Historic Role of the Russian Language

by Nikolai V. Shokhirev

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Native Slavonic alphabets

The ancient Slavonic when reduced to writing seems to have been originally written with a kind of runic letters, which, when formed into a regular alphabet, were called the Glagolitic (Glagolitsa, Glagolica), that is "the signs which spoke".  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06575b.htm

Glagolitsa (Glagolic)

Kirillitsa (Cyrillic)

It is believed that St.Cyril and St. Methodius invented this alphabet to translate the bible and other religious works. 

Sometime during the 10th century AD a new alphabet appeared which was known as Cyrillic. The development of Cyrillic is ascribed either to St. Clement of Ohrid, a missionary in Bulgaria, or to St. Cyril who transformed Glagolitic into Cyrillic by using Greek letters and inventing of some extra letters for specific sounds (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06575b.htm ). There is also a tradition to ascribe to St. Cyril the invention of both alphabets.



Glagolitsa seems to be the earliest Slavonic alphabet. It was common among western Slavs (from Macedonia and Slovenia to Czech Kingdom). Glagolitsa characters have their own deep structure and symbolism. Some think that in a big part of Glagolitsa prints are engraved some ancient codes of older alphabet (http://www.tajnatakniga.com.mk/UK-Intro.html ).  

This alphabet was displaced by the Latin alphabet when those peoples converted to Roman Rite. The original Latin alphabet did not fit those languages and their alphabets were extended with modified letters,

or combinations of letters.

Now the Glagolitic alphabet is dead.



The Cyrillic alphabet was used to write the Old Church Slavonic language (based on a Slavonic dialect of the Thessalonika area) and was later adapted to write many other Slavonic languages.
Greek-based Kirillitsa survived in Orthodox Christian countries. Kirillitsa expanded to Kiev Russia (Kievan Rus′, modern Ukraine) and later further to the North and East (modern Belarus and  Russia).

Russian variant of the Cyrillic alphabet achieved its current form in 1708 during the reign of Peter the Great. Four letters were eliminated from the alphabet in a 1917/18 reform


Languages written with the Cyrillic alphabet

The Cyrillic alphabet has been adapted to write over 50 different languages, mainly in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

( http://www.omniglot.com/writing/cyrillic.htm  )


Disappearance of the Cyrillic alphabet

The table above illustrates great expansion of the Cyrillic alphabet in the 20th century. This expansion is delusive to a certain extent. Some languages are artificial (Lingua Franca Nova, Slovio) and never became popular. The other languages used Cyrillic because of political reasons and already switched to more traditional alphabets (Mongolian, Moldavian). In several Muslim countries the use of Arabic alphabet is discussed. 

Many of the above languages belong to very small ethnic groups. These languages can disappear with the assimilation of those peoples. This danger increased since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Socialist Block. This is because in the new independent countries the nationalist movements are usually very strong and intolerance toward the minorities increases.

On the other hand, more ethnic groups seek independence. Very often such groups are supported from outside. This leads to political instability and wars. This again increases intolerance.

One can extrapolate the current trends and draw the following picture. 


Future scenarios 

(Social fiction)

Serbia will fight local Islamic fundamentalists from various liberation movements and will be occupied by NATO. To speak Serbian and use Cyrillic will be declared as the crime against humanity.

NATO will adopt the doctrine of Preemptive Ethnic Improvement and as a precaution will ban using Cyrillic alphabets in Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

Bulgaria, as a NATO country, will switch to Latin alphabet for the military compatibility. May 24th will no longer be relevant.

Ukraine will join NATO and using Bulgaria as an example, will request money for the language reform. The initial request will not be enough and they will request again *). American taxpayers will pay for all this. 

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko will succeed in the unification with Russia and will declare Belarusian as a Russian dialect. The Belarusian alphabet will automatically become Russian.

Many independent countries in Central Asia and autonomic republics of Russian Federation will switch to the Arabic alphabet and even ancient Altai Runic Scripts. 

The others, seeking the membership in NATO and American money will choose the Latin alphabet **).


Historic role of Russian language

In the future world of instability the Russian language will remain strong. It will protect and preserve the Cyrillic alphabet. 

There are several objective reasons for this:



History teaches us two important lessons:

  1. Nobody learns history lessons.
  2. All forecasts based on history fail (this statement is partly the consequence of the first one).

Therefore, please do not take the above analysis literally. However the problem is worth thinking about.  


*) this is similar to what happened with Ukraine's nuclear disarmament.

**) probably Kalmyk alphabet will include "a" to "h" for easy description of a chess game (the favorite game of their president Kirsan Ilyumzhinvov).

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