This is a common Western trope used in book covers, film titles, comic book lettering, artwork for computer games, or product packaging 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 and more recently the logo for Sacha Baron Cohen's film Borat. In the music industry, the Simple Minds album Empires and Dance and the Spandau Ballet album Journeys to Glory, both 1981, provide examples in the cover artwork (the former with reversed Rs and Ns yielding Я and И, the latter with Д and Ф replacing A and O, respectively).
Letters are substituted regardless of phonetic matching. 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, Я/Г for R/r, Ф for O, Д for A, Б, Ь, or Ъ for B/b, З, Э, or Ё for E, Ч or У for Y. Outside the Russian alphabet, Џ (Serbian/Bosnian) can act as a substitute for U, Ғ (USSR Turkic languages) for F, Ә (USSR Turkic languages) or Є (Ukrainian) for E, Ө (USSR Turkic languages) for O, Һ (Some USSR Turkic languages) for H, Ћ (Serbian/Bosnian) for Th and the symbol ☭ for G.
This effect is usually restricted to text set in all caps, because Cyrillic letter-forms do not match well with lower case Latin letters. 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 were derived from 10th-century Greek, but the modern forms have more closely resembled those in the Latin alphabet since Peter the Great's civil script reform of 1708.
|Cyrillic letter||Latin look-alike||Actual pronunciation|
|Б||B, G, numeral 6||/b/ as in "boy"|
|Г||r (lowercase R), T, F||/ɡ/ as in "goat" or /h/ as in "horse"|
|Д||A||/d/ as in "door"|
|Ж||X, K||/ʐ/ similar to "treasure"|
|З||E, numeral 3||/z/ as in "zoo"|
|И||N||/i/ as in "tree" or /ɪ/ as in "him"|
|Л||J, JI||/l/ as in "love"|
|П||n, h (lowercase N, H)||/p/ as in "pod"|
|У||Y||/u/ as in "rule"|
|Ф||O, numeral 0||/f/ as in "fawn"|
|Ц||U, Y, V||/ts/ as in "cats"|
|Ч||Y, U, numeral 4||/tɕ/ similar to "check"|
|Ш||W||/ʂ/ similar to "shrunk"|
|Щ||W||/ɕɕ/ (Russian; like "sure"), ʃt͡ʃ (Ukrainian and Rusyn; like "fresh cheese"), /ʃt/ (Bulgarian; like "schtick")|
|Ы||bl (lowercase BL)||/h/ similar to "roses" in some dialects|
|Ь||b (lowercase B)||indicates the palatalization of the previous consonant as in "union" as opposed to "unite"|
|Э||E, numeral 3||/ɛ/ as in "echo"|
|Ю||IO||/ju/ as in "you"|
|Я||R||/ja/ as in "yard"|
The letters А, В, Е, Ѕ*, І*, Ј*, К, М, Н, О, Р, С, Т, Ү*, Ғ*, Ѵ*, and Х are strongly homoglyphic to Latin letters, to the point that their substitution may not be noticed, unlike those listed above. If compatibility issues arise that limit mixing of scripts, these can be used with faux Cyrillic letters in lieu of their Latin counterparts. In addition, C may be replaced by Archaic Ҁ. (Letters with a *, however, are not used in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.)
- IDN homograph attack
- Volapük encoding vice versa of Faux Cyrillic, i.e. encoding of Cyrillic letter with ASCII characters by using faux-Latin homoglyph characters
- Translit, Russian Chat Alphabet, Informal romanizations of Russian
- Foreign branding
- Heavy metal umlaut for a similar practice in the field of heavy metal
- Leet for a similar manner of replacing Latin letters with other glyphs that resemble them
- Mimicry Typefaces
- Samples of simulation typefaces
- Transformation of text
Notes and references
- Jen Chen, "Sweater Hip Check", The Pitch (Kansas City), February 15, 2007 online
- "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
- Englis, Basil G. (1994). Global and Multinational Advertising. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 123. ISBN 0-8058-1395-0.
- A reversed hammer and sickle is used for the word-finishing Gs on the poster for The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, as can be seen here.
- Fake Cyrillic Generator – Converts Latin text to faux Cyrillic.
- The Backwards R - Explains in greater detail with examples.