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Center Party MEP Yana Toom reverts to Jana Toom

Yana, now Jana, Toom
Yana, now Jana, Toom Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

The Center Party's sole MEP has had the spelling convention of her first name changed back to her preferred transcription. The change was serendipitous, she says, and only became apparent on fetching a new ID card from the authorities.

Yana Toom, who has been an MEP for nearly a decade and is also a Center vice-chair, has now reverted to Jana Toom, the spelling which she says was on her birth certificate.

Writing on her social media account, Toom said the change was: "Apolitical, but nevertheless very important. By dint of some miracle, I have got back the spelling of my name that was on my birth certificate."

Toom said that on presenting at the Tammsaare Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) station in Tallinn, which issues ID cards and residency permits, her newly-issued card had the original spelling of her first name, at no extra charge.

Toom was thankful for the PPA staff, who she said were: "Excellent, and attentive … many thanks to them!"

The change also pleased her mother most of all, Toom said. "She, poor thing, has suffered all these years due to this 'Yana.'"

That she had come to be known as Yana in the first place related to the complexities of transliterating Russian names from the Cyrillic alphabet into the Roman alphabet.

While she was entitled to change the spelling on official documentation in Estonia, this would have cost money.

Toom held Russian citizenship and consequently a Russian passport, until 2006 (neither country allows for dual citizenship, in the case of naturalized citizens), and so upon obtaining Estonian citizenship, had to use Cyrillic-into-Roman alphabet spelling conventions, themselves perhaps unsurprisingly based on French, rather than English, rules.

In this case, her first name had to be spelled with a "Y" in the Roman alphabet, and so it was on official documentation, and consequently in her political career.

A change in legislation in Estonia meanwhile has allowed for reverting to a name as it is on a birth certificate, by exchanging documents.

Toom also said that the previous rendition of her first name had led to challenges when choosing typefaces for campaign materials and the like – as when view in some fonts, her first name could resemble "Vana" (ie. old).

Toom was born Jana Tšernogorova (Estonian spelling convention)* in Tallinn in 1966 and was in 2006 granted citizenship on the basis of merit, by the Andrus Ansip-led government and at the suggestion of Center co-founder Edgar Savisaar (1952-2022).

Citizenship by merit is bestowed in special cases and as a result of services to the Estonian state.

* ERR News uses Estonian spelling conventions for Russian-origin names when the individual in question is an Estonian citizen, resident and/or Estonian-based public figure, and English spelling conventions in all other case. For instance Mihhail Kõlvart (Tallinn mayor) versus Mikhail Gorbachev.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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