine" or /i/ as in "tin"
Л, Ԓ J /l/ as in "love"
У Y /u/ as in "rule"
Ф O /f/ as in "fox"
Ц U /ts/ as in "cats"
Ч H/h, Y /tɕ/ similar to "check"
Ш W /ʂ/ similar to "shrunk"
Э E /ɛ/ as in "echo"
Я R /ja/ as in "yard"
P P /r/ as in "perro"
Х X /x/ as in "loch"
Ь B indicates the palatalization of the previous consonant as in "union" as opposed to "unite"
Ю IO /ju/ as in "you"
Є E, C /je/ as in "yes"

The letters А, В, Е, Ѕ*, І*, Ј*, К, М, Н, О, Р, С, Т, Ү*, Ғ* and Х are strongly homoglyphic to Latin letters and, in the event compatibility issues arise, can be used with Faux Cyrillic letters in lieu of their Latin counterparts. (Letters with a *, however, are not in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.)

Examples of use



  • Poster art in the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The title of the film on movie posters is spelled BORДT.
  • "KRЦМ" for Viktor Krum’s last name (should be "КРУМ"), as spelled on a card mosaic held by a cheering crowd at the Quidditch World Cup, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film).
  • The film Red Heat (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi), of which a great part takes place in Soviet Russia and concerns a partnership between a Russian and an American officer, has faux Cyrillic in its end credits.[5]
  • The poster for international releases of the Russian film Night Watch (written NIGHT ШATCH) features a faux Cyrillic transliteration of the original Russian title Ночной дозор/Nochnoi dozor: "ИOCHИOI DOZOR". This graphic effect reinforces at a glance the film's Russian origin and serves as a guide to pronunciation of the original title for English speakers. It does not, however, represent a meaningful phrase in Russian.
  • The end credits in Enemy at the Gates is written in faux Cyrillic to further represent its plot following Russian sniper Vasily Zaytsev during the Battle of Stalingrad.
  • The English-language poster for the 1995 Serbian film Underground is written in faux Cyrillic as ЦNDЕRGЯОЦND.[6]

Popular music


  • The videogame Tetris, sometimes shown as TETЯIS (Actual Cyrillic: Тетрис)
  • In Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, the backdrop of the level briefings is a book which is written in Cyrillic; but the language is actually English. The letter che (ч) is used to write the letter H.
  • The PC game Republic: The Revolution contains many examples of Faux Cyrillic during gameplay.
  • The PC game DEFCON has Faux Cyrillic as part of its title on the logo (И is used to write N).
  • The 8-bit Computer Game Rasputin which originally came out for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore-64, used Faux-Cyrillic in the Title Screen, the Loading screen, in much of the advertisement for the game and in the game itself where faux cyrillic is written on some of the blocks used as platforms.
  • In Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, the main antagonist, Grandmaster Nimzo, has dialogue in faux Cyrillic.
  • In the computer versions of Strider and Strider II produced by Tiertex and U.S. Gold, the title screens show the first "R" is replaced with an "Я". [1][2][3][4]
  • The video game Singularity uses SIИGULДЯITY title in its promotion.
  • In Call of Duty: Finest Hour, when doing the Eastern campaign you can see many poster and banners written in Cyrillic. Also in the intro movie you can see a banner written in Cyrillic.


  • APPAЯATCHIK, a fanzine (Actual Cyrillic: аппаратчик)
  • In Copenhagen (in Denmark) you can buy shirts with the names of parts of Copenhagen. (ИФЯЯЕРОЯТ, СНЯІЅТІАИІА, КФЬЕИНАVИ etc. Here Ф corresponds to Ø.)
  • The website Exquisite Corpse uses it in their letterhead (i.e. CФЯPZe).
  • The early seasons of the television series Mission: Impossible used faux Cyrillic signs to indicate an "Iron Curtain" location.
  • The Airfix model kit of the standard Russian launch vehicle included a decal for the display base, bearing faux Cyrillic designations for the Sputnik, Vostok and Soyuz programs, and for the USSR itself.
  • The Khachaturian CD Piano Concerto; Dance Suite; Waltz; Polka [7] features an egregious example of Faux Cyrillic, including upper-case lambdas and a lower-case upsilon (both recognizably from the Greek alphabet) and a reversed i kratkoe (nonexistent in Cyrillic).
  • In the Nicktoon El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, the opening card of the episode El Tigre, el Jefe, which literally translates as "El Tigre, the chief", is written in faux Cyrillic (EL TIБЯE EL JEFE) because, in this episode, Manny, the main character, decides to help his schoolmates to the point of unknowingly establishing a Stalinist-like dictatorship at the school.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Jen Chen, "Sweater Hip Check", The Pitch (Kansas City), February 15, 2007 online
  2. ^ 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 are originally derived from tenth-century Greek manuscript, but the modern forms more closely resemble Latin since Peter the Great's civil script reform of 1708.
  3. ^ "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
  4. ^ Englis, Basil G. (1994). Global and Multinational Advertising. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 123. ISBN 0805813950, 9780805813951. 
  5. ^ Shaw, Tony (2007). Hollywood's Cold War. Edinburgh University Press. p. 288. ISBN 0748625240.,M1. 
  6. ^ Image of film poster for Underground
  7. ^

See also

External links


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