Bulgarian and Russian: a language comparison

Bulgarian and Russian are both Slavic languages, but they belong to different branches within the Slavic language family.

Bulgarian is classified as a South Slavic language, alongside Serbian, Croatian, and Macedonian. On the other hand, Russian is classified as an East Slavic language, alongside 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.

Some key differences

The definite article

Most Slavic languages do not have definite articles (equivalents to the English word “the”). In Russian, definite articles do not exist. Bulgarian, however, stands out as an exception to this linguistic pattern.

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.”

Grammatical case declensions

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