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General HOWTO:

See The Linux Cyrillic HOWTO (a bit obsoleted).
Более новая русская версия The Linux Cyrillic HOWTO ведётся Евгением Балдиным.


The Linux console driver is quite a flexible piece of software. It is capable of changing fonts as well as keyboard layouts. To achieve it, you'll need the kbd package . Both RedHat and Slackware install kbd as part of a system.

The kbd package contains keyboard control utilities as well as a big collection of fonts and keyboard layouts.

Cyrillic setup with kbd usually involves two things:

  1. Screen font setup. This is performed by the setfont program. The fonts files are located in /usr/lib/kbd/consolefonts. NOTE: Never run the setfont program under X because it will hang your system. This is because it works with low-level video card calls which X doesn't like.
  2. Load the appropriate keyboard layout with the loadkeys program.

This script sets up the Cyrillic mode for Linux console (kbd package):

loadkeys ru1
setfont Cyr_a8x16
mapscrn koi2alt
echo -ne "\033(K"
echo "Use the right Ctrl key to switch the mode..."

In case you use popular console-tools package:

consolechars -f UniCyr_8x16 -m koi8-r
echo -ne "\033(K"
loadkeys ru1