Anglicized Russian spellings
August 8, 2005 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Russian. I'm trying to find the correct way to spell Russian cities in English. For example -- Google Earth and a slew of sites spell it "Salehard", while Wikipedia and an almost equal number of web sites use sites use Salekhard.

I've noticed a lot of other similar discrepancies (Parnu/Piarnu/Pyarnu in Estonia, Rzev/Ryev/Rjzev/Rzev, Stryy/Stryj, etc). I realize Cyrillic doesn't transform perfectly, but is there a convention I should stick to? This does remind me of the Chinese Wade vs. Pinyin problem.
posted by rolypolyman to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
Response by poster: Sorry, I messed up that last FPP sentence and its link. It should read ...while Wikipedia and an almost equal number of web sites use "Salekhard".
posted by rolypolyman at 5:34 PM on August 8, 2005

Transliteration of Russian into English

Under their system, Salekhard would almost certainly be correct.
posted by grouse at 5:39 PM on August 8, 2005

Yeah, that Wikipedia page gives a good standard system. Russians tend to prefer letter-for-letter transliterations, using h for kh and c for ts (and often simplifying shch to sh), but that's not very useful for most non-Russians.

The Estonian thing is because the Estonian name is Pärnu, and Russians transliterate ä into я, which can be transliterated into English as either ya (usual) or ia (Library of Congress, I think). But it doesn't really make any sense at all to use a transliteration from Russian now that Estonia is an independent country, so stick with Pärnu or Parnu.
posted by languagehat at 5:52 PM on August 8, 2005

I have successfully used BGN/PCGN transcriptions of Russian place names a number of times in Google Earth. Here's a pdf showing BGN/PCGN and some other systems (it doesn't seem to have a Wikipedia page).

Note that a strict BGN/PCGN transcription can work in Google Earth when a "looser" one fails, e.g. "Naberezhnyye Chelny, Russia" will take you there, but "Naberezhnye Chelny, Russia", with one of the y's left out, returns no results (the latter is the spelling used in Wikipedia).
posted by gubo at 9:19 PM on August 8, 2005

Many copy editors use Webster's Geographical Dictionary as a first reference.
posted by scratch at 6:19 AM on August 9, 2005

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