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Is Serbian Written in Cyrillic or Latin Script?

  • whl.travel
  • 2 September 2009

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Cyrillic letters are the basis of the oldest official written language of the Serbian people, who are part of the Southern Slavs and came to the Balkans during the 7th century. Their first known alphabet was Glagoljica, but after Saints Cyril and Methodius and their students invented new letters in the 10th century based on the Greek alphabet, Cyrillic was made official in Serbia.

Street signs in Serbia are usually written in both azbuka (Serbian Cyrillic) and latinica (Latin script)

In the early days, only religious and scientific books were written in Cyrillic, since priests living in monasteries and the people of the royal courts were the only highly educated people. But Vuk Stefanović Karadžić changed everything in the early 19th century when he reformed the alphabet by creating Serbian Cyrilic. More and more people began to read and write. Karadžić’s contribution was to assign every sound to its own letter, something unique in Cyrillic to the Serbian people. That why the 30-letter Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, also known as azbuka, is so important to the Serbian people.

Then, during the 19th century, strong influences from the West prompted the appearance of Abeceda, also called latinica (also see here), which is a modified Latin alphabet of 30 letters.

A page from the Miroslav Gospels, a 362-page illuminated manuscript - the most important andone of the oldest documents written in Serbian Cyrillic

Basically, today, all Serbs use two types of letters: azbuka or latinica. People can freely decide what letters to use, but during the last few of years – since the widespread use of computers and the Internet – almost everyone uses latinica.

Official documents (government files and documents), however, are still written in Cyrillic, as are old newspapers like Politika. Sometimes Cyrillic is used for filling in a document for ID or a passport, or, for example, when writing one’s final bachelors thesis. There is even a small percentage of the population, mostly of an older generation, that didn’t learn latinica in school. For them, Cyrillic is obviously much easier to read and write. Today, while in some places, like northern Vojvodina, multiethnic groups focus mostly on latinica, almost all Serbians know both azbuka and latinica.

But that’s not all! During most Serbs’ early education, they learn Latin alphabet and English language as well. Thanks in part to the Internet, Serbs are now able to turn their linguistic strengths to communicating with the world about their culture, nature, history and mix of modern and traditional ways of life.

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2 Responses to “Is Serbian Written in Cyrillic or Latin Script?”

  1. Milan says:

    Nice article,
    I prefer latin as its alphabets can be read by almost all people around the world, unlike cyrillic which seems very old to us and is only known by post-soviet union countries + bulgaira and macedonia.
    latin is more modern and prefered by most serbs.

  2. Seoski Turizam says:

    Great article,
    I prefer Cyrillic , but sometimes is very hard to develop webisite in Cyrillic .
    I currently working on one and have some problems. Specially with search.
    Thanks
    Ned

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