Russian Cursive: A Video Guide with Practice Sheets


I’m going to show you the strategy that will let you understand and write in Russian cursive. I made it brief, but very practical, so if you follow the instructions, by the end of this post you’ll be able to write a postcard to your friends in Saratov.

The strategy of mastering Russian cursive consists of two stages: preparation and practicing handwriting. The last one consists of five clear steps that you will go through with the worksheet, that I’ve worked out especially for you. With its help you will learn to write beautifully in cursive Russian as quickly as possible.  

Russian Cursive

This worksheet is invaluable, especially if you’ve never tried writing any cursive before. However, if printing it out is not an option, you can use any lined paper and use the worksheet as a visual reference. Now, follow the instructions below and you’ll soon surprise everyone with your newfangled skills.

Get Ready for Writing

Okay, so you might be thinking why do I need to prepare? Just show me the letters and that’s it! 

I totally understand your impatience. But hold on for a second! Have you ever seen a professional musician with a slump and limp hands? Or a horse rider who doesn’t know how to sit in his saddle? This is exactly the same! Believe me, it’s hard to learn proper writing feet up on a sofa. Every skill in the world works better when we prepare; whether that means stretching, jogging, doing writing exercises, or easy math problems to get your brain moving.  

So let’s take a moment and have a quick look at these three simple rules that will gradually improve your handwriting.

Body Position

We’ll start with the basics, namely with your body position. Sit straight at your desk, table, or whichever flat, hard surface you have available. Your right hand should lie entirely on the desk and your elbow should not dropdown. Put your left hand on the desk too, but you can move your left elbow around.

While practicing, don’t slouch and don’t rest your chin on your hand. Another important thing: don’t move your head too close to the paper: the minimal distance should be no less than 12 inches.

Notebook Position

Second is the position of your notebook. Turn it 30-45 degrees, so that the left side is closer to you, and the right side is further. Hold your notebook with your left hand. If you don’t do that, the notebook will twist around the desk and you’ll not get a nice slant to your letters, and your words will look messier.

A Pen in Your Hand

Next is the position of your wrist and fingers. A wrist and a pinkie should be in contact with the surface of the desk. Your pen or pencil should lie on your middle finger while a pointer and a thumb should press it from above. But don’t fasten it too much, otherwise, you’ll get tired quickly.

You can easily check your position: if the other side of the pen points towards your shoulder, then you’re doing everything right!

Handwriting

Handwriting in cursive consists of five steps. Once having reached the last one, you will be able to write whole sentences in cursive Russian.

Russian cursive

Read the explanation of each step below and do the practice tasks in the worksheet. Here, only practice makes perfect, so if you feel that you haven’t cut your teeth quite enough in handwriting, print out the part you need and try again. Your patience will soon be rewarded.

Part 1 – Practicing Key Elements

Now when the position of your body and pen is correct, you can move on to practicing key elements. Before mastering the actual letters, we need to let our body to get used to this new way of writing. 

To do that, open the first page of the worksheet and practice writing long and short slanted lines. Don’t rush, take your time. When you’re satisfied with how they look, move further and try writing some hooks and waves. Once these elements are not a problem for you, move to the next section. Again, don’t rush things. Keep trying until you are satisfied with the product final.

Part 2 – Writing Letters: Cursive Alphabet

Now you’re ready to cut straight to the letters. I’m putting them in their alphabetic order. Below you’ll see a brief description and a video that shows you how to write them. If you’ve printed the worksheet, you can just open it to the corresponding page. If not, take any lined paper and repeat the movements with a pen or pencil that you see in the following videos.

You might think I’m being a perfectionist when I get specific about things like posture and wrist position, but again, check how you’re sitting, how you’re holding your pen and how your paper is located at the table. All good? Ok, let’s go!

Russian Cursive Alphabet

А – uppercase а – lowercase
Б – uppercase б – lowercase
В – uppercase в – lowercase

Part 3 – Letters’ Connection

Russian cursive rules teach us to take a pen off the paper as rarely as possible. At the same time, letters connection with each other creates this mess when some words might seem like senseless repetition of alien symbols or an old fence at Grandpa’s farm. However, if you understand these simple strategies, you’ll be able to decode Russian handwriting and create your own “encryption”. 

