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.
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.
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.