Volapuk encoding

Volapuk encoding (Russian: кодировка "воляпюк" (or "волапюк", kodirovka volapyuk)) is a slang term for rendering the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet by the Latin ones.

It has been in use since the early days of the internet to write e-mail messages and other texts in Russian in cases where the support of Cyrillic fonts was limited: either the sender didn't have a keyboard with Cyrillic letters or the receiver was not necessarily expected to have Cyrillic screen fonts. In the early days the situation was aggravated by a number of mutually incompatible computer encodings for the Cyrillic alphabet, so that the sender and receiver were not guaranteed to have the same one. Also, the 7-bit character encoding of the early days was an additional upset.

Some Russian e-mail providers even included this encoding into the list of available options for the e-mails routed abroad, and their menu looked like, e.g.,

MIME/BASE64, MIME/Quoted-Printable, volapuk, uuencode

The name comes from the Volapuk constructed language, for two reasons. A Cyrillic text written in this way looks strange and often funny, just as a Volapuk text may appear. At the same time, the word "volapuk" itself sounds funny to Russian speakers, so the name stuck. It is worth pointing out here that Volapuk is based on English vocabulary, but the resulting language is nothing like English.

Volapuk is not exactly a transliteration. There are no "standardized" rules. For example, some would use the "unused" Latin letters X and Y for Cyrillic Х (Kha) and У (U) that look the same. When written in a hurry, one may easily type, e.g., "P" instead of Р (Er) (R is normally expected). As a result, the text becomes even more funny and difficult to read.

Some consider it a kind of joke to systematically substitute Cyrillic letters with Latin ones that look the same, rather than sound the same. In certain cases it leads to collisions, e.g., in the case of P and R vs. Cyrillic П (Pe) and Р (Er).

The Latin letters that basically match the Cyrillic ones by look and sound are E, T, O, A, K, M, and sometimes C.
The Latin letters that only look the same are Y, P, H, X, B, and sometimes C.

Some tricks include 'b' for 'ь', 'q' for 'я', the digraph 'b!' for 'Ы', and the trigraph '}|{' for 'Ж'.

Volapuk encoding enthusiasts sometimes use digits to convey similar Cyrillic letters, reminiscent of leetspeak. For example, '4' looks similar to Ч (Che), '9' looks similar to Я (Ya), and '3' is almost ideal for З (Ze).


  • COBETCKIJ COIO3 ("advanced" volapuk)
  • СОВЕТСКИЙ СОЮЗ (Cyrillic)
  • SOVETSKY SOYUZ (regular transliteration)
  • Soviet Union (English)

See also

Template:Unreferenced sl:Volapiško kodiranje


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