Volapuk encoding

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For the language, see Volapük.

Volapuk encoding (Russian: кодировка "волапюк", kodirovka "volapük") or latinica (латиница) is a slang term for rendering the letters of the Cyrillic script with Latin ones. Unlike Translit, in which characters are replaced to sound the same, in volapuk characters can be replaced to look or sound the same.


The name Volapuk encoding comes from the constructed language Volapük, for two reasons. Cyrillic text written in this way looks strange and often funny, just as a Volapük-language text may appear, at the same time, the word "Volapük" ("Волапюк/Воляпюк" Volapyuk/Volyapyuk in Russian) itself sounds funny to Russian ears, so the name stuck.

The term was popularized by its use in the first Soviet commercially available UUCP and TCP/IP network, RELCOM (a typical networking software package included Cyrillic KOI-8 to Volapuk transcoding utilities called tovol and fromvol, originally implemented by Vadim Antonov), making it the likely origin of the usage of Volapuk as applied to Cyrillic encoding.


Volapuk and Translit have been in use since the early days of the Internet to write e-mail messages and other texts in Russian where the support of Cyrillic fonts was limited: either the sender did not have a keyboard with Cyrillic letters or the receiver did not necessarily have Cyrillic screen fonts. In the early days, the situation was aggravated by a number of mutually incompatible computer encodings for the Cyrillic script, 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 hindrance.

Some Russian e-mail providers even included Volapuk encoding in the list of available options for the e-mails routed abroad, e.g.,

"MIME/BASE64, MIME/Quoted-Printable, volapuk, uuencode"[1]

By the late 90s, the encoding problem had been almost completely resolved, due to increasing support from software manufacturers and Internet service providers.[1] Volapuk still maintains a level of use for SMS text messages, because it is possible to fit more characters in a Latinized SMS message than a Unicode one, it is also used in computer games that do not allow Cyrillic text in chat, particularly Counter-Strike.


Volapuk often replaces Cyrillic letters with Latin ones in order to look the same or at least similar as typed or handwritten Cyrillic letters.

  1. Replace "the same" letters: a, e, K, M, T, o. Capitalize when necessary for closer resemblance (к: K better than k, м: M better than m, т: T better than t (which looks exactly like 'm' in handwritten Cyrillic).
  2. Replace similar-looking letters: в – B, г – r (handwritten resemblance), з – 3, л – J| or /\ (the last is again handwritten resemblance), н – Н, п – n (handwritten resemblance), р – p, с – c, у – y, х – x, ч – 4, я – R, и – N. This may vary.
  3. Replace all other non-obvious hard-to-represent characters using leet (any combination of Latin letters, numbers or punctuation that might bear a passing resemblance to the Cyrillic letter in question); there are many options for each letter. (For example, letter 'щ' can be encoded in more than 15 different ways). Examples: ж – *, щ – LLI_, э – -) and so on, the choice for each letter depends on the preferences of the individual user.

Encoding depends on the language as well, for example, Ukrainian users [2] have their own traditions, distinct from the Russian ones.


Cyrillic Volapuk
Б 6, b
Г F, I", I¯, r, 2, s (mirrored lowercase)
Д D, g (lowercase)
Ё E, E", Ë (Latin)
Ж *, }I{, >I<, >K
З 3
И N, u (lowercase), I/I
Й N', Ñ, u' or ú (both lowercase)
Л JI, /\, JT
П II, n, TT (two Latin "T"-s)
Т T, m (lowercase)
У y
Ф Ø, qp, @ ("at" sign), (|), Q, o|o, 0(zero), cp
Ц "U,", LL (two Latin "L"-s)
Ч 4
Щ "W," or "W_" or LLL
Ъ b or 'b
Ы bl
Ь b
Э ~), € (Euro sign)
Я R, 91, 9I, °/I


  • Советский Союз (Cyrillic) [Soviet Union]
  • CoBeTcKuu' CoIO3 ("volapuk")
  • Sovetskiy Soyuz (transliteration)

See also[edit]


  • Frolov, A.V. and Frolov, G.V. Electronic Mail. Your Internet Companion (А.В. Фролов, Г.В. Фролов, "Электронная почта. Ваш спутник в Интернете") Russkaya Redaktsiya Publishers (Русская Редакция) (2000) ISBN 5-7502-0156-2, Chapter 6 online (in Russian)

External links[edit]