Cyrillic Saves

So here is a really interesting use of typographical resistance involving one of my favourite alphabets as laid out here by security superstar Bruce Schneier. Here’s another bit on the alphabet, not even language, hack to fight hackers.

I have a funny…wait, scratch that, slightly interesting story about the Cyrillic alphabet. It was Belgrade, Serbia, 2004 and it was our first day there, having drove the 10 hours or whatever it was down from Ljubljana, Slovenia for a friend’s wedding. We did the prerequisite visit to the eponymous fortress and just sort of wandered around. We went to go try and find something to eat. We all sat down after much reckoning, decided not a one of us could actually read the menu. We had no problem, collectively at any rate, understanding and talking to the waiter, but none of us could read his native alphabet. We asked for a latin alphabet menu and he gave us an Italian one.

It was an interesting trip because while my Serbo-Croatian at the time was actually fairly passable, it is now semi-useless outside of getting ice cream and beer while next to the sea, yet I could read nothing. It was the most foreign feeling place I’d ever been at that point outside of Egypt and Greece, purely because the visual culture was indecipherable to me. I looked at a sign and could sometimes guess that it was for a butcher or notary, but generally had no idea.

As a kid growing up in the US, the Cyrillic alphabet was the typographic terror which Arabic has now become. If you saw something in Cyrillic it surely meant Soviet warheads were on their way and the Midwest might, if it still mattered, be finally put out of its collective misery in one cruel, calculated flash. It was a typographic expression of threat. Thanks Rocky IV.

I’ve also randomly thought that Cyrillic might look more aggressive because it’s all caps. It looks like shouting, all important, no room for mercy, mistakes of nuance. All big. This visual transgressive is because it almost looks Latin, but not, so confusing and uncomfortable and therefore more threatening. This is one reason I have a typographic love of Cyrillic. I love the odd, non-Latin angles that go right where you think they won’t. It looks like you should know it but you soon realise you’re lying to yourself.