I've seen it several times before, but only have one example at hand right now. This Forbes article mentions Russia as country's name, but Rossiya as the bank's name, despite that these words are exactly the same in Russian, where they are translated from.

Is there some kind of rule for this?

  • This is my first question on this stackexchange site, so I'm sorry if I did something wrong here. Hope it's an appropriate website for this question, at least. – Max Yankov Apr 29 '14 at 21:26
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    Country names are specific in English. Russia is the name of the country. Banks, however, have specific proper names, which can be anything, regardless of what it may mean and how it may be spelled or pronounced. – John Lawler Apr 29 '14 at 21:32
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    The question appears to be about why Forbes has used the word Russia for the country, but transliterated an identical Russian word as Rossiya when referring to the bank. It's not about bank names per se. – Andrew Leach Apr 29 '14 at 22:00
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    @FumbleFingers; The bank chose a name in Cyrillic, which is the same as the country name in Russian (give or take a few subtleties). Why Forbes and other translators chose to transliterate them differently may be as simple as 'they wanted to differentiate the two' or it may not; but its not an unreasonable question. – Tim Lymington Apr 29 '14 at 22:15
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    @TimLymington: I've no idea how I'd find a supporting reference, but it seems to me the Russian bank must have chosen its own name for use in Anglophone countries, not some "translators" in Forbes or wherever. They trade internationally; they must write their name in our script sometimes. A name they chose, for reasons that don't directly concern ELU. – FumbleFingers Apr 29 '14 at 22:48

It's a matter of when and where these words were romanized.

The English word Russia is a very old term for a very old country. When it was coined, the romanization of English words tended to be very English-centric. "Russia" is both (1) close enough to "Россия" that it was understandable, and (2) easy for medieval English speakers to pronounce.

Once a word enters the English language in a romanized form, that romanization tends to stick. But principles of romanization shift. This can be seen most clearly in Chinese. In the 1950s, the Chinese government created a new romanization system to replace the older Wade-Giles system.

Under the old Wade-Giles system, China's modern captial, 北京, was known in the West as "Peking." Under the new pinyin system, it is transliterated as "Beijing."

These days, most new names romanized from Chinese into English use pinyin, and most media outlets use pinyin for the names of many places, too: Beijing for Peking, Hangzhou for Hangchow, etc.

But older names and terms that entered the English language before the pinyin era are still commonly used in their older romanizations. Even though nobody flies to Peking anymore, we still eat Peking duck, not Beijing duck. You are still just as likely to hear about Mao Tse-Tung as Mao Zedong, and Kung Fu Zi has not replaced Confucius. The older the term was when it entered English, the more resistant it is to change.

So Russia, a word that entered English in the middle ages, is very resistant to change--to the point where it is now considered a translation, rather than a romanization. On the other hand, when translating the names of foreign entities, journalists tend to follow set rules, a set system specified by a style guide. This applies to newly translated names--for example, a bank called "Россия," which is transliterated according to a set system (in this case, probably BGN/PCGN romanization). It doesn't apply to the country, which already has an established English equivalent.

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    Just ran an Ngram, by the way, on "Peking duck" and "Beijing duck," confirming that the Wade-Giles version is still well in the lead. – chapka Apr 29 '14 at 22:52
  • I'd have expected no less. To be honest I was surprised to see Beijing duck was even common enough to chart (it's up to maybe 1 in 10). Where will it all end? Will we have to order Mumbai duck with our curries? – FumbleFingers Apr 29 '14 at 23:02
  • True, I forgot about India. "Black Hole of Kolkata" doesn't chart as an Ngram; that's another example of old transliterations sticking around. – chapka Apr 29 '14 at 23:04
  • @FumbleFingers: I don't know about re-transliterations, but I can't think of a case where an outright renaming of a city has led to the renaming of an eponymous food. For example, there's still a "Tilsit cheese" even though the town of Tilsit has been known as Sovietsk since 1946. – Dan Apr 30 '14 at 0:44
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    The Chinese situation gets even stickier when you consider Pinyin is not as widely used in Taiwan. And then on the other end of the spectrum you have people who refer to Hong Kong as "Xianggang" despite the fact that Hong Kong is much closer to what an inhabitant of the place would call it. – Casey Apr 30 '14 at 13:28

The "rule" is really simple. The country Россия is a thing or concept that is well-established in English, and has been forever, so it has an English equivalent by now, Russia. Everyone knows it, everyone uses it. Россия as the name for a bank has no meaning in English, because it's just a name. A label. So on the (very seldom) occasion that you have to mention that bank (nobody has ever heard of), the name gets transliterated to make sure everyone's on the same page.

