or faux Russian typography
is the use of Cyrillic letters
in Latin text
to evoke the Soviet Union
. For example, R
may be replaced by Cyrillic Я
, giving "ЯUSSIAИ". Other examples include Ш for W, Ц for U, Г for r, Ф for O, Д for A, and Ч or У for Y.
This effect is usually restricted to text set in all caps, because Cyrillic letter-forms don't match well with lower case Latin letters.
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; more are listed below.
Not all examples of typography with mirror-imaged Latin characters are Faux Cyrillic. For example, Toys "R" Us (Toys "Я" Us) and Korn use a backwards letter R (similar to Cyrillic Ya, Я), in the former to embody childlike innocence, in the latter to evoke an ironically grim crudeness. The "NIИ" wordmark of Nine Inch Nails uses a reversed capital N to create a formalistic symmetry.
| Cyrillic letter
|| Latin look-alike
|| Actual pronunciation |
|| G, S
|| as in "boy"
|| as in "vase"
|| r, L
|| as in "goat"
|| as in "day"
|| as in "treasure"
|| as in "zoo"
|| as in "machine"
|| as in "rule"
|| as in "fox"
|| as in "cats"
|| as in "check"
|| as in "ship"
|| as in "echo"
|| as in "yard"
|| as in "perro"
Examples of use
- The videogame 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).
- 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, even though the correct Cyrillic spellings (Спутник, Восток, Союз and СССР) are all fairly common knowledge in the West, and particularly among those with an interest in space exploration.
- The Khachaturian CD Piano Concerto; Dance Suite; Waltz; Polka 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.
The inscriptions using faux Cyrillic are usually perceived by native Russian language
speakers as being somewhat stupid and disrespectful towards Russian language and other languages using Cyrillic
script. While being used by Western media in the context of actions taking place in Russia, faux Cyrillic prompts the feeling of an arrogant attitude towards Russia and a superficial, inattentive and distorted depiction of Russian culture.
Notes and references