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Belarusian alphabet

Belarusian alphabet
Languages Belarusian
Time period
1918 to the present
Parent systems
Cyrillic script
  • Belarusian alphabet
Sister systems
Belarusian Latin
Belarusian Arabic
ISO 15924 Cyrl, 220
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias
subset of Cyrillic (U+0400...U+04FF)

The Belarusian alphabet is based on the Cyrillic script and is derived from the alphabet of the Old Church Slavonic language. The alphabet has existed in its modern form since 1918 and consists of thirty-two letters. See also Belarusian Latin alphabet and Belarusian Arabic alphabet.


Belarusian Alphabet
Capital Name IPA Unicode
А   а а /a/ /a/ U+0410 / U+0430
Б   б бэ /bɛ/ /b/ U+0411 / U+0431
В   в вэ /vɛ/ /v/ U+0412 / U+0432
Г   г гэ /ɣɛ/ /ɣ/ U+0413 / U+0433
Д   д дэ /dɛ/ /d/ U+0414 / U+0434
Е   е е /je/ /je, /ʲe/ U+0415 / U+0435
Ё   ё ё /jo/ /jo/, /ʲo/ U+0401 / U+0451
Ж   ж жэ /ʐɛ/ /ʐ/ U+0416 / U+0436
З   з зэ /zɛ/ /z/ U+0417 / U+0437
І   і і /i/ /i/, /ʲi/, /ji/ U+0406 / U+0456
Й   й і нескладовае /i nʲesklaˈdovaje/ /j/ U+0419 / U+0439
К   к ка /ka/ /k/ U+041A / U+043A
Л   л эл /ɛl/ /l/ U+041B / U+043B
М   м эм /ɛm/ /m/ U+041C / U+043C
Н   н эн /ɛn/ /n/ U+041D / U+043D
О   о о /o/ /o/ U+041E / U+043E
П   п пэ /pɛ/ /p/ U+041F / U+043F
Р   р эр /ɛr/ /r/ U+0420 / U+0440
С   с эс /ɛs/ /s/ U+0421 / U+0441
Т   т тэ /tɛ/ /t/ U+0422 / U+0442
У   у у /u/ /u/ U+0423 / U+0443
Ў   ў у нескладовае /
у кароткае
/u nʲesklaˈdovaje/
/u kaˈrotkaje/
/w/ U+040E / U+045E
Ф   ф эф /ɛf/ /f/ U+0424 / U+0444
Х   х ха /xa/ /x/ U+0425 / U+0445
Ц   ц цэ /tsɛ/ /ts/ U+0426 / U+0446
Ч   ч чэ /tʂɛ/ /tʂ/ U+0427 / U+0447
Ш   ш ша /ʂa/ /ʂ/ U+0428 / U+0448
Ы   ы ы /ɨ/ /ɨ/ U+042B / U+044B
Ь   ь мяккі знак
/ˈmʲakkʲi znak/
/ʲ/ U+042C / U+044C
Э   э э /ɛ/ /ɛ/ U+042D / U+044D
Ю   ю ю /ju/ /ju/, /ʲu/ U+042E / U+044E
Я   я я /ja/ /ja/, /ʲa/ U+042F / U+044F
 – U+2019


Officially, the letter <г> represents both /ɣ/ and /ɡ/, though the latter is only found in borrowings and mimesis. The letter <ґ> is used by some for the latter sound, but it has never belonged to a standard codification of the Belarusian alphabet.

The combination <д> with letters <ж> or <з> may denote either two distinct respective sounds (e.g., in some prefix-root combinations: <пад-земны>, <ад-жыць>), or the Belarusian affricates <дж> and <дз> (e.g., <падзея>, <джала>). In some representations of the alphabet, the affricates are included in parentheses after the letter <д>, to emphasis their special status, as: <… Дд (ДЖдж ДЗдз) Ее …>.

<Ў> is not a distinct phoneme, but the neutralization of /v/ and /l/ when there is no following vowel, such as before a consonant or at the end of a word.

