Russian in Internet Browsers

Internet browsers for Windows (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, and Mozilla Firefox) come configured to be able to read Cyrillic. However, occasionally you'll hit a page that is supposed to be in Russian, but comes out in gibberish. This section shows you what to do in those circumstances.

Overview of the Problem

For English letters, all modern computers use the same encoding system. For example, a capital English A is always ANSI code 65 (or to the computer's binary way of counting 1000001). However, for Russian, there are three commonly used encodings: Windows Cyrillic (1251), KOI8r, and Unicode. Most webpages contain information that tells the browser which encoding to use. But occasionally, that information is missing or for some reason, the browser misinterprets it. When that happens, you have to set the encoding manually. Changing the encoding in a browser is not permanent. It can be easily reversed.

In nearly all cases, you'll want to go to View -> Encoding (or View -> Character Set in Mozilla and Firefox) and pick a different set. Sometimes the encodings/character sets that you need are hidden a layer down in the drop-down menus. For example, if you see Windows Cyrillic, but you're looking for KOI8r, try More or, if offered, East European. You're likely to see additional encoding/character sets there.

Here are some examples of common problems:

Your “Russian” webpage shows is composed of lots of accented European characters

Your browser is defaulting to a Western encoding. Choose Windows Cyrillic (1251)

Lots of Cyrillic uppercase gibberish

Your browser is using KOI8r when it should be using Windows Cyrillic (1251) or vice-versa. Try the other encoding/character set.

Problem 3. All question marks (???????????). The browser thinks the document is in Unicode. Try Windows Cyrillic (1251). If that doesn't work, try KOI8r.