Can't make sense of a Russian site
February 14, 2006 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Is this website really Russian?

Every once in awhile I run across a site like this that looks Russian but fails to use Cyrillic characters. All I see in my browser on such pages are phonetic Romanized spellings of what looks like Russian (i.e. "bjlo povjsit' vjsotnje i skorostnje" using regular Roman characters). I tried changing View > Character Encoding in Firefox (Win2K) but that doesn't make it Cyrillic. Also the Russian-English translator sites choke on the page.

I did put Cyrillic in my Regional Options, and can view "normal" Russian sites like this one in Cyrillic just fine.

My ultimate goal is to feed such pages into an autotranslator so I can read them in English. And yes, I know the site has an English version, but it lacks a lot of content I want to see.
posted by shannymara to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
Response by poster: Update: Google's cache of it is all Cyrillic. So I have that to work with, but that doesn't answer why it won't display in Cyrillic on my computer.
posted by shannymara at 3:42 PM on February 14, 2006

Yup, it's Russian. The title is "A corner of the sky." It's showing up just fine in Russian in my IE6 and Firefox with default settings.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 3:42 PM on February 14, 2006

Mod note: fixed url
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:45 PM on February 14, 2006

FWIW, I see the non-cyrillic version as well (Opera on XP).
posted by nixxon at 4:18 PM on February 14, 2006

Hmm. Works in IE for me, doesn't work in Firefox.

Here are the HTTP headers:

posted by gimonca at 4:49 PM on February 14, 2006

Best answer: Yes. The difference is probably what charsets your browser says it can accept. For example, here is a default packet capture with Camino:

GET / HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X Mach-O; en-US; rv: Gecko/20060214 Camino/1.0 (MultiLang)
Accept: text/xml,application/xml,application/xhtml+xml,text/html;q=0.9,text/plain;q=0.8,image/png,*/*;q=0.5
Accept-Language: fr,en;q=0.9,ja;q=0.9,de;q=0.8,es;q=0.7,it;q=0.7,nl;q=0.6,sv;q=0.5,nb;q=0.5,da;q=0.4,fi;q=0.3,pt;q=0.3,zh-Hans;q=0.2,zh-Hant;q=0.1,ko;q=0.1
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 300
Connection: keep-alive
Cookie: b=b

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2006 01:50:51 GMT
Server: Apache
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Language: ru
Connection: close
Transfer-Encoding: chunked

Notice how my browser says it accepts ISO-8859-1, so the site sends content in ISO-8859-1 (the non-cyrillic version). Now, here is the same site, this time with Safari:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Accept: */*
Accept-Language: fr
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
Cookie: b=b
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; fr) AppleWebKit/417.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/417.8
Connection: keep-alive

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2006 01:58:33 GMT
Server: Apache
Content-Type: text/html; charset=koi8-r
Content-Language: ru
Connection: close
Transfer-Encoding: chunked

As you can see, Safari did not add an Accept-Charset header! So the site sent the content in it's prefered charset (koi8-r) which uses a cyrillic alphabet.

I don't know how you'd get Mozilla based products to ask for a different charset. It appears that changing it in the menu only affects how an already downloaded page is interpreted (that is, it doesn't change what Accept-Charset header Mozilla sends to the server).
posted by sbutler at 6:09 PM on February 14, 2006

Best answer: Ahh ha! Figured out how to make Mozilla products "work".

1. Type "about:config" and filter for "charset".
2. Add to the setting "intl.accept_charsets" the value "koi8-r".
3. Change "intl.charset.default" to "koi8-r".

If you reload the page then it should appear cyrillic.
posted by sbutler at 6:24 PM on February 14, 2006

Odd that Firefox wouldn't put that under View > Character Encoding. None of the various settings there would work for me.
posted by gimonca at 7:53 PM on February 14, 2006

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