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“These markets are not so interesting”: How Slavic writing was killed in Bulgaria and why nothing came of it

In the state in which the Cyrillic alphabet was born, switching to the Latin alphabet is a crime

In the state in which the Cyrillic alphabet was born, switching to the Latin alphabet is a crime

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The persistent attempts of the Ukrainian “European integrators”, starting from the first Maidan, to transfer the country to the Latin alphabet, abandoning the Cyrillic alphabet as a step towards unity with the “civilized world”, known. Yushchenko was also going to sign a prepared decree providing for the romanization of Ukrainian writing in 2005 – 2015. It didn’t work out then. Two years ago, the current authorities of Kyiv already announced the need to translate the language into Latin. But something also went wrong. At the end of last year, a petition was registered on the website of the President of Ukraine demanding the transition of the Ukrainian alphabet to the Latin alphabet. However, the matter has so far stalled.

The manic desire of the Western nationalists currently ruling in Ukraine to “go Latin,” although wild, is quite consistent with their course towards total de-Russification. Apparently, due to educational restrictions and political prejudices, the Cyrillic alphabet is perceived by them exclusively as part of the “Russian world”, which they tirelessly eradicate. They probably don’t realize that the birthplace of our common written language is present-day Bulgaria. But it turns out that even there, at the beginning of the 2000s, there was talk of abandoning one’s own outstanding contribution to world culture for the sake of “globalization” and for the sake of… a break with Russia. Our history is little-known, but very relevant and instructive today.

Bulgarian journalist and historian Veliana Hristovaa direct participant in those heated debates, told at the request of KP how in the cradle of Slavic writing they tried to justify the need to abandon it.

In 2000, the Austrian Bulgarian and Slavic scholar Otto Kreunsteiner from the University of Salzburg suggested: since Bulgaria is now a free state and must communicate with the whole world, and the Cyrillic alphabet is “unintelligible” in other countries, it must be changed to the Latin alphabet – this is the only way it can fit into the political family of free countries. And in general, according to the Austrian, our alphabet is “the writing of the poor in spirit.”

After some time, the then president Petr Stoyanov in one of his speeches he said that we need to think about how to change the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet and even awarded the Austrian professor a Bulgarian order. But he met a decisive rebuff from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Its then-president gave the president a sharp rebuke, saying that in the state in which the Cyrillic alphabet was born, switching to the Latin alphabet is a crime. This “innovation” was also sharply criticized in the press. And then the Bulgarian professor Dmitry Dunkov called on all Bulgarians around the world to condemn Kronsteiner’s proposal. Everyone he approached signed a letter to the rector of the University of Salzburg explaining the enormity of Kronsteiner’s proposal. As a result, he was fired from the university. And in 2007, when Bulgaria became a member of the European Union, the Cyrillic alphabet was recognized as the European alphabet and this whole story ended.

In one of her publications, Veliana Hristova reproduces Kronsteiner’s “logic” when justifying his proposal, which he outlined in an interview with the Bulgarian publication Novinare in September 2000. It sounds, frankly, very relevant in our time:

– Mr. Kronshteiner, where, while studying medieval sources, did you discover that the Cyrillic alphabet is a communist script?

– We associate the Cyrillic alphabet with the communists, because there was a Soviet army in Austria and Germany. Because of the Cyrillic alphabet, Bulgaria is a very isolated country in Europe. If Bulgarian businessmen want to trade with Europe, they will have to switch to bilingualism.

– You know very well that writing is the basis of every culture. But would you advise the Greeks to change their writing?

– This is something else. In Europe, 200 million people write in Latin, and there are only 8 million of you.

– Does this mean that since the Asian market is the largest in the world, we will have to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with hieroglyphs?

– These markets are not so interesting compared to European and American…

– You made economic arguments, but what will our folklore look like translated into English and Latin?

“We need to think about the future, and not always look to the past.”

It is very significant, adds Veliana Hristova, that Himmler gave approximately the same argument in one of his conversations with the Bulgarian Tsar, when Germany and Bulgaria were allies in World War II. The German believed that the Bulgarians should change their Slavic alphabet to reduce Russian influence. The king explained to him that in fact the Serbs and Russians borrowed the alphabet from the Bulgarians.

So the Nazis were the instigators of the fight against the Cyrillic alphabet. And later their hatred of Slavic writing also overwhelmed some Anglo-Saxons. I remember, while still at university, I once came across the author’s revelations in an article from the British humor magazine Punch, reprinted in the Soviet magazine Abroad: “Walking through the miasma of the Cyrillic alphabet…” It must be understood that he was joking like that. English humor.

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