Bulgarian and Russian: a language comparison

Bulgarian and Russian are Slavic languages. Due to this common linguistic heritage, they share some similarities. The most obvious similarity between Russian and Bulgarian is that both these languages are written using the Cyrillic script.

The Cyrillic script is used by many —but not all— Slavic languages; for instance, Polish and Czech are Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet.

Although Bulgarian and Russian are both Slavic languages, there are some significant linguistic differences between them; this is not surprising in light of the fact that Bulgarian and Russian belong to separate branches within the Slavic language family.

Bulgarian belongs to the branch of South Slavic languages, which also includes Serbian, Croatian, and Macedonian. In contrast, Russian belongs to the branch of East Slavic languages, together with Ukrainian and Belarusian.

Vocabulary similarities

The table below provides some examples of vocabulary words that are similar in Bulgarian and Russian.

English Russian Bulgarian
peace мир (mir) мир (mir)
love любовь (lyubovʹ) любов (lyubov)
freedom свобода (svoboda) свобода (svoboda)
moon луна (luna) луна (luna)
sun солнце (solntse) слънце (slŭntse)
language язык (yazyk) език (ezik)
beautiful красивая (krasivaya) красив (krasiv)
happiness счастье (schastʹye) щастие (shtastie)
teacher учитель (uchitelʹ) учител (учител)
tree дерево (derevo) дърво (dŭrvo)
green зеленый (zelenyy) зелен (zelen)
flower цветок (tsvetok) цвете (tsvete)

Bulgarian and Russian have many similar vocabulary words. Many of these are cognates meaning that they originate from a common ancestor language.

Similar to how the Romance languages like Spanish and French evolved from Latin, the Slavic languages also descend from a common ancestor language.

However, unlike Latin, which has numerous written records, there are no written traces of the ancestor to the Slavic languages. Linguists have reconstructed it by analyzing patterns and named it the Proto-Slavic language.

Both use the Cyrillic alphabet

Bulgarian and Russian are both written using the Cyrillic script. This writing system was developed around the 1Oth century CE in the First Bulgarian Empire by disciples of the missionaries Cyril and Methodius — hence its name.

The Cyrillic alphabet is based on the Greek alphabet and it features additional letters used to represent sounds that are unique to the Slavic languages.

There are some minor differences between the Bulgarian and Russian alphabets. The Bulgarian alphabet has 30 letters and the Russian alphabet includes three additional letters ('ы', 'э', 'ё') bringing its total to 33 letters.

Although the Cyrillic script is closely associated with Slavic languages, it should be noted that some Slavic languages, such as Polish and Czech use the Latin alphabet with additional marks to represent more sounds.

Linguistic differences

Unlike Russian, Bulgarian has definite articles

In many languages, definite articles are among the most common words. Definite articles correspond to the word “the” in English. In Spanish, they correspond to the words (el, la, los, las).

In Russian —as in most Slavic languages— definite articles don't exist.

On this point, Bulgarian differs from Russian and stands out as an exception among the Slavic languages by having definite articles

There is an additional twist: In Bulgarian, the definite article is not placed in front of a noun; instead, it is added to the end of the noun.

For example, Bulgarian distinguishes between “книга” (a book) and “книгата” (the book), whereas in Russian, both are translated as “книга.”

Russian has many grammatical case declensions —Bulgarian doesn't

Grammatical cases represent a significant linguistic difference between Russian and Bulgarian.

In Russian, the endings of nouns change to indicate their grammatical role within a sentence. In Bulgarian, however, nouns are not declined according to the grammatical case.

To illustrate this difference, consider the word for “book” which is “книга” in both Bulgarian and Russian. Using this noun in the sentence “I read a book”, yields “четох една книга” in Bulgarian. Notice how the noun retains its original form.

The corresponding Russian sentence is “я читаю книгу”. Notice how the ending of the noun has changed to indicate the grammatical case.

Learning difficulty

The Foreign Service Institute classifies languages into 4 categories based on how difficult they are for English speakers to learn.

This ranges from Category 1, the easiest languages (such as Spanish, Dutch, ..) to Category 4, the “Super-hard languages” (such as Chinese, Arabic, ..).

According to the FSI’s ratings, Bulgarian and Russian present a similar level of difficulty for English speakers, as both these languages are in Category 3.

It is estimated that Bulgarian and Russian are both languages that require about 1100 class hours in order to reach a working knowledge of them.

For an anglophone student, Bulgarian and Russian vocabulary present similar levels of difficulty, there are fewer cognates with English in these languages than in Spanish or Dutch for example.

And while grammatical cases are easier in Bulgarian than in Russian, the conjugation of Bulgarian verbs is particularly difficult.


In terms of vocabulary, it is easy to spot similarities between the Bulgarian and the Russian language. This is generally the case among Slavic languages.

But in terms of grammar, there are significant differences between Bulgarian and Russian.