One of the biggest challenges of traveling through the former Soviet Union is tying to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet. The unnerving thing is that it shares many letters with the Latin alphabet, yet they are pronounced very differently. Like a “B” having a “V” sound, for example. This makes it very challenging to find Lvov on a map when it is actually spelled “????.”
Surprisingly, the Cyrillic alphabet is actually quite easy to learn and can be done so on your plane ride over.
But don’t spend too much time on it. Since the fall of communism, a number of countries have transitioned away from the Cyrillic alphabet and have replaced it with the Latin one, including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Most recently, Kazakhstan has announced their intention to do so as well. The government anticipates it will take 12-15 years to reeducate the public and basically replace every sign and official document in existence. Man! Imagine growing up with one alphabet and suddenly having to change it mid-life. That must be tough. But than again, Kazakhs have already suffered through this in 1940 when the Soviets forced Cyrillic upon them.
As for us foreigners visiting the country, travel will be just a little bit easier with a more familiar alphabet at our service.