Many of our readers don’t understand how culture and typography intersect in Russia. Could you tell us a bit about it and your decision to support minority Cyrillic languages?
I want to take a moment to try and explain an issue that highlights a cultural conflict here. Cyrillic is the name of the alphabet used in this part of the world. Russian is only one of many languages using the Cyrillic alphabet, just like Latin is the basis for English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and many more.
So while Russian is the official language, there are 37 co-official languages in regions throughout Russia. The attitude toward these minority languages using Cyrillic is indeed imperialistic. Though there are many typefaces now that support languages like Abkhaz and Chukchi, most people in the territory of Russia are using and speaking Russian while forgetting their own language. The “native” culture in a region is getting absorbed by the “official” Russian. Eventually the minority language stops being used, is forgotten, and the typographic side is one of many things lost as a culture.
When it comes to designing Cyrillic, the Basic Cyrillic set covers all the major languages that are spread around Eastern Europe. Meaning, if you create Basic Cyrillic typefaces, you should make sure it will work well in, for example, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and Serbian. More than that, I also tried to cover all the Extended Cyrillic character set so the languages people might not even know exist could be typeset as well.
On the one hand, there are so many glyphs not covered by Unicode, while there’s like five different Unicodes for a circle. On the other hand, even if they are included in the typeface, people don’t use certain glyphs because they don’t know about them or it’s easier to copy something from Latin. There is some sort of miscommunication happening, creating a huge gap between culture, information, the professional side of design, and people.