Basically, there are two different situations that you will come across in writing: when you have when you have the possibility to “stretch” the last element of your letter until the beginning of the next one and when you don’t. Don’t worry if that sounds bizarre, keep reading.

Let’s explore the first situation in details. Have a look at the following examples: you naturally extend the last line of your letter until the next one. While doing this you don’t take your hand off the paper. With some letters like “o”, “в”, “ь”, “ъ” and “ю” you’ll need to circle the line twice to get access to the next letter.

Russian Cursive

The opposite situation requires you to take your hand off the paper and make an additional extension. It happens mostly with capital letters when they are turned to the left, or when we finish them at the very top of the line. Here is what I mean:

Russian Cursive

Let’s sum it up: if you can “extend” your letter until the next one, do that. If you can’t – add a “bridge” from beneath the letter to the next one. And remember that it’s fine if you’ll have to circle some elements twice: just continue writing without taking off your hand off the paper. 

Open the following page of the worksheet, and try to write down raws of letters connected to each other without taking your hand off the paper. Then move to the letters that require to make a full stop and to add additional extension on the right. After that, practice writing some simple words. The following videos and worksheet will help you to do that.

Part 5 – Writing Words and Sentences

Once you’ve learned how to write simple words, try to write down more difficult ones. When Russian learners see the following examples, they often wonder: “Is this a word at all?” Yes they are! And now I want to show you how to recognize letters in these absolutely identical lines and hooks. It’s not easy, but learning how to identify these tricky words will make you feel like a code-breaker!

Fir-Cones

This word means “fir-cones” in Russian. In the picture below I outlined the connections with red. Before scrolling down, try to identify what letters I wrote.

Russian Cursive

Russian Cursive

The correct answer is  “ш и ш к и”. What about writing this it down yourself? Open the following page of the worksheet and write it.

Lily

Now, let’s have a look at another “riddle” word, which means “lily”. At first sight, it also seems like a combination of similar elements, but if you look carefully, you’ll be able to find out what’s written.

Russian Cursive

Russian Cursive

Militia

Below, you’ll see the most bizarre word when it’s written in cursive. It means “militia” – this is what they called civilian forces who maintain public order in Russia before it started to be called the “police” in 2011. Do you recognize all of the letters?

Russian Cursive

Russian Cursive

In print letters it looks like this: “м и л и ц и я”. Try to write it yourself! Just think of the letters you’re writing and mark in your head the moment when you come from a letter to connection. 

In the worksheet I encourage you to try writing these words and the sentences that contain different types of letters’ connections.

Part 5 – Self-Practice

Now you know how to write Russian words in cursive; if you don’t, don’t be afraid to backtrack and practice some more. The last part of the worksheet includes some pages for your self-practice.

Let’s continue! Take any group of words, or a sentence in Russian and try to write it down yourself. The lines of the workbook will help you to keep a proper slant and size of letters. When you’re ready, take any lined notebook and practice on it. 

Understanding Russian cursive requires time and patience. Now, I’d like to give you a couple of ideas on how you could improve your handwriting skills.

How to Improve my Russian Cursive?

First of all, if you’re a beginner, take a pen and try to write a letter in the air (as if you were writing them on an invisible whiteboard), and only then put it on paper. This is a good trick that is used at schools. It will make your brain imagine and memorize how do the letters look like and how one follows another.

Another good practice is circling proper cursive texts. But where can a student outside Russia take them? Well, I found a site, designed for russian teachers. Open it, scroll down a bit and in the box just under “Напишите текст” type any text in Russian. Then click “Cгенерировать страницу” and get a .pdf page with your text written in perfect cursive at a specially-lined page. Print it out and circle letters or whole sentences.

You might think that it’s girly, but I still advise you to start a diary. I mean, do we have a lot of time to practice handwriting in our daily life? Start a notebook or an album, where you’ll write quotations, poems, interesting ideas in Russian cursive. Don’t hurry up, try to take your time and make everything beautifully written. This notebook will be a place where you can experiment with your handwriting and hone your cursive skills.

