Variation in Russian orthography or common mistakes?

2021. № 1 (41), 9-30

Alexei D. Shmelev
Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
(Moscow, Russia)


This paper deals with the variation in spelling of some Russian words as well as in capitalization,
hyphenation, and spelling with or without a space, as well as with some other issues
of Russian orthography. It draws attention to the asymmetry in orthographic and orthoepic
variation. The analysis makes use of the distinction between usage and norm as well
as the distinction between orthographic norms and orthographic rules, and the paper recognizes
two types of orthographic lacunae associated with this distinction: unspecified norms
(including variation of norms) and the lack of relevant rules. The analysis substantiates the
claim that orthographic variation may be justified. However, one should distinguish between
acceptable orthographic variation and orthographic mistakes even though those mistakes may
occur in usage quite frequently.