Teach yourself to read Russian in 33 minutes

Preface | Before you go on | Origin of Russian Alphabet | Introduction | Table | Comments | Conclusion | Exercises

Origins of the Russian Alphabet

Some people erroneously associate "strange" Russian alphabet with "mysterious Russian soul" however, it is not so: Probably Russian soul is really mysterious (although I found nothing strange about myself, for example), but Russian alphabet is not originally Russian:

  1. Initially it was Old Bulgarian (Slavonic) alphabet later accepted in Russia 1) . It is called the Cyrillic script (Kirillitsa)
  2. There is nothing strange about it, it was directly derived from Greek alphabet (see the Table).

It is not so simple with alphabet of the Slavic languages. 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), that is "the signs which spoke".  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06575b.htm

Glagolitsa Kirillitsa St. Cyril and Methodius



St. Cyril and Methodius

It is believed that St. St. Cyril and Methodius invented this alphabet. It was common among western Slavs and was displaced by Latin when that people were converted into Roman Rite.

 The development of Cyrillic is ascribed either to St. Clement of Ohrid or to St. Cyril who transformed Glagolitic into Cyrillic by using Greek letters and invention 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.

 I suspect that Greek letters were spontaneously used for representation of local languages well before the liturgical books were written in Cyrillic. It is naturally to assume this because of big influence of Greek Church and culture in general, and use of Greek in international trade in Eastern Europe (from Baltic to Mediterranean Sea).

1) Every year on May 24 Bulgarians celebrate the deeds of St. St. Cyril and Methodius and their disciples, the Slav script, and the Bulgarian culture.

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