Palatalization of consonants is mostly indicated through choice of vowel letter, as illustrated here with /p/ and /pʲ/, both written with the letter <п>:

palatalization /p/ /pʲ/
final п пь
before /a/ па пя
before /e/ пэ пе
before /i/ пы пі
before /o/ по пё
before /u/ пу пю

When a consonant is not palatalized, precedes /j/, the apostrophe <’> is used to separate the iotated vowel: <п’я п’е п’і п’ё п’ю> /pja pje pi pjo pju/. (<І> is the palatalizing version of <ы>, and arguably they represent a single phoneme.) The apostrophe is not considered a letter and therefore is not taken into account when alphabetizing. (In pre-Second World War printing, the form <‘> was used. In practical computer use, it is frequently substituted with <'>.)


The alphabet of the Medieval Cyrillics (11th century) included forty-three letters. During the evolution of the Belarusian Alphabet, fifteen letters were dropped, the last four of them going after the introduction of the first official Belarusian grammar in 1918, and four new letters were added, thus producing the modern layout of thirty-two letters.

The new letters were:

  • Letter <э> ((CYRILLIC) EH) appeared in the Belarusian texts about the end of the 15th century.
  • Letter <й> ((CYRILLIC) SHORT I) evolved from <и> ((CYRILLIC) I) combined with diacritical sign by the end of the 16th century (compare: in Russian alphabet since 1735).
  • Letter <ё> ((CYRILLIC) IO) was adopted from Russian alphabet by the half of the 19th century (compare: in Russian alphabet since 1797).
  • Letter <ў> ((CYRILLIC) SHORT U) was proposed by Russian linguist Pyotr Bezsonov in 1870.

The Belarusian alphabet, in its modern form has formally existed since the adoption of the Branislaw Tarashkyevich's Belarusian grammar for the use in the Soviet state school system in 1918[citation needed] Before that, several slightly different versions of the alphabet were used informally.[citation needed]

In the 1920s and, notably, at the Belarusian Academical Conference (1926), miscellaneous changes of the Belarusian alphabet were being proposed. Notably, replacing <й> with <ј> ((CYRILLIC) JE), and/or replacing <е>, <ё>, <ю>, <я> with <је> (or else with <јє>), <јо>, <ју>, <ја>, respectively (as in the Serbian alphabet), and/or replacing <ы> with <и>, and/or introducing <ґ> (see also Ge with upturn; both of these proposed changes are as in the Ukrainian alphabet), and/or introducing special graphemes/ligatures for affricates <дж>, <дз> etc. etc. Even the introducing of the Latin script was contemplated at one moment (e.g., proposal of Zhylunovich at the Belarusian Academical Conference (1926)). None of this was implemented, though.

Notable Belarusian linguist Yan Stankyevich in his later works suggested a completely different layout of the alphabet. (see also Belarusian Latin alphabet, Ge with upturn):

Layout of the Belarusian alphabet
(Stankyevich, 1962)
Оо Аа Ээ Бб Ґґ Гг Хх Дд Ее Ёё
Яя ДЗдз ДЖдж Зз Жж Іі Йй Кк Лл Мм
Нн Пп Рр Сс Шш Тт Вв Уу Ўў Фф
Ьь Цц Чч Ыы Юю

Note: proper names and places' names are rendered in BGN/PCGN romanization of Belarusian.

See also


  • Да рэформы беларускай азбукі. // Працы акадэмічнае канферэнцыі па рэформе беларускага правапісу і азбукі. – Мн. : [б. м.], 1927.
  • Ян Станкевіч. Які мае быць парадак літараў беларускае абэцады [1962] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 2. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Б. Тарашкевіч. Беларуская граматыка для школ. – Вільня : Беларуская друкарня ім. Фр. Скарыны, 1929 ; Мн. : <Народная асвета>, 1991 [факсімільн.]. – Выданьне пятае пераробленае і пашыранае.
  • Што трэба ведаць кожнаму беларусу. Выданне „Вольнае Беларусі“. – Менск : друк-ня А. Я. Грынблята, 1918 ; Менск : Беларускае коопэрацыйна-выдавецкае таварыства ″Адраджэньне″, 1991 [факсімільн.]. – Зборнік артыкулау розных аутарау: М. Міцкевіча, Я. Лёсіка, В. Ластоўскаго, М. Багдановіча, Пётр[?] з Арленят і інш.


External links