When English-speaking foreigners (as well as the ones speaking other languages using Latin script) study the Russian language or just think about it, their attention is often drawn to several ‘peculiar’ Russian letters. One of them is the dotted letter Ё/ё (pronounced as ‘yo’).
The history of this letter is as follows. The corresponding vowel (designated by two letters: io) had had existed in the Russian language before the letter ё appeared. The latter was born on November 29, 1783, at one of the first sessions of the Russian Academy. Princess Yekaterina Vorontsova-Dashkova, the head of the Academy, asked the academicians if they could write the word “ёлка” (pronounced as yolka, i.e. fir-tree) which she wrote as “ioлка” first. Then she recommended to spell the vowel with one letter – ё.
But the popularity and usage of the letter ё wasn’t widespread in the 19th and in the 20th cc. The letter e (ye) is often used instead which often causes mispronunciation, especially in proper names. For example, the name of the Moscow district Khoroshyovo-Mnyovniki (Хорошёво-Мнёвники) is spelt on its official site as “Хорошево-Мневники” (Khoroshevo-Mnevniki) which can confuse even native Russian speakers. Е/Ё confusion can even cause legal problems (e.g., when one surname is mistaken for another, etc.).
In 2005 the monument to the Cyrillic letter ё was opened in Ulyanovsk.
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