Letter "Ы" in the Russian Language


A member of the Russian parliament suggested to get rid of the letter Ы, he said: “We should eliminate this disgusting letter. It’s an idiocy. There is no European language which has letter Ы. It’s an ugly guttural sound, only animals use it:ы-ы”. We have a letter И – that’s enough”.
He was not the first one to suggest that the Russian language can survive without the letter Ы.
Linguists have been arguing that the letter Ы is not really a letter and should not have a place in the alphabet and in the language.
The Russian alphabet originates from the Greek, and the Greek alphabet does not have the Ы letter in it.
Letter Ы comes from the Old Slavonic (Old Bulgarian) language and originally was a Cyrillic compound character
ЪI = Ъ + I  [yeri] «еры».

The letter Ы was a derivative of the letter I = И [ee], that is why the Russian language does not have words starting with Ы, because it was not considered as an independent, “autonomous” character.

It can be argued that there are a few words which start with Ы such as names of the rivers, villages in Siberia – «Ыгыатта»however those names are not Russian, they are adopted and hence can’t be accepted.
Whatever the arguments are the letter Ы is still there and I don’t think it will disappear anytime soon, and the students studying Russian will have to learn how to pronounce this strange letter which doesn't have anything similar in a lot of languages. Though sometimes the difficulties related to the pronunciation of the sound Ы [i] are exaggerated. I did have in my experience as a language teacher only a few (very few) students who struggled with the pronunciation but they quite fast mastered it with some practice and help. 


A few facts about letter “Ы”:

·     In the popular comedy “Operation Ы and Shoorik’s other adventures” one of the characters suggests to call the mock burglary “operation Ы”, so “...nobody could work it out”.  (“Оперция Ы и другие приключения Шурика”)


·        A cargo Steam engine “Ы” was built in Russia in 1910-1920.


·        In the Russian internet slang the letter “Ы” stands  for “lol”.


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