Guide to Russian nicknames and pronunciation in The Devil's Wall


Russian names are notoriously difficult for English-speakers to keep track of, sound out, and translate. There is no standard way to transliterate names from the Russian alphabet (Cyrillic) into English. For The Devil's Wall I chose the simplest spellings.Russians are also very fond of nicknames. I'm posting this quick guide to help my beta readers follow the story.Evgenia and the Koltsov Family

  • Evgenia Ivanovna Koltsova:
    • Pronunciation: EV-GEH-NEE-YA. The “g” is hard, as in “get.” Both “e”s are short, as in “ever.”
    • Nickname: Zhenya. Pronounced ZSHEN-YA. This nickname softens the hard “g” in Evgenia's name into a very soft “sh” sound, as in Zsa Zsa Gabor.
  • Konstantin Ivanov Koltsov:
    • Pronunciation: CON-STAN-TEEN.
    • Nickname: Kostya. Pronounced COAST-YA.
  • Mikhail Ivanov Koltsov:
    • Pronunciation: MEE-KAH-EEL.
    • Nickname: Misha. Pronounced MEE-SHA.
  • Lev Ivanov Koltsov:
    • Pronunciation: LEV.
    • Nickname: Levka. Pronounced LEV-KA.

 Anastasia and the Romanov Family

  • Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanovna:
    • Pronunciation: AH-NAH-STAH-ZEE-YA. The “a”s in her name are soft, as in the word “father.”
    • Nickname: Nastya. Pronounced NAH-STEE-YA. The “a”s are soft, as in the word “father.”
    • Nickname: shvibzik, pronounced SH-VIH-B-ZICK. This is a Russian word meaning “imp,” like a mischievous sprite or demon.
    • Also known as: Anna. Pronounced AH-NA. The "a"s are soft, as in the word "father."
  • Maria Nikolaevna Romanovna:
    • Pronunciation: MAH-REE-YA.
    • Nickname: Masha. Pronounced MAH-SHA.
  • Tatiana Nikolaevna Romanovna:
    • Pronunciation: TAH-TEE-YA-NAH.
    • Nickname: Tanya.
  • Olga Nikolaevna Romanovna:
    • Pronunciation: OLE-GAH.
    • Nickname: Olya.
  • Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov:
    • Pronunciation: AH-LEK-SEE.
    • Nickname: Alyosha. Pronounced AL-YO-SHA.

 Other Key Characters

  • Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovksy:
    • Last name pronunciation: YOO-RAW-V-SKEE.
    • Nicknames: None.
  • Jiri Valchar:
    • Pronunciation: YEER-JEE.
    • Nicknames: None.
    • Note: Jiri is Czech, so he does not use his father’s name as a middle name.