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Where did the Cyrillic Alphabet Come From?

March 12, 2024
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Because of the war in Ukraine, you've probably seen a lot more of the Cyrillic script lately. Both Russian and Ukrainian use this alphabet along with about 50 other languages. But how did the Cyrillic alphabet come to be?

In 862 A.D. Prince Rastovslov of Great Moravia sent a request to the eastern Roman Emperor Michael III to send missionaries to evangelize his Slavic subjects. Michael III chose two brothers who were each prominent scholars and theologians, Cyril and Methodius. In order to translate the Bible and other important liturgical texts into Old Church Slavonic, which is our modern-day name for the language that most Slavs spoke at the time, they had to come up with an entirely new alphabet. It's called the Glagolitic script. (In the video above, there's page of the Gospel of Luke written in the script after Cyril and Methodius died.)

Cyril's students in the first Bulgarian Empire combined the Greek and Latin alphabets, and this new alphabet was named after Saint Cyril himself: The Cyrillic script.The oldest Cyrillic inscription we have comes from this cave monastery in Bulgaria in 921 A.D. Over time, various languages modified the alphabet, and today, more than 250 million people use the Cyrillic alphabet to some degree, all thanks to the efforts of S.t Cyril and St. Methodius.

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