Artemy Lebedev has an interesting history of the typewriter keyboard, concentrating on the Russian version.

The Russian letterkey layout originated from America in the late 19th century. The author has failed so far to find any credible evidence of the first company to produce typewriters with this layout, let alone its authorship. The only thing definitely known is that all firms that produced typewriters with the Russian key layout employed the same one— ЙIУКЕН (or ЙЦУКЕН after the reform of the Russian language) that was dubbed “Standard”.

It’s fascinating to see the reproductions of early keyboards, and to learn that in the prerevolutionary version “the numerals row lacks one, zero and three that would be replaced with I, О and З respectively.” And here’s a fun fact:

The first typewriter (the Yanalif model) was produced in the USSR in Kazan only in 1929. At first it was manufactured with Latin (!) letterkeys. It means that for at least 30 years after being put on the market all typewriters with the Russian font had been made abroad.

Via blogchik. (“Yanalif” means ‘new alphabet’ in Tatar—you can read about the sad history of Tatar writing systems here.)


  1. I have an old Russian typewriter that is “ЙУКЕН..”. “Ц” is actually in the far right of the number row (along w/ e-obratnoe). In the number row there is a 1 but no 3 or 0.

  2. Another oddity of my typewriter – there’s no ! key. You create it w/ apostrophe plus period.

  3. Do you want to sell your Russian typewriter? I’m interested.

  4. I suggest you send him an e-mail — if you click on (or mouse over) his name, you’ll see it.

  5. I have a vintage, excellent condition Russian portable typewriter. The exterior carrying case has what looks like stickers from an ocean liner. If you’re interested in purchasing it, let me know and I’ll provide more details and pictures.

  6. p.s. My e-mail address is paintgui@pronetisp.net.
    If you’re interested in further info. about the Russian typewriter I have, please contact me.

  7. martin scott says

    interesting about soviet made typewriters
    i have been looking for an early soviet made cyrillic typewriter, for a number of years now ..
    dod you have any ideas who may have one or where i might find one ??
    any information greatly apreciated
    very kind regards

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