I am a rabid Russophile. I majored in Russian Language and Literature at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and studied Russian philology at Simferopol State University (now Tavrida University) in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine. After graduation, I moved to Simferopol to teach English a few hours a week and to spend the rest of the time perfecting my Russian fluency, with an eye to becoming a translator/interpreter. A side job with the local United Nations Development Programme office afforded me a taste of interpreting, and I decided that it wasn't for me. Instead, the job pointed me toward the law, by exposing me to the intricacies of citizenship issues in the former Soviet Union. I returned to the US, worked for a year, then entered law school with every intention of working in Ukraine.
But how life does change our plans. I met my husband, married, and had a child. I left my criminal defense and immigration law practice when my son was born, and am now looking into ways to get back into the law and satisfy my growing yearning to use my Russian again, after almost ten years of stagnation. We live in Seattle, and I keep connected to my interest in all things Russian mainly by listening to Russian popular music and cooking Russian, Ukrainian, and Central Asian cuisine. Recently I have reconnected with some of my Russian friends via international text messaging.
Travel in Russia and Ukraine is wonderful; it satisfies my sense of adventure and makes me more introspective, in a good way. Moscow is my favorite major city in the world (not that I've been to that many, but it has beat out London, Paris, San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, LA ...). Kiev is a close second, simply a beautiful city. In Crimea, I tend not to tour much; I love to just relax at our friends' dacha and enjoy the sunshine and good company. My first travels in Russia and Ukraine, in 1994, were marked by a constant wonder at simply being in the former USSR, and by, I'll admit it, spy fantasies. My husband and I will be travelling to Crimea in September to stay with friends. We'll do some touring then so that he can see the sights.
In general, I enjoy wandering aimlessly around towns and discovering what there is to be found, but of course that is a luxury that has to be reserved for long stays.
My husband, son, and I travel often to the United Kingdom to visit my husband's family. I hope someday to tour Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
WikiTravel work in progress
Establishing Russian transliteration standards
There is no common standard for transliterating Russian into English. Many systems exist; all share the disadvantage of using diacritic marks. A system relying heavily on diacritic marks provides precise orthographic information, but it does not help the casual reader understand correct pronunciation. The British Standards Institution (BSI) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) systems provide the correct pronunciation at a glance for the non-Russian speaker, using very few diacritic marks. They satisfactorily preserve the distinctions between hard and soft vowels (e.g., Е and Э) and account for the use of Ь (soft sign)and Ъ (hard sign). The BSI standard is favored by the Russian grammar reference work A Comprehensive Russian Grammar by Terence Wade.
A further issue, however, is that in general every letter of a Russian word is pronounced, but at native-speaker levels of pronunciation, the surrounding letters often change a letter's pronunciation. So it's not always possible to render the pronunciation perfectly in a transliteration, as to do so might send the orthographic info spinning out of control. Also, in such a system, a non-speaker would find it easy to read the transliteration, but impossible to render a correct transliteration merely by substituting latin letters for cyrillic ones. Therefore, one must give up one of the following: pronunciation help for novices, or orthographic information for experts. Since in this forum a user can also provide the cyrillic letters, and the point of the website is to provide information for travellers, not linguists, the preference is to provide pronunciation guidance through the transliteration, and to also provide the word in cyrillic letters when possible. Users should strive to match Latin letters to Cyrillic letters one-by-one, ignoring the more subtle points of pronunciation, (unless it renders an absolutely incorrect pronunciation, which will be rarely). Example: Южный берег (Southern Coast) should be rendered "Yuzhnij bereg," even though technically the final "г" in "берег" is devoiced to a "к" sound. "Коктебель" should be rendered "Koktebel'", even though in practice the "е" is pronounced as an "и" because of its position as an unstressed vowel sandwiched between "т" and "б".
The chart below is derived from the BSI and ANSI standards, except where those standards rely on diacritics.