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Cyrillic Alphabet

This is one of the two ancient Slavic types of writing, which were invented, according to manuscripts, by St. Cyril, a Byzantine missionary who intended to convert Slavs into Christianity and decided to transcript the Bible into Slavic. Modern scientific research shows that Cyrillic was invented later than the second alphabet, Glagolitic, but still in the second half of the 9th century. The source for the Cyrillic alphabet, which was formed in Bulgaria, is the Greek uncial alphabet. The letter composition of the original Cyrillic script fitted the old form of the Bulgarian language.

Many symbols of the alphabet were added in vain, for there were no sounds for them in Slavic; such letters are w, q, s, i and some others, later extinct. The Old Church Slavic language, the first which used Cyrillic, also introduced many diacritics to it: stress markers, aspiration markers etc., though there were no aspiration at all in Slavic. Besides, many signs for nasal vowels were invented for Slavic languages.

In the 10th and 11th centuries Cyrillic was in wide use in all countries populated by those Slavs who accepted Christianity - Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Moravia. After 988, when Kiev Russia also took up Christianity, Cyrillic becomes the first Russian alphabet. The oldest texts and inscriptions in Cyrillic date from the 10th century (Bulgaria), from the 11st century (Russia), and from the 12th century (Bosnia and Serbia). Gradually the number of letters, the shape of them and sometimes the pronunciation changed a little, together with changes in languages. The only language which preserves Cyrillic in its initial form is Old Church Slavic, the language for Orthodox cults in several East European countries. The weakening influence of the Byzantine Empire gave way to Roman letters to replace Cyrillic in Europe: since the 16th century Czech and Polish kingdoms and the Lithuanian principality take up the Roman alphabet, in the 17th century the same happens in Romania. But in temples of those countries Cyrillic was used for two more centuries.

Nowadays Cyrillic is used in Russia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Belorussia, Ukraine. Many alphabets of Asiatic nations are also based on Cyrillic, for it is much easier to learn than Arabic or Chinese. Therefore Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, and Mongolia write in Cyrillic letters; earlier it was also in use in Azerbaijan, Tadjikistan and Turkmenistan.

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