Who invented the letter E – the life and discoveries of Princess Ekaterina Vorontsova-Dashkova

Dmitry Grigorievich Levitsky.  Portrait of Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova.  FragmentThe letter E, undeservedly ignored by the majority of Russian residents, appeared in the Russian alphabet in the 18th century. The life of this letter was given by Ekaterina Vorontsova-Dashkova – a woman with an amazing fate, the favorite of Catherine the Great, the head of two Academies of Sciences (for the first time in world practice).

How did such a remarkable letter appear in our alphabet, and what is known about its creator?


The content of the article:

  1. A rebel and a book lover: the young years of the princess
  2. Travel abroad for the benefit of Russia
  3. Interesting facts about the life of the princess
  4. In memory of Dashkova: so that descendants do not forget
  5. Where did the letter E come from – history

A rebel and a book lover: the young years of the princess

Ekaterina Dashkova, the founder of the Imperial Academy, who became one of the greatest personalities of that era, was born in 1743. The third daughter of Count Vorontsov was educated at the house of her uncle, Mikhail Vorontsov.

Portrait Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova

Perhaps it would have been limited to dancing, drawing and learning languages, if not for measles, because of which Catherine was sent to St. Petersburg for treatment. There she became imbued with love for books.

In 1759, the girl became the wife of Prince Dashkova (note – the son of the Smolensk Rurikovichs), with whom she left for Moscow.

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Video: Ekaterina Dashkova

Catherine was interested in politics from an early age, from childhood delving into her uncle’s diplomatic documents. To a large extent, curiosity was spurred on by the very era of “intrigue and coups.” Catherine also dreamed of playing a role in the history of Russia, and her meeting with the future Empress Catherine helped her greatly.

The two princesses Catherine were linked by literary interests and personal friendship. Dashkova was an active participant in the coup, as a result of which Catherine ascended to the Russian throne, despite the fact that Peter III was her godfather, and her own sister Elizabeth was his favorite.

After the coup, the paths of the empress and the princess parted ways: Ekaterina Dashkova was too strong and clever for the empress to leave her by her side.

Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova

Dashkova’s foreign travels for the benefit of Russia

Despite being excommunicated from the court, Ekaterina Romanovna remained loyal to the empress, but did not hide her contempt for the tsarina’s favorites – and, in general, for the palace intrigues. She received permission to travel abroad – and left the country.

For 3 years, Dashkova managed to visit several European countries, strengthen her reputation in scientists and philosophical circles in European capitals, make friends with Diderot and Voltaire, learn her beloved son in Scotland and become a member (as well as the first woman!) Of the Philosophical Society of America.

Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova.  Unknown artist, 1790  Fragment of the picture
Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova. Unknown artist, 1790 Fragment of the picture

The Empress was impressed by the princess’s desire to place the Russian language at the top of the list of the greatest languages ​​of Europe and to raise its prestige, and after Dashkova’s return, in 1783, Catherine the Great issued a decree appointing Dashkova to the post of director of the capital’s Academy of Sciences.

In this post, the princess successfully worked until 1796, having received the status of the first woman in the world to manage the Academy of Sciences, and the chairman of the Imperial Russian Academy established in 1783 (by her!).

Video: Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova

Interesting facts about the life of Princess Dashkova

  • Dashkova organized public lectures for the first time.
  • During the time the princess was running the Academy of Sciences, a number of translations of the best works of Europe into Russian were created so that in Russian society they could get acquainted with them in their native language.
  • Thanks to Dashkova, a satirical magazine was created (with the participation of Derzhavin, Fonvizin, etc.) with the title “Interlocutor of lovers of the Russian word.”
    Fedorov Ivan Kuzmich.  Empress Catherine II at M.V.  Lomonosov
    Fedorov Ivan Kuzmich. Empress Catherine II at M.V. Lomonosov
  • Dashkova also gave impetus to the creation of the Academy’s memoirs, to the creation of the first Explanatory Dictionary, and so on.
  • It was the princess who introduced the letter E into the alphabet and worked a lot on collecting words for the dictionary for letters such as C, W and Sh.
  • Also, the princess was the author of poems in different languages, a translator, the author of academic articles and literary works (for example, the drama “Fabian’s Wedding” and the comedy “Toisekov …”).
  • Thanks to Dashkova’s memoirs, the world today knows about many rare facts of the life of the great empress, about the distant coup of 1762, about palace intrigues, etc.
  • Dashkova had a serious impact on raising the prestige of the Russian language in Europe, where it (like the entire Russian people) was considered extremely barbaric. However, the Russian noblemen, who preferred to communicate in French, considered him as such.
    Painting by artist A.D.  Kivshenko "Catherine II with Princess Dashkova and other nobles in Lomonosov
    Painting by artist A.D. Kivshenko “Catherine II with Princess Dashkova and other nobles in Lomonosov’s office in 1764”
  • Despite the “Duma” on the fate of serfs in Russia, Dashkova did not sign a single free one in her life.
  • The princess did not lose heart even in exile, actively engaged in gardening, housework and raising livestock. By the time she was called back to the post of director of the academy, Dashkova was no longer young and not too healthy. In addition, she did not want to fall into disgrace again.
  • The princess had three children: daughter Anastasia (a brawler and a waste of family funds, she was deprived of her inheritance), sons Pavel and Mikhail.