This is true of all languages, not just English. Observe what you do in Russian:

  • deutsche Bank is немецкий банк, yet Deutsche Bank is Дойче Банк
  • king's cross is королевский крест, yet King's Cross is Кингс-Кросс
  • río de janeiro is январская река, yet Rio de Janeiro is Рио-де-Жанейро
  • los ángeles is ангелы, yet Los Angeles is Лос Анджелес
  • schillern is блестеть, yet Schiller is Шиллер
  • ein Stein is камень yet Einstein is Эйнштейн

So why are the same words translated differently into Russian depending on their meaning? Well, the answer is right there in the question: because the meaning is different. Different meanings are translated differently. Los Angeles simply is not the same thing as los ángeles. Not even to a native speaker of Spanish, much less to a Russian.

So as you can see, Rossiya is the complete norm, not an exception by any means.


Russia is the English exonym of the country. And Rossiya is the bank's name, taken from the country's endonym, transliterated in Latin characters



From wikipedia's Romanization article:

There is no single universally accepted system of writing Russian using the Latin script — in fact there are a huge number of such systems: some are adjusted for a particular target language (e.g. German or French), some are designed as a librarian's transliteration, some are prescribed for Russian travellers' passports; the transcription of some names is purely traditional.

All this has resulted in great reduplication of names. E.g. the name of the Russian composer Tchaikovsky may also be written as Tchaykovsky, Tchajkovskij, Tchaikowski, Tschaikowski, Czajkowski, Čajkovskij, Čajkovski, Chajkovskij, Çaykovski, Chaykovsky, Chaykovskiy, Chaikovski, Tshaikovski, Tšaikovski, Tsjajkovskij etc.

Conventional English transliteration is based to BGN/PCGN, but doesn't follow a particular standard.

The name of the country, Russia is about etymology. It has other roots. The name of the bank is about romanization. And even the word Rossiya has roots from Greek.

So Rossiya is the romanization of the word Россия, meaning Russia in the Russian language. Russia is the name of the country in English language which is not a transliteration or romanization but it is derived from transliteration.

From wikipedia's Rus article:

The modern name of Russia (Rossiya), which came into use in the 17th century, is derived from the Greek Ῥωσσία (transliterated Rossia, nowadays spelled Ρωσία and transliterated Rosia) which in turn derives from Ῥῶς (transliteration: Ros), an early Greek name for the people of Rus'.

Then it goes back to Finnish and Old Norse also.

Further read from the book "Digital Russia: The Language, Culture and Politics of New Media Communication" edited by Michael Gorham, Ingunn Lunde, Martin Paulsen:

enter image description here

  • This is true, but not relevant to the question, which was about the English name for Russia vs. a transliteration of the Russian name. – Colin Fine Apr 29 '14 at 22:26
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    It is about the romanization of the name of the bank. – 0.. Apr 30 '14 at 0:12
  • No, it isn't. There is no sensible romanisation under which Россия would come out as "Russia". That would be translation, not romanisation. – Colin Fine Apr 30 '14 at 12:29
  • I was talking about "Rossiya" as a romanization or transliteration. I elaborated my answer in detail. – 0.. Apr 30 '14 at 16:58
  • It's still irrelevant to the question. The OP is very well aware that Россия in the Russian for "Russia". They are asking neither about the transliteration, nor about the history of the word, but about why the country name gets translated and the bank name does not. RegDwight's answer is to the point. Yours barely touches the point. – Colin Fine Apr 30 '14 at 17:52

Country names are usually translated, possibly with the exception of the very smallest countries. So the name of the country gets translated, with the result that you get quite different words for example in English (Russia), German (Russland), or French (La Russie). In other cases you get totally different words, like Germany: English = Germany, German = Deutschland, French = Allemagne. Not even remotely similar.

Company names are rarely translated. Because British, German or French people usually can't make much sense of Cyrillic, the name of that bank is transliterated (which means a latin word is found that sounds as similar as possible to the russian word), which means this bank is transliterated to Rossiya.

(Mentioning other languages to clarify that for the country name we use a translation, that is an English word that could potentially be completely unrelated to the corresponding Russian word).


It's very similar to the situation of Crédit Agricole whose name essentially means 'Agricultural Loans' in French. Only very pedantic or pretentious people would refer to 'fromage francais' instead of 'french cheese' in normal English conversation but no one calls Crédit Agricole by anything other than its French name even when referring to its London office.

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