I recently read an article about the 1918 reform in which yat was eliminated from the Russian alphabet, along with several other changes. (I really enjoy reading such tidbits of history. ) If I'm not mistaken, the rationale for the reform was that the pronunciation of yat was indistinguishable from e, which made it extremely difficult for Russians to learn to spell properly, since one had to painstakingly memorize where to write yat and where e in thousands of words. However, aren't most Russians in the same situation when it comes to unstressed a and o? If I understand correctly, in standard Russian pronunciation -- which is, as far as I know, followed in most places in this regard -- there is no difference whatsoever in pronouncing unstressed a and unstressed o. Doesn't this result in pretty much the same problem as with yat versus e? If yes, why wasn't this issue also handled by the reform, or at least made an object of equal controversy? If no, I'm curious what clues Russians use to figure out the spelling? I suppose that in words that have shifting stress, you can sometimes recognize the o because the stress may fall on it in some inflections, but as far as I know, that's not the case for most words.