Hello, my transliterating friend!
No doubt you’ve heard about rōmaji, and maybe even visited our Say no to romaji! minisite, but did you know that a similar Japanese transcription system also exists in Cyrillic?
One of the first cyrillization systems was conceived by Yevgeny Dmitrievich Polivanov, a Soviet linguist, orientalist and polyglot, who is also credited as the scholar who initiated the comparative study of Japanese pitch accent across dialects. The Polivanov system is in many ways similar to Hepburn romanization, but implements some additional features such transliteration of the syllabic ん as n’, n, or m (нъ, н, or м) depending on the following kana, similarly to the Railway Standard of romanization used by Japanese Railways.
“[In the 1930s, Polivanov] was essentially in exile in Central Asia, where he was able to accomplish fruitful work on the local languages.”
After his disagreement with the Marr’s Japhetic theory, Polivanov was exiled, and later charged with spying for Japan and executed, but his work remained used across the country. While there are several alternative cyrillization methods in existence, the Polivanov system is the de facto standard, and compared to rōmaji, there is less dissonance among users of the different systems. Nevertheless, additional misunderstandings often arise in texts translated from English, where Japanese words are transliterated from rōmaji instead of the Japanese original.