As someone put it, Rememeber: you are unique. Just like everyone else. Thanks to globalization, we realize that we are different and unique.
We are becoming more self-conscious, more sensitive to multiple self-identities. Apparently, this is why the tendency to transcribe proper names — write a name in the way locals pronounce it — has won over former ways of translation.
Today, when I open The National Geographic Atlas of the World or other maps, I more often than not find there Napoli instead of Naples, Praha instead of Prague, Roma instead of Rome, and even Schweiz instead of Switzerland.
On some maps, we can see transcribed names of Russian cities accompanied by less correct but more traditional ones put in brackets: Moskva (Moscow) and Sankt-Peterburg (Saint-Petersburg).
Yekaterinburg, known as Sverdlovsk during the Soviet era, used to be a closed for foreigners city. I, for one, saw my first foreigner when I was 19. Truth be told, we had very few professional translators and no translation schools in the city. So, when the city got its historical name back, we did not know how to write its name in English.
People would just flip a coin to make the decision, literally. Some chose Ekaterinburg (like those working in the UK Consulate General). Others preferred Yekaterinburg (those working in the US Consulate General). Still others insisted on Catherinburg or Katherinburg because the city was named after Peter the Great’s wife Yekaterina known in English as Catherine the Great, but they did not get much support, anyway.
Today, the myth that Ekaterinburg is "British English," while Yekaterinburg is "American English" is still with us.
The Russian letters я (ya), ю (yu), ё (yo), and е (ye), consist of two sounds. To compare, the English letters g and j are pronounced as two sounds together in the words gin, gene, job, jeans and others, while we use two letters sh and th to reproduce one sound in the words like ship and that. A poser to you: how many sounds can you count in Shakespeare?
We use the English letters ya to write Yaoundé and Yaroslavl, yu for Yukon and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, yo for Yorkshire and Yoshkar-Ola, and ye for Yemen and Yerevan. Russian proper names registered by English-English dictionaries — Yeltsin, Yesenin, Yenisei, Yevtushenko and others — indicate clearly that the only way to write our city in English is Yekaterinburg.
On top of it, Russians themselves pronounce the name of the city Ye-ka-te-rin-`boork. So, why is Ekaterinburg so sticky, then? I’m assuming this is because we associate the initial e with something new and technologically advanced, as in e-mail or e-bay.
Citizens of the world, while a linguistic feud is under way, enjoy the site, the city, and the Ural region! It is a good place to be. Come here and you will see for yourselves!