This is a screen shot from Tchaikovsky's Harmony textbook:

enter image description here

Is this the pre-reform orthography? If someone learns modern Russian, how difficult will it be to understand such paragraphs?

1 Answer 1


Yes, it's Russian in the pre-reform orthography. The reform was in 1918, so this is just a hundred years old Russian. It's easy to understand, just as it's easy to understand a hundred years old English. The main difference from the Modern Russian is the use of some letters, which were removed from the alphabet in 1918. They were substituted with other letters. In order to convert such a text into the modern Russian orthography, you have to follow 3 steps:

  1. remove every ъ, "hard sign", at the end of the words, e.g. объоб;
  2. substitute the obsolete letters with modern ones:

    ѣе, e.g. разумѣетсяразумеется

    i and ѵи, e.g. ученіеучение

    ѳф, e.g. ѲедорФедор

    Note, your sample passage has no ѵ or ѳ, but still they were used, although rarely.

  3. substitute the adjective endings:

    -аго-ого, e.g. образуемагообразуемого

    -яго-его, e.g. синягосинего

Also, endings -ыя, -ія-ые, -ие, and the pronoun еяеё, these are also not found in you sample.

That's all. You get a text in the Modern Russian orthography. To make it still more simple, there is an online converter, which can convert whole texts between the two orthographies, to and from.

UPD. I've just noticed that the text does have an adjective with the ending -ія, that is why шаткія → шаткие.

  • 7
    It should be noted that spelling of many individual words was also changed. For example, here we have "interval" with double 'l'.
    – Matt
    May 12, 2017 at 6:21
  • 8
    Very occasionally (even for a beginner like me) the old orthography helps: for example the very last movement of Tschaikowky's Nutcracker is called Апофеоз, but in old orthography it has a "theta" - Апоѳеоз - just like Greek and English, telling us speakers of languages with "th" that it's Apotheosis. May 12, 2017 at 9:33
  • 3
    @Brian Chandler if you go further in past, there would be interesting things like many homonyms actually had different spelling, means they were separate words obviously. E.g. words for peace and world, that nowadays are both "мир", had different letters in middle.
    – Swift
    May 12, 2017 at 13:08
  • 2
    @Swift my guess would be it's actually derived from German Intervall which, in turn, derived from Latin.
    – shabunc
    May 12, 2017 at 13:30
  • 3
    @Swift: unlike апофеоз, the миръ / мiръ distinction was not etymological, i. e. both these words have derived from a single source and one of them had been assigned a different spelling for the sole reason of distinguishing them easier.
    – Quassnoi
    May 12, 2017 at 15:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.