Belarusian alphabet

The Belarusian alphabet is based on the Cyrillic script and is derived from the alphabet of Old Church Slavonic. It has existed in its modern form since 1918 and has 32 letters. See also Belarusian Latin alphabet and Belarusian Arabic alphabet.



Officially, the represents both and , but the latter occurs only in borrowings and mimesis. The is used by some for the latter sound but, with the exception of Taraškievica, has not been standard.

A followed by or may denote either two distinct respective sounds (in some prefix-root combinations: пад-земны, ад-жыць) or the Belarusian affricates and (for example, падзея, джала). In some representations of the alphabet, the affricates are included in parentheses after the letter to emphasis their special status: .

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

Palatalization of consonants is usually indicated through choice of vowel letter, as illustrated here with and , both written with the letter :


When a consonant is not palatalized and precedes , the apostrophe is used to separate the iotated vowel: . ( is the palatalizing version of , and arguably, they represent a single phoneme.) The apostrophe is not considered a letter and so is not taken into account for alphabetical order. In pre-Second World War printing, the form was used. When computers are used, the form is frequently substituted by .


The medieval Cyrillic alphabet had 43 letters. Later, 15 letters were dropped, the last 4 after the introduction of the first official Belarusian grammar in 1918. Since four new letters were added, there are now 32 letters.

The new letters were:
  • The ((CYRILLIC) EH) appeared in Belarusian texts in about the late-15th century.
  • The ((CYRILLIC) SHORT I) evolved from ((CYRILLIC) I), combined with a diacritical sign by the end of the 16th century (it would be part of the Russian alphabet in 1735).
  • The ((CYRILLIC) IO) came from the Russian alphabet in the 19th century (it had been part of the Russian alphabet since 1797).
  • The ((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 use in Soviet schools, in 1918 Several slightly different versions had been used informally.

    In the 1920s and notably at the Belarusian Academical Conference (1926), miscellaneous changes of the Belarusian alphabet were being proposed. Notable were replacing with ((CYRILLIC) JE), and/or replacing , , , with (or else with ), , , , respectively (as in the Serbian alphabet), replacing with , introducing (see also Ge with upturn; both proposed changes would match the Ukrainian alphabet) and/or introducing special graphemes/ligatures for affricates: , etc. Even the introduction of the Latin script was contemplated at one moment (as proposed by Zhylunovich at the Belarusian Academical Conference (1926)). Nothing came of it.

    Noted Belarusian linguist Yan Stankyevich in his later works suggested a completely different form of the alphabet:Note that proper names and place names are rendered in BGN/PCGN romanization of Belarusian.