|A 10th-century Glagolitic manuscript. Out of this, eventually, came written Russian. (photo via Wikimedia Commons)|
The Cyrillic script, incidentally, originated in the 9th century A.D., in what is now Bulgaria, as a simplified form of the Glagolitic script shown in the picture above. The creation of both Glagolitic and its Early Cyrillic descendant is credited to the Byzantine Saints Cyril (hence the name of the alphabet) and Methodius, active missionaries among the early Slavs. Eleven hundred years later there have obviously been significant changes to the alphabet, but its origin in Greek, the language of the Byzantine Empire and its churchmen, is still clearly visible even now. Due to that Hellenic ancestry, the Cyrillic alphabet does have at least a distant relationship with its Latin equivalent, a fact that will be of much help in delving into the issue of transliteration.
Head below the jump to for the chart, some discussion of same with a view to devising a Road to Khabarovsk transliteration policy, and the reason why at least some of this confusion is Semyon Varlamov's fault!
The table below may seem daunting, but it is actually quite straightforward. In the vast majority of cases, Russian-to-English transliteration is a simple matter of finding the Cyrillic character on the chart and replacing it with the equivalent Latin letter or letters. In a couple of cases, namely the Cyrillic letters 'Е' and 'Ь,' the exact transliteration depends on what letters come immediately before, but that is not a terribly complicated matter to overcome, and I have laid out all the possibilities in the chart. In addition, there are a few exceptions, given at the end of the table, where certain combinations of Cyrillic characters transliterate differently than those characters would by themselves. And there is one Cyrillic character ('Ъ') that is not transliterated at all (its role is to influence the pronunciation of other letters in the word, but it represents no sound itself). Further discussion of the issues will follow the chart!
|А (а)||A (a)||Антропов --> Antropov|
|Б (б)||B (b)||Бобров --> Bobrov|
|В (в)||V (v)||Варламов --> Varlamov|
|Г (г)||G (g)||Гребешков --> Grebeshkov|
|Д (д)||D (d)||Давыдов --> Davydov|
|Е (е) as first letter of word or after a vowel||Ye (ye)||Еремеев --> Yeremeyev|
|Е (е) after Ъ or Ь||KHL: Ye (ye)|
IIHF: Ie (ie)
|KHL: Васильев --> Vasilyev|
IIHF: Васильев --> Vasiliev
|Е (е) in all other cases||E (e)||Медведев --> Medvedev|
|Ё (ё)||Yo (yo) but see notes below chart!||Шипачёв --> Shipachyov but see notes below chart!|
|Ж (ж)||Zh (zh)||Жамнов --> Zhamnov|
|З (з)||Z (z)||Зелепукин --> Zelepukin|
|И (и)||I (i) but see exceptions||Анисимов --> Anisimov|
|Й (й)||I (i) but see exceptions||Сергей --> Sergei|
|К (к)||K (k) but see exceptions||Касатонов --> Kasatonov|
|Л (л)||L (l)||Ларионов --> Larionov|
|М (м)||M (m)||Мамашев --> Mamashev|
|Н (н)||N (n)||Ничушкин --> Nichushkin|
|О (о)||O (o)||Миронов --> Mironov|
|П (п)||P (p)||Попов --> Popov|
|Р (р)||R (r)||Радулов --> Radulov|
|С (с)||S (s) but see exceptions||Самсонов --> Samsonov|
|Т (т)||T (t)||Тихонов --> Tikhonov|
|У (у)||U (u)||Уланов --> Ulanov|
|Ф (ф)||F (f)||Фетисов --> Fetisov|
|Х (х)||Kh (kh)||Хабаровск --> Khabarovsk|
|Ц (ц)||Ts (ts)||Новокузнецк --> Novokuznetsk|
|Ч (ч)||Ch (ch)||Череповец --> Cherepovets|
|Ш (ш)||Sh (sh)||Шталенков --> Shtalenkov|
|Щ (щ)||KHL: Shch (shch)|
IIHF: Sh (sh)
|KHL: Мытищи --> Mytishchi|
IIHF: Мытищи --> Mytishi
|Ъ (ъ)||Not transliterated||--------|
|Ы (ы)||Y (y) but see exceptions||Сапрыкин --> Saprykin|
|Ь (ь) before а, и, о, у, ы, or э||KHL: Y (y)|
IIHF: Not transliterated
|KHL: Ильин --> Ilyin|
IIHF: Ильин --> Ilin
|Ь (ь) in all other cases||Not transliterated||Игорь --> Igor|
|Э (э)||E (e)||Эдуард --> Eduard|
|Ю (ю)||Yu (yu)||Юшкевич --> Yushkevich|
|Я (я)||Ya (ya)||Якупов --> Yakupov|
|–ий or –ый||KHL: -y|
|KHL: Валерий --> Valery|
IIHF: Валерий --> Valeri
|–кс– in words derived from Greek||-x-||Алексей --> Alexei|
|–кс– in all other cases||KHL: -ks-|
|KHL: Аксёнов --> Aksyonov|
IIHF: Аксёнов --> Axyonov
|-андр||-ander||Александр --> Alexander|
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the KHL and the IIHF have some differences when it comes to the Cyrillic alphabet. I have indicated those discrepancies on the chart where they occur, with the KHL version in red, and the IIHF in blue. In terms of my own writing, I intend to make the KHL version standard here at the blog. This is partially done in the name of consistency - of choosing one or the other and sticking to it - but also because I am a little bit dubious about some of the IIHF's rationale on the matter. While I respect and appreciate that one their goals was simplicity, I think they stray too far in that direction, particularly in the case of the letter 'Щ.' "Shch" may not be perfect representation of the sound of 'Щ,' but there is a reason why that letter is different from 'Ш,' and I don't think they should be treated as though they were the same.
