24 May – Slavic Alphabet & Culture Day

For nearly a thousand years the Cyrillic alphabet has been one of the few officially recognized languages along with Hebrew, Greek and Latin for spreading Christianity among the peoples of Europe. Now, with Bulgaria’s accession into the European Union on January 1 2007, Bulgarian has become an official language of the European Union (EU). Bulgarians are the only EU citizens who write in Cyrillic.

Bulgarians honor the 24th of May as the day of Day of Slavic Alphabet and Culture. The day may also be called “Sts. Cyril & Methodius Day”, “Day of Culture and Literacy” or “Alphabet Day”. All over the country schools are decorated with flowers and portraits of the brothers St. Cyril and St. Methodius in gratitude for the treasure of letters so suitable for the pronunciation of the Bulgarian language.

The occasion is closely related to the lives and deeds of the two missionary brothers, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who developed the first Bulgarian alphabet (Glagolic) to accurately reflect the sounds of the Bulgarian language. Millions of people read and write using this alphabet; not only in Bulgaria, but also in Russia, Serbia, Macedonia and even Mongolia. Introduced at about the year 866 A.D., the new letters were destined to assist in unifying the young Bulgarian nation and thus lay the grounds of Bulgarian literature, education and culture, as celebrated today.

Many documents show that between 972 and 999 there was a “Bulgarian bishopric” in Krakow that converted thousands of Pagan Slavs. Undoubtedly the greatest success of Bulgarians lies in the vast expanses of Russia. The “battle for Russia” lasted for almost three centuries – officially Russia adopted Christianity in 988, 123 years later than Bulgaria. Legend tells that the official adoption of Christianity came after the ordinance of the wife of the Russian prince, Olga, a princess from the Bulgarian court. The spread of Christianity and Slavic literature in Russia is of particular importance for preserving the Slavic writing and learning.

An interesting fact from this time is the “mutual help” of Bulgarians and Russians in saving the Slavic literary treasure in difficult moments. Between 12th and 14th c. Russia was overrun and dominated by the Tartars, most spiritual centers were destroyed in flames. At this very moment Bulgaria was at the top of its political might. Bulgaria not only stopped the Tartar march to Europe but also soon after the battle of Kulikov in 1387 it poured into Russia rich literary treasures out of the Bulgarian libraries.