May 24th, what’s so special about it? Well, maybe for some of us it’s just a normal day but for some us this is a day of great importance. Many of you are not aware but….
24th of May in a lot of Slavic countries is celebrated as the day of the Saints Cyril and Methodius, the day of the Slavonic Enlightenment, Education, Culture and Slavonic Literature.
Not many people actually know about the great work of the Saints and why are they so special for all the Slavic nations.
Saints Cyril and Methodius (826–869AD, 815–885AD) were two brothers who were Byzantine Christian theologians and Christian missionaries. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title “Apostles to the Slavs”.
In 863AD the brothers were sent by the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to Great Moravia to spread Christianity among the West Slavs in the area. They decided to translate liturgical books (the Bible and other Ancient Greek ecclesiastical texts) into the Old Church Slavic language that was understandable to the general population. But as the words of that language could not be easily written by using either the Greek or Latin alphabets, Cyril (Constantin-Cyril the Philosopher) decided to invent a new script, Glagolitic, which he based on the local dialect of the Slavic tribes from the Byzantine Salonika region. And that is how the Glagolitic alphabet became the first alphabet used to transcribe Old Church Slavonic and the odlest known Slavic alphabet.
After their deaths, their pupils continued their missionary work among other Slavs.
The early Cyrillic alphabet was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the late 9th century. It was developed and later finalized and spread by disciples Climent and Naum in the Ohrid and Preslav schools of Tsar Boris’ Bulgaria as a simplification of the Glagolitic alphabet which more closely resembled the Greek alphabet.
The two pupils of the Saint Brothers were also canonized in the Orthodox Church. Nowadays they are known as St. Climent of Ohrid and St. Naum (St. Naum of Preslav or St. Naum of Ohrid). Both the students are associated with being the founders of the two major cultural centres of the First Bulgarian Empire – the Preslav Literary School (St. Naum) and the Ohrid Literary School (St. Climent).
The modern Cyrillic script is still used primarily for Slavic languages, and for East European and Asian languages that were under Russian cultural influence during the 20th century.
The Slavic languages are divided intro three subgroups: East, West, and South, which together constitute more than twenty languages. Of these, ten have at least one million speakers and official status as the national languages of the countries in which they are predominantly spoken: Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian (of the East group), Polish, Czech and Slovak (of the West group) and Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian and Bulgarian (of the South group).
The number of speakers of all Slavic languages together is estimated to be 315 million.
Sometimes major events of the past are forgotten and neglected, but we have to keep them alive because they make our culture rich.