A quick word is in order here about the exceptions, particularly the one which implies that the writer needs to know which Russian names come from Greek. Nobody should be too worried about this; to the best of my knowledge, the three most common Greek-derived Russian names that include '–кс–' are Alexei, Maxim, and Alexander/Alexandra. There are other examples, but they are not often encountered.
There is one real problem here, however, and it involves the letter 'Ё.' The KHL and IIHF actually agree on this one, stating that should be transliterated as "Yo," so it seems to be a simple matter. The problem is that it has usually been transliterated, in the context of North American hockey, as simply 'E.' Thus we are quite familiar with players like Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov, but much less so with Alexander Syomin and Sergei Fyodorov. The only North American player who has the 'Ё' in his name transliterated correctly is Semyon Varlamov. This was done, according to the article about the IIHF's policy, at the player's own request, for reasons that become quite obvious when we consider the alternative.
My first impulse on this issue is to forge ahead with the correct transliteration, come what may. That, in fact, is exactly what both the KHL and the IIHF are already doing. However, following them in this matter risks creating real confusion. I do not want to write about Alexei Kovalyov, for example, and possibly have some readers not realize that this is the same person as Alexei Kovalev. And so for now I propose a compromise: when I encounter 'Ё,' I will not transliterate it at all, but rather leave it as the Cyrillic character. I will write about Sёmin, and Fёdorov, and Kovalёv, and the example from the chart above will become Shipachёv. And I will aim in this way to balance "recognizability" and correctness (for the sake of avoiding cultural awkwardness, I will leave "Semyon" as is, however). I hope very much that the proper transliteration will eventually become the accepted one, and from time to time I will do my bit to push that agenda along, but this will be the policy in the meantime. I am also very interested in hearing objections, alternate solutions, and so on!
One final issue remains to be addressed, and that is Part 16 of the KHL's transliteration policy.* That piece translates as follows:
The transfer of foreign names and surnames with other Cyrillic languages (Belarusian, Ukrainian etc.) is done according to the rules of the Russian language.
It is worth remembering at this point that Russian is not the only language that uses Cyrillic, and that the same letters are not always pronounced the same in different languages (Consider the differences in pronunciation between English and French, despite the common alphabet). I know of at least one Belarusian writer who finds Part 16 extremely offensive, and it is significant that the IIHF has a separate transliteration document for Ukrainian (PDF). Therefore, the official policy around the blog is going to be one of taking extreme care in transliterating Cyrillic but non-Russian names, in order not to accidentally russify them. I cannot promise to get it right every time, but I will do my best!
To finish up, then, I intend to implement and follow the KHL's guidelines on transliterating Russian names, with the exceptions discussed in the preceding paragraphs. The current KHL policy expires in 2014, and I will be interested to see what changes if any are made to it, but that is for the future. I am not, however, going to go back and fix earlier posts, since that does not strike me as an enjoyable task in any way! Nor, when I inevitably forget to follow the policy, or simply get it wrong, am I going to be too hard on myself about it. After all, at its official English-language website, the KHL has a page dedicated to "Evgeny Malkin," when by its own rules it should be talking about "Yevgeny." Errare humanum, etc...