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Town To Honor Forgotten Letter

Published: October 30, 2001 (Issue # 717)



  • Temporary tribute to the letter "yo" next to a memorial to the man who invented it.
    Photo: Itar-Tass

MOSCOW - The town of Ulyanovsk may have plenty of monuments and museums to its famous son, Vladimir Lenin, but a group of locals wants the town to erect a statue to another birth in its history - the seventh letter of the Russian alphabet.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov - Lenin was a pseudonym - had his own lexical influence on the Volga town, which was renamed Ulyanovsk on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1970. But the letter "ë ," pronounced yo, is on a completely higher semantic level, Ulyanovsk residents say. The letter has since its birth in 1797 become the langurage's most expressive or, when needed, most indecent letter.

And Ulyanovsk is banking on this one small letter to bring in the tourists who no longer visit to see where Lenin was born.

Local writer Nikolai Karamzin invented the letter in 1797 to fill a gap for the sound he found lacking in the Russian alphabet. Now Ulyanovsk natives say it is the country's favorite letter, used to start expressions of surprise, anger and frustration and some of the strongest obscenities.

"Everyone loves this letter, the sound and the letter, respectively. We all express the most joyful, overwhelming emotions with the help of this letter," Tatyana Klink, a local architect who is helping run the campaign to erect the monument, said in recent televised remarks.

For such a favorite letter, yo is used very sparsely in the Russian language, and for a non-native speaker it is remarkably difficult to find.

Most Russian books and newspapers do not print the umlaut over the letter as its presence, for the most part, is obvious to the Russian speaker.

This absence can cause confusions abroad. The "e" in former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's name is actually a yo and pronounced as such.

In Russian dictionaries, yo doesn't even merit a section of its own, with all entries slipped into the "ye" section. In the Oxford Russian-English dictionary, only 10 words beginning with yo are actually listed.

Two of those are swear words that would make a sailor blush, while another is yorsh, a ruff fish or a slang term for a drink mixing beer and vodka.

Ulyanovsk residents once ran a competition to see who could name the most clean words beginning with the letter. Eight was the most the winner could come up with.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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