Extended Cyrillic: Bulgarian

Irregular Cyrillic with its own history

July 27, 2023

This piece is a part of our large series focusing on the languages that are not discussed nearly as much as they should be. This list includes languages with their own unique scripts, such as Georgian or Armenian, as well as languages using extended Cyrillic and Latin. We’re preparing this series using research on extended Cyrillic which we conducted in partnership with Type Journal.

You can find more content on the subject on our Instagram As some members of our team are living in Russia we have to follow the Russian law. According to the law, every time we post links to Instagram or Facebook we have to mention the fact that these socials belong to Meta, which was recognized as extremist by the Ministry of Justice if the Russian Federation under the hashtag #tt_extended.

Original Cyrillic

Cyrillic script, which was created in the 9th century in the First Bulgarian Empire, was an interpretation of the Greek Uncial. Through the efforts of Byzantine scholars and missionaries, it spread to the Russian lands where it became known as Ustav.

In 1396, Bulgaria was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, which, of course, had an impact on the language. Bulgarian entered the 19th century without any unified grammar, orthography, or even alphabet. In the early 1800s, the number of its letters varied from 28 to 44, and the 32-letter alphabet was not introduced until 1879.

Since many Bulgarian intellectuals of the 19th century studied in Russia, Russian was a huge influence on the culture of new Bulgaria, and local typographers perceived Russian typefaces as the most relevant example of modern Cyrillic.

Modern Bulgarian Cyrillic (theory)

The communists, who took power in Bulgaria after World War II, started pursuing Russification. However, it was at this time that local type designers came up with the letterforms that we now call Bulgarian Cyrillic.

3 Renaissance Serif by Kiril Gogov (from the “Type through Ages“ book by Vasil Ĭonchev)

Vasil Ĭonchev, typographer and professor at the National Academy of Arts, is one of the most prominent authors of Bulgarian Cyrillic (1916-1985). Ĭonchev was not only a designer, but also a theoretician of type. He did not just invent new letter shapes, but suggested reconsidering the history of Cyrillic development.

Essentially, Modern Cyrillic was figured out by Peter the Great. In 1708, he issued a decree ordering to print all publications using the so-called Civil Type — a certain adaptation of contemporary European serif typefaces. The lowercase letters in Civil Type were not nib-based, but rather looked (that’s how Peter the Great wanted them) as simplified uppercase letters — whereas Bulgarian Cyrillic suggests revisiting the Tsar’s reform and finding a more rational approach to the lowercase.

2 Civil type, 1707 and 1710

Modern Bulgarian Cyrillic (practice)

Bulgarian Cyrillic has three times as many characters with descending and ascending elements than basic Cyrillic does, and this affects the text texture.

42 “Deep daydream-reality: the opening scene“ exhibition booklet, Yana Abrasheva, 2023

43 Cyrillicsly workshop announcement, Krista Radoeva, 2022

The letters п and и reproduce the shapes of Latin n and u. The ц, ш and щ are rounded. ​ The lowercase к copies its Latin counterpart, while the ascender is also present in both ю and ж. The lowercase т shows similarity to Latin, too: its shape has nothing to do with the uppercase Т, imitating the Latin m. The lowercase д echoes one of the variations of the Latin g.

4 5

в, г, з, ь, ъ look a bit hand-written, which is why Bulgarian Cyrillic often gets compared with upright cursive.

6 7

A mirrored Latin s usually serves as a base for the Bulgarian г. However, it requires correction when it comes to the shape and diagonal width as well relative position of its upper and lower parts. If one does not give due consideration to these parameters, it’ll look like the letter slants to the right.

Having the same proportion as traditional Cyrillic letters, the ъ и ь have smaller counters (because of their shape) — this also requires some correction, which is increasing the height and width of these bowls.


The lowercase л is triangular, and so are the uppercase Л and Д. Such forms generate a light stain in the text and require paying extra attention to kerning.

Although the uppercase Bulgarian Ф matches the shape of the classical Ф, it has different proportions.

Even when the structure of a Bulgarian letter corresponds to that of the same letter in other Cyrillic-based languages, their serifs might be different. For instance, the lowercase н and ч are equipped with the upper serifs only on the left side of a stroke.


The peculiarities of its graphics make Bulgarian text take up significantly more space than a text in English or Russian, for example.



Bulgarian Cyrillic is an OpenType feature which means it can be enabled through the Glyphs panel in Adobe or through Type Settings in Figma. Unfortunately, OpenType features are still unstable. They cause hardly any trouble in Illustrator and Indesign, but when it comes to Photoshop and Figma their behaviour is far less predictable.

1245 As some members of our team are living in Russia we have to follow the Russian law for their safety. According to the law, every time we post links to Instagram or Facebook we have to mention the fact that these socials belong to Meta, which was recognized as extremist by the Ministry of Justice if the Russian Federation.

Mentioned fonts