In transliterating Russian names, the question arises what to do about Cyrillic ж, IPA ʒ, the voiced palatoalveolar fricative. The usual convention is to write it zh.
Today’s Guardian carries a full page devoted to the abrupt sacking of the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov (Юрий Лужков). The feature comprises three articles by three named authors. And whereas Luke Harding and Simon Tisdall consistently spell his name correctly as Luzhkov, David Hearst spells it correctly twice, but incorrectly, ‘Luzkhov’, four times. Let’s hope this is just due to his inaccurate typing. It would be too depressing to think that Hearst, who spent several years in Moscow as the paper’s foreign correspondent there, is not sure how the name is written in Cyrillic and thus how it should be spelt in English.
(Phonetic footnote: since Russian assimilates voicing in consonant clusters, Luzhkov is actually pronounced luʃˈkɔf. So it would be phonetically accurate to write it as Lushkov or indeed Lushkof. The usual Luzhkov is not a transcription but a transliteration.)
How familiar is this zh convention to a general readership? We all know about Dr Zhivago, or at least all of us who are over a certain age. (Pasternak’s novel was published in 1957, and David Lean’s film of it came out in 1965.) Some will have heard of General Zhukov or other figures from Russian history whose name includes this sound/digraph. But there don’t appear to be any familiar Russian placenames that include it [PS: but see comment below!], nor any Ukrainian, Bulgarian, or Serbian names.
The logic behind the use of zh for this sound is transparent. As the letter s stands for the sound s and the digraph sh for the sound ʃ, so given that the letter z stands for the sound z the digraph zh must stand for the sound ʒ.
Respelling systems deployed to show pronunciation in some monoglot English dictionaries (notably those published in the USA) represent ʒ as zh pretty much without exception. So one can say that writing zh is a well-established convention, despite the claim in Wikipedia that it is ‘ad hoc’.
The only European language that uses zh for ʒ (or for anything else) in standard orthography appears to be Albanian — not a language often learned by outsiders. I can’t think of any non-European languages that use it, either.
But this digraph is indeed used in the Chinese romanization known generally as (Hanyu) Pinyin. So we are all becoming familiar with names such as Zhang, Zhou and Zhu. But here zh stands for a different sound! The corresponding sound in Mandarin is not ʒ but an affricate dʐ, or more precisely unaspirated tʂ. I notice that sports commentators who know very little about foreign languages often pronounce it z in the names of Chinese competitors. Those who are somewhat more sophisticated say ʒ. Only those who have bothered to find out the facts say dʒ, which is the closest English equivalent.