Serbia’s struggle to keep the Cyrillic alphabet alive and strong

Serbia’s struggle to keep the Cyrillic alphabet alive and strong

One of the first things someone who visits Serbia for the first time will notice is that the country communicates in two alphabets, both of them official alphabets of the state.

Everything, from road signs to newspapers, magazines and university notes are or could be found written both in Latin and Cyrillic letters. What’s more important is that we are talking about the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, with similarities to the Russian but other than those, unique.

These days, the government has noticed a decline in its use and in order to avoid worse unwanted results, the Serbian Culture Ministry is proposing changing to the existing law to better protect its use.

BIRN did some research on the story and reports that “Serbia’s Ministry of Culture has proposed toughening the law on the use of the Cyrillic script, creating a Council for the Serbian Language – and imposing fines for those who do not respect Serbia’s ‘mother script’. ”

In a written response to the news network, Culture Ministry said: “The situation is worrying due to the dominant use of Latin in all segments. This is due to the spirit of the times, to historical circumstances and to a decades-long globalization process that has made the Latin script the world’s dominant script”.

With regard to modern media and the internet, it told BIRN they had “imposed Latin as a letter of universal communication, which influences young people unconsciously to turn to Latin characters”.

The Serbian Constitution of 2006 on the official national language of the state

Article 10: Language and script

“Serbian language and Cyrillic script shall be in official use in the Republic of Serbia.

Official use of other languages and scripts shall be regulated by the law based on the Constitution.”

In practical terms, “all communications between public institutions, but also between them and the public, must be in Cyrillic.

The only exception to this rule is official communications with national minorities.”

The first steps before the currently announced Law changes

These preventive introductions to the law had been mentioned and talked about already since 2017, when Serbian Culture minister, Vladan Vukosavljevic had “warned that the use of the Cyrillic alphabet was in danger in Serbia because of globalisation”, and had then announced that his ministry and the government would take measures to defend the ancient script.

Late in June 2018, in light of the growing concerns around the use of the Cyrillic alphabet, the Serbian Capital, and more specifically Belgrade’s City Hall, decided and announced it would reward companies that would use it.

Beta news agency had then written that Andrija Mladenovic who is an advisor to Belgrade mayor had said:

“Starbucks and McDonalds have their own Cyrillic names in countries where this is the official script. If they [companies] estimate that this is in their interest, I think it will be accepted (…) The [company] name can be emphasized in both scripts (…) The city will look much nicer. This will give a nice picture of our city to foreign tourists. And it’s also a way to encourage our institutions to protect the Cyrillic script.”

Belgrade’s Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic was on the same wavelength when speaking about the preservation of the Cyrillic alphabet, their “our original script”.

“We want to encourage other local governments in Serbia, as well as other state institutions, to do more to protect the Cyrillic alphabet.”… / IBNA