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Slavic and Eastern European Studies: Transliteration

Describes research sources for Russia, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union.

What is Transliteration?

Transliteration is the process of writing in a language using a different alphabet.  It differs from translation in that you preserve the pronunciation of the words, rather than expressing the meaning of the words in another language.  For example, the Russian phrase «Я говорю по-русски» would be translitered "Ia govoriu po-russki" (or in some systems, "Ya govoryu po-russki").  The translation of this phrase would be "I speak Russian".

Transliteration is important when trying to find Russian-language books in western libraries.  It is also handy for communicating in Russian when you do not have the ability to type in Cyrillic.

Often the best way to access a specific book written in Russian or other non-Latin alphabets in the library catalog is to search using a transliterated (or romanized) form of the title.  This is because the records for books acquired before 2005 might not have Cyrillic script in the records.  Therefore, searching using transliteration is the only way to find all versions of a book that we own.

There are several transliteration schemes available, but all libraries in the United States follow those established by the Library of Congress and the American Library Association.

Follow the links on this page to find the appropriate transliteration table for your language.

Example of Transliteration vs. Translation

Russian (Cyrillic):

В. И. Ленин был постоянным читателем Публичной Библиотеки в 1893-1895 г.г.

Russian (Transliteration):

V. I. Lenin byl postoiannym chitatelem Publichnoi Biblioteki v 1893-1895 g.g.


V. I. Lenin was a regular reader of the Public Library in the years 1893-1895.