The 230th Anniversary of the Cyrillic Letter Yo


Cyrillic Letter YoWhen 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.

Princess Yekaterina Vorontsova-DashkovaBut 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.

The Monument to the Cyrillic letter Yo in UlyanovskP.S. If you liked this post you can thank the author via russianuniverse.org/donate/.

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7 thoughts on “The 230th Anniversary of the Cyrillic Letter Yo

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  4. One of the things I loved about learning Russian was writing the Cyrillic script – ya and je and sh being particular favourite. Marvellous that there are monuments to letters.

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      1. Yay. Spacibo for another Cyrillic blast. Yes did A’ level Russian at school, and a year at Uni. Now much forgotten though, but remember fondly having to translate into English Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, Turgenev’s First Love/Spring Torrents, Pushkin’s Tsigani and Tolstoi’s Prisoner in the Caucasus -all of which did leave a lasting impression.

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        1. Wow, it means your Russian was good! And I couldn’t agree more – without constant practice language skills fade away (like my Swedish, French & Latin, for example). That’s why this blog also helps me to maintain and improve my knowledge of English. I’ve been working as a technical translator from English into Russian since early 2000s, so I know a bit about difficulties of translation. I can only imagine how hard it is to translate Russian classical literature into English.
          English isn’t my native tongue but I love it very much. When I was a child my parents (both philologists) discussed ‘adult questions’ in English so I couldn’t understand them, and I had to adapt to that 🙂

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