The princess died in 1810. She was buried in the temple of the Kaluga province, and traces of the tombstone were lost by the end of the 19th century.

Only in 1999, the princess’s tombstone was restored, like the church itself.

Marie Curie later became a revolutionary scientist in Russia, who gave a head start to male superiority in the world of science.

In memory of Dashkova: so that descendants do not forget

The memory of the princess is immortalized on the canvases of that era, as well as in modern films – and not only:

  • Dashkova is present in a fragment of the monument to the Empress. Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova at the monument to Catherine the Great
  • The princess’s estate has been preserved in the northern capital.
    The estate of E. R. Vorontsova-Dashkova "Kiryanovo"
    The estate of E.R. Vorontsova-Dashkova “Kiryanovo”
  • The village of Dashkovka is located in the Serpukhov district, and in Serpukhov itself there is a street named after Catherine.
  • The library in Protvino, a large crater on Venus, MGI and even a medal for service to education are also named after the princess.
  • In 1996, Russia issued a postage stamp in honor of the princess.
    Dashkova, Ekaterina Romanovna.  Brand, 1996
    Dashkova, Ekaterina Romanovna. Brand, 1996, Russia

It should also be noted the films in which the role of the princess was played by Russian actresses:

  1. Mikhailo Lomonosov (1986).
  2. The royal hunt (1990).
  3. Favorite (2005).
  4. Great (2015).

Where did the letter E come from: the history of the most solid letter of the Russian alphabet

For the first time they started talking about the letter E in 1783, when the associate of Catherine II, Princess Dashkova, suggested replacing the usual, but inconvenient “io” (for example, in the word “iolka”) with one letter “E”. This idea was fully supported by the cultural figures present at the meeting, and Gabriel Derzhavin was the first to use it (note – in correspondence).

The letter received official recognition a year later, and appeared in print in 1795 in Dmitriev’s book And My Trinkets.

But not everyone was delighted with her: Tsvetaeva continued to write the word “devil” through O on principle, and the Minister of Education Shishkov erased the hated dots in his books. “Ugly” Yo was even put at the end of the alphabet (today it is in 7th place).

However, even in our time, Yo is unfairly driven into the very corner of the keyboard, and in ordinary life is practically not used.

“Yo-mine”: the strange history of the letter Y in Russia

More than 100 years ago, in 1904, the Spelling Commission, consisting of the most respectable linguists of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, recognized the letter E as an optional, but still desirable letter (following the abolition of “yat”, etc.).

The spelling reformed in 1918 also included the letter Ё as recommended for use.

But the letter received officially documented recognition only in 1942 – after it was introduced in schools as mandatory for use.

Today, the use of Ё is regulated in the relevant documents, according to which, this letter is necessarily used in documents – mainly in proper names, and is also recommended for use in textbooks.

This letter can be found in more than 12,500 Russian words, not in one thousand geographical Russian names and surnames.

A few facts about the letter E, which not everyone knows about:

  • In honor of the letter E, a corresponding monument has been erected in Ulyanovsk.
    Monument to the letter Y in Ulyanovsk
    Monument to the letter Y in Ulyanovsk
  • In our country, there is a Union of efikators who are fighting for the rights of undeservedly de-energized words. It is thanks to them that all documents of the Duma have been approved from beginning to end.
  • The invention of Russian programmers is Yotator. This program places Y in the text automatically.
  • EPRight: Designed by our artists, this badge is used to mark certified publications.

Princess Dashkova spent most of her life in Petersburg and became a symbol and angel of the great city – just like Xenia of Petersburg, whose crazy love made her truly a saint.


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