Other Things you Wanted to Know about Cursive

Well, I’ve shown you my detailed strategy of learning Russian and I hope you’ll find it useful. For those who doubt, I answered the most frequent questions about the Russian handwriting. 

Do I Need Russian Cursive?

I think, in modern Russian you can easily live without any handwriting. However, you should keep in mind some reasons why being able to write in cursive might be important.

Speed

Cursive gradually speeds up your writing because you don’t need to take your pen off the paper all the time. This might come in handy in many situations, but the thing you’ll never be able to do without that is getting an education in Russian.

Unfortunately, even these days Russian education is not very interactive and each time students should write after a lecturer. And of course, the last one is not going to wait until you finish a passage. As for me, I can’t imagine how would I survive at University if I didn’t know how to write fast. 

Recognition

Recognition of a Russian cursive a must-know in some areas too. Again, it will help you at University when you’ll need to borrow your groupmates’ conspects. But you want to know what are the professions that requires handwriting, the first one that springs to my mind (except for therapists) is a historian who works in archives. 

Once I had a chance to try this in practice. One day my friend from another city, who was exploring her family tree,  asked to find some information about her ancestors in the local archive. So I went there and this is what I found:

russian cursive

At first, I understood nothing. I continued staring at the book this way and that, and meanwhile I managed to decode separate letters and then the whole words. If I were not a cursive user, I would hardly be able to understand what do these books of the 18th century say.

So, take the time to learn Russian cursive if you’re going to work with historical documents.

Beauty

If you enjoy the aesthetics and beauty of hand-written text, mastering the calligraphy of Russian cursive will bring you a lot of pleasure. A bit earlier I’ve already mentioned writing  a diary, that may become a very nice hobby.

When do I Need to Begin Learning Russian Cursive?

All Russians are taught how to write in cursive during their first years of school together with the alphabet. I would advise the same strategy for new learners as well, because once you get used to a particular form of writing, it is a bit difficult to relearn. 

But as they say, it’s never too late! And if you want to change block letters into smooth cursive, you can certainly do that any time.

Is Russian Cursive Difficult?

Many Russian learners who watched all the memes and bad handwriting examples think that it would take years to stop writing with block letters. 

In fact, the difficulty of the Russian cursive is overestimated. 

From practice, all the letters and their connections may be learned within a day. Then the success will completely depend on the amount of text written in cursive.

Have Russians Always Used Cursive?

In the next couple of passages I’ll give you a super-brief outline of the history of Russian cursive. 

Russians began using cursive only in the 18th century. Before that, people used Church-Slavonic fonts, where all the letters are written separately.

Then in 1672 Czar Peter I came to the throne. He tried his best to Europeanize the Russian Empire. Along with dozens of other innovations, he ordered the creation of a new font that would look similar to fonts used in European nations.

So, in 1707 three specialists arrived in Moscow from Amsterdam with brand-new fonts, printing presses and other equipment. That year they edited the first book to feature these new Europeanized fonts: a geometry textbook.

This launched the development of the hand-written texts which led to the creation and use of modern Russian cursive.

Russian Cursive Memes

For the last thing, I saved a couple of memes that are popular in the runet, or Russian internet. They illustrate that the Russian cursive is sometimes a riddle even for locals.   

The largest source of handwriting jokes are medical records! Without any computer programs doctors had to write everything by hand with enormous speed and, of course, it’s reflected in the quality of their records.

russian cursive meme

But the most surprising thing is that different specialists at a hospital usually understand each other’s notes and prescriptions! I think it’s really a unique skill.

Conclusion

I hope that you find my guide to Russian cursive useful. As usual, I’m leaving links for those who want to dive more deeply into the topic. First of all, have a look at the article on Wikipedia. There you’ll find more historical facts and calligraphic cursive examples. In the article on FluentU you’ll find some other pieces of advice that might help your practice. And the last one that I would advise is a Pen4Pals blog post. It’s not very reader-friendly, but at the end there are some links on Russian cursive worksheets. 

And, of course, if you have any further questions, you are very welcome to ask them here in the comments below.

Anastasia Korol

Anastasia Korol is an enthusiastic Russian language tutor. She gives effective, goal-oriented lessons to students all over the world. Thousands of people have already followed her Instagram.

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