An abridged dictionary consisting of Russian-to-English and English-to-Russian sections.

Editor, ISI Press
Philadelphia, 1979

Introduction and Acknowledgments

This unconventional dictionary is designed to help scholars and educated lay persons of all types to deal with a variety of Cyrillic texts. For the librarian, this may mean bibliographic citations. For the scientist it may be a journal article. For the tourist it may be a poster, a sign, or a spoken word.

Whatever its application, the dictionary results from my long-term interest in the transliteration of non-Roman alphabets.' 1,2 Transliteration is the spelling of words from one language with characters from the alphabet of another. Ideally, it is a one-for-one character-by-character replacement. For example, LONDON is the Roman transliteration of the Russian word JIOHIIOH   Publication of this dictionary reflects my conviction that transliteration can help improve communications between countries that use non-Roman alphabets and those that do not.

This conviction stems from first-hand knowledge that the Cyrillic alphabet (introduced in the ninth century by St. Cyril, who combined letters from the Greek and Roman alphabets) presents an obstacle in using the Russian language that is vastly underestimated. I can well remember the difficulty of using standard Russian-English dictionaries in my recent travels in the Soviet Union. However, the original inspiration for this dictionary was my frustration in examining Russian scientific texts printed in Cyrillic. Since I was never able to "keep up" with my Russian, the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet were not indelibly fixed in my mind. But even when I recognized the letters, I faced the frustrating task of dealing with an entirely foreign alphabetic ordering scheme. We learn the order of our alphabet as children through endless repetitions until we know it by rote. As adults, everyday use of alphabetically arranged material reinforces our skill. But this learning approach is not feasible for most people who must deal with Russian. As a result, I know people who can converse in Russian but still stumble over the order of the letters in the Cyrillic alphabet.

This dictionary presents solutions to both the problems of letter recognition and letter order. It contains a dual conversion table that makes it possible to quickly determine the Roman equivalent for any cyrillic letter. In this way, Russian text can be transliterated with minimum effort. In fact, this purely mechanical procedure can even be performed by a machine. The transliterated word may then be found in the Russian-English section of the dictionary, where the Russian words are organized in Roman alphabetical order.

While this dictionary is designed primarily for reading Russian texts, there is also an English-to-Russian section. When you need the Russian equivalent of an English word, just look up the word in the English-to-Russian section. This provides the Russian word in transliterated form. you can then use the dual conversion table to reconstruct the transliterated word into its Cyrillic form.

The 27th edition of the Akhmanova-Wilson Russian English Dictionary, published by the Russian Language Press, Moscow, 1975 is the main source for the terms included in this first edition. This approach to word selection is significant because the Akhmanova-Wilson dictionary covers the words most frequently encountered in Russian texts. Nearly one thousand words of a more technical nature were selected by the ISI staff to supplement the basic Akhmanova-Wilson list. I also considered the inclusion of other sources of technical terms such as glossaries and thesauri. However, to serve the widest possible audience, I decided to reduce the dictionary's size and publish it at a lower cost.

If this dictionary is successful, I hope to supplement this first edition with a volume including additional technical terms, especially those whose meanings are not obvious in transliteration. The remarkable fact is that the number of such words is relatively small. That is why transliteration "works." Once you have transliterated the truly Slavic terms in a text, you have little or no difficulty comprehending the rest. A large percentage of Russian technical words are cognate terms used in English, French, or German.

I believe this transliterated Russian-English dictionary will be of use to a variety of people who wish to read or translate Russian. Librarians involved in cataloging Russian materials will find it a great time saver as should anyone who must index or abstract Russian material. Instructors teaching introductory courses in Russian should find this dictionary a handy study aid for their students. It will help overcome an initial resistance for the reasons cited before.  Finally, the traveler to the Soviet Union will find this dictionary a welcome companion.

Serious scholars who make continuous use of Russian may regard this dictionary as an unnecessary crutch. If such people can recite the Russian alphabet as rapidly as their own, then I would have to agree. But most scientists and scholars cannot; nor can they afford the luxury of keeping up with their Russian. This dictionary is designed to save them a lot of time and energy.

As much as I have been personally involved with the conception and creation of this dictionary, it simply would not have been possible to complete it without the assistance of my close colleague and friend, the late Robert Hayne.3 As the Chief Editor of the Institute for Scientific Information, he assisted me in clarifying the objectives and design of the dictionary. He also launched the data gathering effort and worked out the details of the composition system. After his death the project waned but was given new life with the establishment of ISI Press.

I also wish to recognize the technical assistance of Yuri Meerovich in the transliteration work itself. Mr. Meerovich is currently teaching in the "English for Speakers of Other Languages" program of the Philadelphia Board of Education. Until 1974 he was an instructor at the Institute of Foreign Languages and a teacher in the Moscow public schools. Excellent advice was also received from Dr. Michael Zarechnak, of the Department of Languages and Linguistics at Georgetown University.

Eugene Garfield, Ph.D.
President, Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Philadelphia, PA, USA (1979)

1. Garfield E. Transliteration # Transcription # & Translation. Current Contents (16):5-7, 21 April 1975.*

2. ___________, Why not stop worrying about Cyrillic and read Russian! Current Contents (21):5-10, 26 May 1975.*

3. ___________, To remember my brother, Robert L. Hayne. Current Contents (34):5-6, 22 August 1977.

* Reprinted in: Garfield E., Essays of an information Scientist. Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1977. 

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