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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gender-Bending 'Yevro' Gets Lukewarm Greeting

Russians hoarding billions of cash dollars Tuesday gave a slightly mystified welcome to the greenback's mighty new competitor, the euro. Linguists and journalists alike scratched their heads over how to fit the yevro into their language while ordinary Russians pondered the possibilities of the new currency.

"What should a real Russian do with his dollars?" the official newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta asked, warning that the "only free cheese is in a mousetrap."

It said readers should beware of promises of easy riches in schemes linked to the new currency and not to hurry to switch savings into euro bank accounts, but it conceded that lovers of cash could not do much with the new currency until 2001.

Which is just as well because is still hard to talk about the yevro in Russian.

One television commentator said it was unclear which end of the word the stress should be on while linguists have not agreed whether the sexy new currency has any sex at all.

"It has no gender," said a spokesman for the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, when asked which of Russian's three genders - masculine, feminine or neuter - the euro was.

The general consensus among European Union languages like German and French is that the euro is a boy - it is "der euro" and "un euro" but in its Russian incarnation the "yevro" looks like a neuter word because it ends in "o".

Baffled local media seem to have decided it is definitely not neuter but swing both ways on the other two genders.

"For now the best thing is to avoid using gender," advised Vladimir Slavkin, a senior lecturer in Russian languageat the prestigious Moscow State University.

Russians keep most of their savings, an estimated $30 billion to $50 billion, at home. That is the largest stash of greenbacks outside the United States.

Life in Russia could change with the advent of the euro, launched Friday by 11 European countries. Much foreign trade and foreign borrowing is now calculated in dollars.

Russia's financial elite was undaunted, with the world's largest natural gas company Gazprom saying it was ready to switch its European accounts into the currency.

The Russian Central Bank has also begun quoting a ruble-euro rate although a date for foreign exchange trade in the new currency has not been set yet.

Cautious euro support came from an unexpected sector, the communist daily Sovietskaya Rossia.

It optimistically forecast that European imports could become 30 percent to 40 percent cheaper due to increased competition among suppliers and easier accounting.

But the newspaper, which darkly warned it was no coincidence Europe agreed to unify its monetary system within days of the breakup of the Soviet Union, in December 1991, said Russians had rung in the new year with no thoughts of dollars or euros.

"Russians this New Year experienced nostalgia not for the dollar, but for the Soviet past," it said.