Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha #3: Cyrillic Transliteration

Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha #2:Campaign Series East Front III | Marshall Budyonny's Dacha

My fellow Vsadniks,

Do some of our western comrades panic when they encounter text like Смоленск? Well, there is no need to, Смоленск  = Smolensk. Cyrillic is an alphabet used by millions of people in Russia and Eastern Europe. This article provides historical background, and some easy ways to transliterate into Latin letters.

Saint Cyril

For their work evangelizing the Slavs, the brothers Cyril and Methodius are known as the “Apostles to the Slavs.” To help spread the gospel, they translated the Bible into a 9th century language, “Old Church Slavonic,” developing the Glagolitic alphabet for this purpose.

The Glagolitic alphabet was the first to be used for Slavonic manuscripts. But, a simpler alphabet evolved, and early Cyrillic emerged in the First Bulgarian Empire. Later, disciples Kliment and Naum finalized it under a commission of Tsar Boris I of Bulgaria. Cyrillic supplanted the Glagolitic alphabet, and more closely resembles Greek.

Manual Transliteration

Systems exist to covert Cyrillic in to Latin-style letters. The the International Scholarly System was the first, and developed in the 19th Century. The Soviets developed a system in 1935, and later GOST 16876-71 was developed by the National Administration for Geodesy and Cartography at the USSR Council of Ministers.

Using a manual table is a useful way to become familiar with Cyrillic, making sight recognition easier. This is especially useful when working with Russian maps. In the Campaign Series map editor, Cyrillic symbols do not work. If you try to use them for map labels, they will show up as question marks, like “?????”. To represent Russian place names, Cyrillic letters must be transliterated.

The following table is useful for transliteration for Russian maps made in the pre-WWII era and a few decades after. Simply find the Cyrillic symbol in the table, and get the corresponding English letter on the right hand side.

Notice that certain symbols act functionally like accent marks or apostrophes, and indicate proper usage or pronunciation of a preceding letter. For example Ь is transliterated as ‘, and Ъ as “. The letter Ь indicates that the preceding consonant is pronounced in “soft” manner, and Ъ as hard. It is important to include these ‘ and ” symbols in the transliterated word.

Cyrillic Transliteration Table

Cyrillic Transliteration Table

Online Cyrillic Transliteration

Don’t worry my dear Vsadniks, I know you are “chomping-at-the-bits” to find an easier way to handle Cyrillic. The Google translation program automatically shows the Latin transliteration along with the Cyrillic Russian text.

Google Translate Example

The text circled in blue is the transliteration of the Cyrillic Russian text above. And, you can highlight this text and copy for pasting into a document, or perhaps a map label.

Google translate can be accessed via the Google search engine, by clicking the little Google Apps icon in the upper right of the screen. It looks like:

Google Button

Click on this and a selection of Apps appear. The translate option is at the bottom.

In the case of graphic file map symbols that aren’t easily highlighted and copied, there is an online webpage for transliteration. It allows one to type in the Cyrillic characters using a special keyboard, and then these can be transliterated. The website link is:

Here is a screenshot of what this looks like:

Translit Website

The Cyrillic letters are typed by clicking the dark highlighted symbols in the “Russian Virtual Keyboard.” Once finished, click on the “Latin” button and the transliterated text appears. For example, if you click on Latin, then the word “Smolensk” appears.

And as an added feature, the “Do more” pulldown menu allows options for spell check, searching, and translating into English, German, French or Spanish.

A few Wargaming Translations

Some common Russian words and their translations follow:

РККА  =  RKKA for  Raboche Kriestianskaya Krasnaya Armiya or Workers and Peasants Red Army

CCCP = SSSR for Sojuz Sovetskih Socialisticheskih Respublik  or USSR

армия  = armiya = army

корпус = korpus = corps

дивизия = diviziya = division

полк = polk = regiment

батальон = batal’on = battalion

Генеральная = General’naya = general

полковник = polkovnik = colonel


“Saints Cyril and Methodius”, Wikipedia

” Romanization of Russian”, Wikipedia

“Romanization Systems and Roman Script Spelling Conventions”, US Board Geographic Names

Campaign Series East Front III | Marshall Budyonny's Dacha

Marshall Semyon M. Budyonny

Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha is the latest series of articles by David Galster that will cover various aspects of scenario design, and some key historical points for Campaign Series: East Front III.


Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha #2: Russian Military Maps

Campaign Series East Front III | Marshall Budyonny's Dacha

My fellow Vsadniks,

Finding suitable maps to make EFIII battle maps is quite tricky, but this article describes some tips to get suitable reference maps.

Russian Military Maps

The former Soviet Union made a great effort to create maps all over the world. These maps are useful for wargaming, particularly for the Barbarossa campaign. The best maps for Campaign Series are the 1:100000 or 1:50000 scale. Fortunately, these maps are reasonably well available. The system for identifying these maps is the International Maps of the World, IMW coding.

IMW System

The Soviet topographic sheets follow the International Map of the World (IMW) numbering system. In the Northern Hemisphere the numbering system begins at the Equator, and the 180° meridian with sheet number A1. Sheet numbers progress northward and eastward in letters,  and numbers respectively. The individual sheets cover 4° of latitude and 6° of longitude. Example: Sheet M36 is located between 48° and 52° north latitude and 30° to 36° east longitude.

The most useful sheets for Campaign Series mapmaking are the 1:100000 and 1:50000 scale. These also are in the Transverse Mercator projection, and have a rectangular grid system in kilometers. Using these grids is more “user friendly” for mapmaking than geographic coordinates, like latitude and longitude.

A 1:100000 sheet (100k) is identified by this IMW format: M36-18. The last number is a subdivision of the larger 4×6 degree area. Each 100k sheet is one of 144.

M-36 Map Grid

Further, each 1:100000 sheet area is divided into four 1:50000 sheets, (50k) each covering  10′ of latitude and 15′ of longitude.

M-36-18 Map Grid

In Russian (Cyrillic) the subdivision letters are A, Б, В, and Г. However some map websites use Roman letters A, B, C, and D. This needs to be kept in mind when searching for maps on the internet.

The ultimate IMW code for this 50k map is M36-18- Г, M36-18-D.

An IMW conversion spreadsheet is useful for finding the map number from geometric coordinates.

For example, in this spreadsheet, enter a geographic coordinate, 51.4N, and 32.8E. The spreadsheet will display the code M, 36, 18, and Г. The spreadsheet is shown below:

Map Conversian Table

With this IMW code M36-18- Г, a mapmaker can do an internet search to get the map.You can download the spreadsheet from here.

Map Websites

Virtually all Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union maps can be found at this webpage: The scale selection for 100k maps is 1 cm = 1 km. A large graphic map index is provided, and by selecting a square, it gives the IMW code and the correct map can be found.

Another way is to use a search engine and use the keywords: Map 100k–M36-18 (Yes, do use the double dash after 100k, it finds it more easily.) This webpage requires a three letter “Captcha” and allows users to download either a *.jpg, or sometimes a *.gif file. The webpage sometimes offers 50k maps

These maps on loadmap are more recent, from the 1970s and 80s. And for Campaign Series mapmaking, a 1:50000 scale is optimal. The language is Russian, using Cyrillic alphabet.

For older maps and 50k scale, this website has maps made by the Red Army:

This is how this website appears:

Index of Russian Maps

These maps feature a Transverse Mercator grid system, in 1 km increments. The timeframe is 1930s and early 40s, which is perfect for WWII battle maps. This website does not have much coverage as the loadmap site, but has a large number of maps. Also, the Parent Directory has maps in other scales. These maps are in the Russian language using Cyrillic alphabet.

German 50k maps of Russia also exist. The website that features these is:

These maps also have Transverse Mercator grid system, in 1 km increments, and a 1930s-early 40s timeframe. The language is in German.

Index of German Maps

Map Samples

1:100000 map section

Map Sample 1:100000

1:50000 Map Sample

Map Sample 1:50000


The IMW map system is useful for identifying maps of Russia. A spreadsheet that converts geographic coordinates to an IMW code is helpful as well and is downloadable from the CS Legion site. There are several good websites where decent maps can be obtained.


“Soviet military topographic maps Chapter 1,” USSR Chief Administration of Geodesy and Cartography

Campaign Series East Front III | Marshall Budyonny's Dacha

Marshall Semyon M. Budyonny

Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha is the latest series of articles by David Galster that will cover various aspects of scenario design, and some key historical points for Campaign Series: East Front III.



Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha #1: Barbarossa 1941

Campaign Series East Front III | Marshall Budyonny's Dacha

My fellow Vsadniks,

This new CS Legion article series, “Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha” covers the early part of the Red Army’s response to Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The articles cover various aspects of scenario design, and some key historical points. This first article deals with a guide on how to research the details needed for Campaign Series scenario design.

