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In the case of English, "she" was used much less than "he", and it still hasn't caught up. In Russian, it looks as if the translation of "he" almost didn't exist, until around 1915. What happened?

  • 10
    Russian orthography reform happened.
    – shabunc
    Dec 1, 2016 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


Actually, the year is not "around 1915", but the beginning of 1918 when the orthography reform began. Before 1918 "он" was written as "онъ", and naturally before 1918 "он" was not used. Have a look: enter image description here

After 1918, Ъ at the end of words after "hard" consonants was used mainly by emigrants in their printed publications. All the instances of "он" used before 1918 that Ngram Viewer shows in its graphs are actually mistakes of the Google Books OCR.

  • 5
    I think graph with all three pronouns is more informative. goo.gl/4GJYkA
    – Alissa
    Dec 2, 2016 at 12:19
  • 4
    Also note that Google Ngram Viewer uses a 3-year smoothing window by default, which partly explains why the OP's graph seems to start climbing up around year 1915 = 1918 - 3. Switching to 1-year smoothing, or no smoothing at all, shows the sharpness of the change much more clearly. Dec 2, 2016 at 13:23
  • @Alissa - I updated the answer as you suggested, thank you.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 2, 2016 at 17:06
  • @IlmariKaronen - A good point! I absolutely agree with you.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 2, 2016 at 17:49
  • Actually, ъ was after all consonants: плащъ, врачъ.
    – user31264
    Dec 4, 2016 at 2:32

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