Russian Politician Blames Hard-to-Pronounce Cyrillic Letter for Country’s Bad Image

How It Works
March 12 2014 1:38 PM

Russian Politician Blames Hard-to-Pronounce Cyrillic Letter for Country’s Bad Image

2866921-russian-liberal-democratic-party-leader-vladimir
Жирино́вский ... with an и.

Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

Many first-year Russian students may struggle to properly pronounce the letter Ы, which makes a hard-i sound and is usually transliterated into English as y, but could the letter be responsible for Russia’s poor international image? As Radio Free Europe reports, ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky thinks so:

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Only animals make this sound, 'ы- ы,'" he said, adding that the regular "и" ("i") is enough for the Russian alphabet. 
"Ы" doesn't exist in any other European language, argued Zhirinovsky. "This primitive, Asiatic sound is the reason people don't like us in Europe," he told lawmakers.
Advertisement

Russian spelling is much more phonetic than languages using the Latin alphabet, so making this change would be roughly equivalent to turning “fit” into “feet” or “pill” into “peel.”

Zhirinovsky is the leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, which is neither of those things, and a lifetime member of the country’s loyal opposition. He’s run in every post-communist presidential election without actually challenging the ruling United Russia party on any matters of substance. He’s best known for doing things like referring to entire regions of the country as “retarded,” starting fistfights on national television, and continuing to accuse Jews of bringing Russia to ruin and bringing the Holocaust on themselves, even after admitting that he is in fact half-Jewish himself.

In the same speech, he proposed that the United States be kicked out of the G-8.

For what it’s worth, the Ukrainian alphabet doesn’t include Ы, though this is the first I’ve heard of it being an explanation for the country’s political divide.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Do the Celebrities Whose Nude Photos Were Stolen Have a Case Against Apple?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 3:19 PM In Defense of Congress Leaving Town Without a New War Vote
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 5:09 PM Three CEOs Step Down in 30 Minutes
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 3:30 PM How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 5:43 PM Oracle’s Larry Ellison Steps Down, Will Be Replaced by Hurd’n’Catz
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.