May 24, 2012
24 May is a holiday in Bulgaria. My compatriots celebrate “the day of the letters” – the invention in the 9th century by the brothers Cyril and Methodius of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Bulgarians are proud to use the Cyrillic alphabet, because it’s the biggest geopolitical project of the then powerful Bulgarian kingdom. It allowed spreading Bulgarian influence across the Slavic world, mostly trough the religious writings.
Initially, the project was commissioned by the Byzantine Emperor, with the aim of preventing the expansion of Judaism and Islam. Instead, it aimed at evangelizing the Slavic world, up to where is today the Czech Republic.
So the two brothers, born in Thessaloniki, created the Glagolitic and then the Cyrillic alphabets with the aim to have the Bible and other texts translated into Slavic languages. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian king Boris I saw the adoption of the old Slavonic language as a way to preserve his country from Byzantine influence. He created schools where thousands of disciples were taught in the Slavonic language and the new alphabet.
But what is called Slavonic language was in fact Bulgarian, now called Old Bulgarian, but still understandable for my compatriots. If you go to Moscow and attend a church service, the language they speak is not Russian – it’s old Slavonic, which is in fact Bulgarian.
Strangely enough, foreigners often think that the Bulgarians took their alphabet from the Russians. Not only it’s the other way around, but the Russians speak Bulgarian in church!
After the fall of the Berlin wall, some Western politicians even advised Bulgaria to adopt the Latin alphabet, as a gesture of taking distance from its former big ally.
No way – but this only illustrates how little we knew about each other until recently.
When Bulgaria will join the eurozone (I am still optimistic about the euro), the Cyrillic „евро” should be added on the euro notes. Let’s hope that the Greek ευρώ will not disappear…