When will Bulgaria will get rid of the Russian alphabet and adopt Latin script? This question has been asked many times by foreigners visiting Bulgaria, in particular Western visitors.
The short answer is – never.
The long answer is that what may appear to foreign visitors as “Russian alphabet”, is the Cyrillic alphabet the First Bulgarian empire commissioned and introduced in the 9th century AD. Bulgarians are proud to use the Cyrillic alphabet, because it’s the biggest geopolitical project of the then powerful Bulgarian kingdom. It allowed spreading Bulgarian influence across the Slavic world, mostly through the religious writings. It was Russians who took the alphabet from the Bulgarians, not the other way round.
By the way, in the former USSR it was not politically correct to admit that the Russian alphabet came from Bulgaria.
Initially, the project of a Slavic alphabet was commissioned by the Byzantine Emperor, with the aim of preventing the expansion of Judaism and Islam. Instead, it aimed at evangelizing the Slavic world, up to where is today the Czech Republic.
So the two brothers, born in Thessaloniki, created the Glagolitic and then the Cyrillic alphabets with the aim to have the Bible and other texts translated into Slavic languages. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian king Boris I saw the adoption of the old Slavonic language as a way to preserve his country from Byzantine influence. He created schools where thousands of disciples were taught in the Slavonic language and the new alphabet. The reign of Boris I from 852 to 889 was also marked by the Christianisation of Bulgarians.
But what is called Slavonic language was in fact Bulgarian, now called Old Bulgarian, but still understandable for Bulgarians. If one goes to Moscow and attends a church service, the language they speak is not Russian – it’s old Slavonic, which is in fact old Bulgarian.
And 24 May is a national holiday in Bulgaria, unique in its kind. Bulgarians celebrate “the day of the letters”, dedicated to Cyril and Methodius. 24 May 2018 will be special, because it will be under Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Several European countries have used Cyrillic in the past – not only the Slavic family, but also Romania. Accession countries Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro continue to use it. In the EU’s neighbourhood, Belarus and Ukraine are Slavic nations using Cyrillic. The former USSR brought Cyrillic to a number of non-Slavic nations.
Bulgaria brought the Cyrillic script also to the euro notes. Although the country is not yet a member of the Eurozone, the Cyrillic script appeared for the first time on Euro notes in January 2013.