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Slavic, East European and Central Asian Research Guide: Transliteration and Cyrillic Searching

This is a guide about Russian, East European, and Central Asian research methods and materials at Yale.

What is transliteration?

"Transliteration" refers to the rendering of non-roman scripts in roman characters. This is different from transcription -- transcription concerns the sounds letters make, while transliteration concerns the letters themselves. 

Notes and Exceptions

  • Transliteration systems can vary by country and time period. Transliteration styles are also not always consistent between books, periodicals, and digital resources. For this reason it can be useful to try a variety of searches if you're not getting the results you think you should. You might see different results, for example, if you search for Dostoevsky, Dostoevskii, Dostoevskij, Достоевский, or Uncle Vanya, Diadia Vania, Dyadya Vanya, Дядя Ваня
  • Be aware that when you are searching for older materials, the spelling of titles may not always be familiar or intuitive. For example, in Russian, you will frequently encounter the letter ѣ ("yat"), which is transliterated as "ie."  

Searching in the Catalog

A few searching strategies that you are probably familiar with will come in handy when using Orbis, especially to search for materials in Slavic languages. 

To search for a full phrase in a keyword search, put it in quotes. (EX: "Time of Troubles")

To look for variant forms of a word, use * or ? where necessary (EX: bolshevi? or bolshevi* will yield results for bolshevik, bolsheviks, bolsheviki, bolshevist, etc.) This is especially helpful for finding variants forms of Slavic nouns, verbs, and adjectives in the catalog.

Always attempt a transliterated search first. Cyrillic script is not yet included in all of the records in the library catalog.

LC Transliteration Tables

The standard for libraries is the Library of Congress transliteration system. The tables below illustrate transliteration systems for non-roman languages you'll find within Yale's libraries as well as others.