Book Exhibition Dedicated to the Day of the Cyrillic Alphabet

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Every year on 24 May many countries in Eastern Europe and Northern/Central Asia celebrate the day of the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet is used by more than 250 million people across 50 languages and is the 6th most popular writing script on the planet.

The creation of the Cyrillic alphabet is related to the life and work of Saints Cyril and Methodius – Byzantine missionaries among the Slav nations (9th century). Around the year 855, they created the so-called Glagolitic script, which was initially spread among the Czech and Slovak people (in the kingdom of Great Moravia). But towards the end of the Middle Ages, it remained in use only among certain Croat communities in the Adriatic. Later in the 10th century, the contemporary Cyrillic script was developed by the disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius in the territories of the Medieval Bulgarian Kingdom. There they found refuge following the beginning of persecutions in Central Europe. Later on, the liturgical and theological texts translated by them from Byzantine Greek into Church Slavonic in the medieval Bulgarian capitals of Pliska and Preslav became well accepted among the other Slav groups – namely the Kievan Rus’ after its Christianization (988) and in the Serbian lands. This Byzantine-Slavic cultural heritage has exerted a considerable influence on the development of many Eastern European nations to this day. The Cyrillic script is composed of 30 to 30 letters according to the language.

Due to the common origin from the Phoenician script through the Greek one, there are many resemblances between the Latin and the Cyrillic letters. For example, in Cyrillic the Latin “P” is pronounced as [R], the Latin “B” is pronounced as [V] or the Latin “H” is pronounced as [N]. Some of the letters are pronounced in the same way both in Latin and in Cyrillic such as “A”, “T” and “K”. Serval letters are unique for the Cyrillic like “Я” [ya], “Ю” [iu], and “Щ” [sht]. Some of the rare sounds are “Ъ”, which is pronounced between [a] and [u] as well as “Й”, which is pronounced as short [i].

Since the Bulgarian accession to the EU in 2007, the Cyrillic has been the third official alphabet of the European Union alongside the Latin and the Greek alphabets. Furthermore, Bulgaria is the only EUI’s contracting state, that officially uses this writing system. In 2018, the Cyrillic letters were depicted on the logo of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The Cyrillic is one of the three scripts used on the euro banknotes: “EBPO”, which is pronounced [evro].

This year the EUI Library is also organizing a Book Exhibition dedicated to the day of the Cyrillic alphabet (24 May).

Moreover, on 24 May at 20.00 in Emeroteca, Badia Fiesolana, there will be a movie screening of the documentary film “The Path of Light” by Ivan Radev and Anna-Maria Totomanova. It narrates the history of the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet by Saints Cyril and Methodius and its subsequent spread in the Bulgarian lands and later to the rest of the South and East Slavic countries. The event will be organized with the logistical support of the EUI Cineclub.

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