Bulgarian and Russian: are they similar languages?

Bulgarian and Russian are both Slavic languages, but linguists classify them in different branches of the Slavic languages.

Similarities in vocabulary between Bulgarian and Russian

Many of the vocabulary words in Bulgarian and Russian are inherited from a common ancestor language which linguists call the Proto-Slavic language.

As a result, Bulgarian and Russian have similarities in vocabulary. Some examples are provided in the table below.

Table: Some vocabulary words which 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 very similar alphabets, both are based on the Cyrillic script and most of the letters are in common. The Bulgarian alphabet has 30 letters and the Russian alphabet includes three additional letters ('ы', 'э', 'ё') bringing its total 33 letters.

Unlike Russian, the Bulgarian language has a definite article

The English word “the” is what linguists call a definite article. The existence of definite articles is rather rare among Slavic languages with Bulgarian being an exception.

This is a noteworthy difference between Bulgarian and Russian, as definite articles don’t exist in Russian.

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

As a example, in Bulgarian there is a distinction between “книга” (a book) and “книгата” (the book). Whereas, in Russian both translate to “книга”.

Grammatical case declensions are less common in Bulgarian compared to Russian

In Russian, the ending of nouns change to indicate the grammatical role which they play in a sentence. In contrast the Bulgarian language does not decline nouns according to grammatical case.

To illustrate this, 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 has not changed its form.

In contrast, the Russian sentence is “я читаю книгу” and there the ending of the noun has changed to indicate the grammatical case.

Is Bulgarian similar to Russian in terms of learning difficulty?

The Foreign Service Institute classifies languages in 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 ranking system, Bulgarian and Russian are similar in terms of their difficulty for English speakers to learn: both are in Category 3.

It is estimated that Bulgarian and Russian are both languages which 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 of 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.