The present paper considers, within the Russian context, the legitimacy of orthographic
variation in view of the widely held belief that differences in spelling are impermissible in
written language. We examine several instances in which actual usage contradicts codified
norms as a result of both the absence of rules (in the case of lexical borrowings) and the
weakness of such rules (as in the case of compound adjectives, the use of i or y in words with
foreign roots in post-prefixal position, words with alternating roots like ravn-/rovn-, etc.).
Certain linguistic facts (razysknoj/rozysknoj, vglub’/v glub’, and others) may also objectively
be interpreted in more than one way. We cite cases of norms codified without sufficient justification
that, in fact, are violated in real written practice. We conclude by making a case for
permissible orthographic variability within linguistically justified boundaries.