Scenario Research Problem with Barbarossa

Operation Barbarossa was very massive, with numerous armies, dozens of corps, and hundreds of divisions. WWII war historians like David Glantz have written volumes about the 1941 invasion, but the discussions are about movements and actions of armies and corps. Occasionally, a division is identified and discussed, but this is the exception.

The new game, Campaign Series EFIII is not suitable for simulating these very large operations. It is much more geared to scenarios with maybe a few regiments on each side, at most a couple of Divisions per side. Details of the lower level unit identification, specific combat locations and times, are not easily found in the narratives.

For example, David Glantz wrote “Barbarossa Derailed, The Battle for Smolensk, 1941 Volume 1.” It is an excellent reference, but does not provide the level of detail needed for good CSEFIII scenario design.

A narrative example in Barbarossa Derailed is as follows: “Boldin, to attempt to organize a counterstroke in accordance with DP-41. Assigning Boldin nominal control of Khatskilevich’s 6th and Mostovenko’s 11th Mechanized, as well as Major General Ivan Semenovich Nikitin’s 6th Cavalry Corps, he ordered the forces of the three mobile corps to mount a concerted attack northward from the Belostok region towards Grodno. . .”

Notice that there are no divisions, regiments, battalions, etc. identified. Where were some of the firefights between German and Soviet forces? The area between Belostok to Grodno is huge, as these cities are 50 km apart. On an EFIII map this would be about 200 hexes. Further, this action spanned two or three days. This narrative is simply not specific enough to design a historical EFIII scenario.

EFIII Campaign Model

This problem can be overcome by using a systematic research method. The first step is to identify a specific campaign within the overall Operation Barbarossa.

Then on the German side, identify the Army Group, Armies, and Corps.

On the Russian side, identify the Front, Armies, and Corps. There were certain identifiable, smaller “campaigns” within Barbarossa. For the German Army Group Center vs Soviet Western Front, the advance on Minsk comprises the first phase, and then afterwards the Smolensk Campaign. In the south, there was a huge tank battle in the Lutsk-Brody-Dubno triangle. These may be artificial constructs, not always found in the literature, but they provide a framework for further research.

Using the narrative example, and studying the book’s Appendix B OOB tables, one can find that the Western Front had 11th Mechanized Corps. This Corps consisted of 29th and 33rd Tank Divisions, and 204th Motorized Division.

We can pick one of these, perhaps 29th Tank Division for a scenario. We can do Russian language searches on it, like 29-й танковая дивизия, in Google, and translate these back to English and find regiment and battalion numbers. Perhaps, in Wikipedia articles, we might even find a battle narrative that provides further detail.

Similarly the 6th Mechanized or 6th Cavalry Corps can be researched for historical information.

One of these should have some interesting action that can be fairly well defined, in terms of units involved, specific locations, and specific times.

A Corps level commander on the Soviet side might have Wikipedia articles. They might even contain some of this battle information. Primary source data, such as a “Kriegstagebuch” might offer some additional information.

Similarly, and perhaps more easily, we can determine possible German Divisions involved.

According to Glantz’s text:

“The few tanks, cavalry, and infantry that survived the gauntlet of intimidating air strikes arrived in the Grodno region long after Hoth’s panzers had raced eastward toward Vilnius and fell victim to devastating infantry ambush and antitank fire from German Ninth Army’s advancing V Army Corps.”

The Divisions of V Army Corps can be found in Appendix B OOB tables: 161st,  5th, and 35th Infantry Divisions. Similar internet research on these Divisions might yield some specific relevant information.


So the basic “Campaign Model” method is to understand the overall picture of a “campaign,” and to know the Army Group, Front, Armies, and Corps involved. (Both sides)

Then from the operational narrative, identify specific Corps actions, general area, and timing.

From Corps designations, list the Divisions involved.

Research these Divisions and perhaps commanders in more detail, to find specific and relevant units,locations, and times.

A sketch of the campaign is useful:


EFIII Campaign Sketch


“Barbarossa Derailed, The Battle for Smolensk, 1941 Volume 1”,  David Glantz

Campaign Series East Front III | Marshall Budyonny's Dacha

Marshall Semyon M. Budyonny

Marshall Budyonny’s Dacha is the latest series of articles by David Galster that will cover various aspects of scenario design, and some key historical points for Campaign Series: East Front III.