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The script was coined out by two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, with the purpose to introduce Christ to Slavonic nations who had no alphabet. Today the Cyrillic Alphabet is used by roughly 300 million people round the world.
Cyril and Methodius were born in the town of Thessalonica in the 9th century. Their father was a Christian Byzantine Greek and their mother was of Slavonic origin.
In 860, the two brothers travelled as missionaries to spread the Christian faith among Southern Slavic nations, including Bulgaria, Great Moravia, and Pannonia.
In order to translate Biblical texts and Church literature into Slavonic language, they devised a new alphabet, known originally as “Glagolic”. Later, their work was edited and adapted, and was renamed “Cyrillic” in memory of Cyril.
The alphabet was adopted in Bulgaria in 865 AD. In that same year the nation accepted Christian faith as official religion. The reform was introduced by Knyaz (Prince) Boris I (r. 852-889 AD), and was completed by his son Tsar (King) Simeon the Great (r. 893-927 AD), two of the most renowned Bulgarian monarchs.
More than a century later, Russia also adopted Christian faith as official state religion under Knyaz Vladimir I the Great. At that time, the capital of Russia is Kiev. Vladimir I was monarch of Kievan Rus in 980-1015 AD. Alongside with Christianity, Vladimir I also introduced Cyrillic as Russia’s official alphabet.
Today, Cyril and Methodius are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as saints. They are called “equal-to-apostles”. In 1880, Pope Leo XIII introduced their names into the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared Cyril and Methodius as patron saints of Europe.
With Bulgaria joining the EU in January 2007, the Cyrillic Alphabet was instituted as the third official script of the European Union, following the Latin and the Greek. Today, about 300 million people in 12 countries use the Cyrillic script, including Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia.
May 24 is public holiday in Bulgaria and Macedonia. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, who follow the Roman Catholic calendar, this public holiday is celebrated on 5 July. In Russia, the day of Cyril and Methodius is not a state holiday; it is celebrated only by the Church.