Russian Alphabet

The Russian alphabet (Russian: русский алфавит, tr. russkiy alfavit) uses letters adopted from the Cyrillic script to write the Russian language. The modern Russian alphabet includes 33 letters.

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More about Russian Alphabet

Russian Alphabet

Background information

The Russian alphabet (Russian: русский алфавит, tr. russkiy alfavit) uses letters adopted from the Cyrillic script to write the Russian language. The modern Russian alphabet includes 33 letters.

The Cyrillic script (/sɪˈrɪlɪk/) represents a writing method used for various languages across Eurasia. It is used as the national script in various Turkic, Slavic, and Iranic-speaking countries in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Northern Asia.

Overview

In the 9th century AD, the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I the Great, following the political and cultural course of his father Boris I, ordered a new script, the Early Cyrillic alphabet, to be made at the Preslav Literary School during the First Bulgarian Empire. The new alphabet would replace the Glagolitic script, produced earlier by Saints Methodius and Cyril and the same disciples that established the original Slavic text in Bulgaria. The usage of the Cyrillic script in Bulgaria became official in 893.

The new script

The new script became the basis of alphabets used in many different languages, especially those of Orthodox non-Slavic origin, and Slavic languages influenced by Russian. For centuries Cyrillic was used by Muslim Slavs, and Catholic too (see Bosnian Cyrillic). As of 2019, approximately 250 million people in Eurasia use it as the official alphabet for their national languages, with Russia accounting for about half of them. With the addition of Bulgaria to the European Union in 2007, Cyrillic became the third official script of the European Union, following Greek and Latin.

Cyrillic is descended from the Greek uncial script, augmented by letters from the older Glagolitic alphabet, including some ligatures. These additional letters were used for Old Church Slavonic sounds not existent in Greek. The script is named in recognition of the two Byzantine brothers, Saints Methodius and Cyril, who created the Glagolitic alphabet earlier on. Some of the modern scholars believe that Cyrillic was developed and formalized by the early disciples of Methodius and Cyril, particularly by Clement of Ohrid.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great significantly reformed the Cyrillic script used in Russia in the early 18th century, after returning from his Grand Embassy in Western Europe. The new letterforms, named as the Civil script, became closer to those of the Latin alphabet; several archaic letters were removed, and Peter himself even designed several letters. Letters became distinguished between lower and upper case. Typography culture in West Europe was also adopted. The pre-reform forms of letters referred to as 'Полуустав' were kept for use in Church Slavonic and are sometimes used in Russian even today, especially if someone wants to give text 'archaic' or 'Slavic' feel.

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