24 May - The Day Of Slavonic Alphabet, Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture
3 January 2021 - Bulgaria
May 24 is the Day Of Slavonic Alphabet, Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture. This day has been celebrated for 162 years now – no other holiday was so long celebrated in Bulgarian late history.
On May 11 1851 a celebration was organized by Nayden Gerov at the eparchy school `St St Kiril and Methody` in the town of Plovdiv. This was the first time to be marked the Day of the Saint brothers Kiril and Methody – the creators of Slavonic Alphabet. Since 1857 this day has been celebrated every year in Plovdiv, Tsarigrad, Shumen and Lom and it was no by accident that May 11 was chosen - this is the common Church Holiday of the two Saints.
The earliest information for marking the 11th of May a day of the Saint Apostles and Slavonic enlighteners Kiril and Methody dates back to XII century, but they were already acknowledged for saints at the time of IX century. Tthe memory of St Kiril only is celebrated on 14th February and the memory of his brother St Methody - on 6th of April (the exact dates of their deaths).
The wholly Russian Synod took the following decision on the occasion of celebrating one thousand years form the Moravia mission of St St Kiril and Methody: ` To remember the millennium since the first time our paternal language has been illuminated by the Gospel and the Christen faith, let it be established to be a Church Holiday the Day of the Reverends Kiril and Methody and celebrated every year, starting from the present May 11, 1863! `. Since then that Day has been celebrated in all of the Orthodox Slavonic countries. The common Day of St St Kiril and Methody was also celebrated by Bulgarian Church in the next centuries, and through Bulgarian Revival period it became also the Day of the School and the letters created by Kiril and Methody.
This occasion was one that was giving the expression of Bulgarian strivings of spirit for Church and Political independence, for enlightenment and national rise. Through the Revival period the Day of St St Kiril and Methody was celebrated not only in Bulgaria, but also abroad – by Bulgarian revival immigrates in Rumania and Russia, among Bulgarian students in foreign lands, among Bulgarians exiled in Diarbekir.
The enthusiastic celebrating of the Day of the Saint brothers Kiril and Methody by all Bulgarian people was a positive proof for their thirst for enlightenment and science, for national self-defining and fast economical and cultural advancement.
In 1892 was written the text of the common school hymn by Nikolay Mihaylovski. It is well known by every Bulgarian with its first verse:`Varvi Narode Vazrodeni (Go forward revived nation )`. The hymn received the name `Hymn of the St St Kiril and Methody` and it included 14 couplets. The first six are very often performed nowadays. The music of the hymn was composed by Nikolay Pipkov on May 11, 1900. Here is a piece of the original text, written in authentic Bulgarian letters:
Nowadays 11th of May is celebrated as Church Holiday of the Saint brothers Kiril and Methody and 24th of May is confirmed to be the day of Slavonic Alphabet, Bulgarian Enlightenment and culture. 24th of May as the Day of Slavonic Alphabet and the Saint Brothers Kiril and Methody is nowadays celebrated in abroad too – in Russia, where it was marked for the first time in 1986 by the initiation of the Murmansk author Vitalii Maslov. In Murmansk is the farthest north point where is situated a monument of the Saint brothers Kiril and Methody.
24th of May is a Day that has no analogue among the other nations - the Day of literature, enlightenment, culture. It’s a holiday of spiritual rising, perfection striving for scientific and cultural achievements. The letters created by Kiril and Methody, their translations of the liturgical books, their fight to protect the rights of all nations to do honour of God in their own languages have a historical significance to Bulgarian national developing and its prosperity. Their life work is human, democratic, and Slavonic. It becomes part of the general human idea for equality at the spiritual field.
An indisputable fact is that Konstantin – Kiril - the Philosopher has created the alphabet and the first translations in Slavonic language. But one of the most interesting questions that haven’t been resolved till now is the creation of the two Slavonic alphabets in such a short period of time – Cyrillic alphabet and Glagolhic alphabet. There is no united position concerning the question which one of these both was created by Konstantin - Kiril.
According to one of the more widespread hypotheses concerning the authorship of the two alphabets the Cyrillic alphabet was chronologically the second one to appear. Acoustically and also graphically it was based on a Greek uncial. The present hypothesis is that it was created by Kliment Ohridski who was Konstantin - Kiril’s student and he named it to his teacher as a sign of respect. Most of the scientists associate the authority of Glagolhic alphabet with Konstantin - Kiril. There is a correspondence between this alphabet and Bulgarian language, as well as there is an original diagram and some researches show that the drawing of the letters follows the `Golden section` (the ratio of thesmaller side is the same as the ratio of the bigger side towards the whole). There is continuity between Glagolhic alphabet and Cyrillic alphabet but in the same time there are some essential differences. The Cyrillic alphabet took the place of Glagolhic one very fast. This first happened in Eastern Bulgaria, in the capital Preslav. At the School of Ohrid (Western Bulgaria) the Glagolhic alphabet had been used for longer time, as it was more widespread at that region. There are some monasteries in Croatian Adriatic seaside where it was used like cryptography even till XIX century.
According to the second hypothesis, Konstantin - Kiril– the Philosopher was the author of the two alphabets, which means that he had translated the basic liturgical books two times: in 855. He created the Cyrillic alphabet by some adjustment to the Greek alphabet for the necessity of Slavonic speech and then translated the liturgical books for the needs of Bulgarian Slavonic people at the region of Bregalnitsa river (Northwestern Macedonia). And in 862-863 he created the Glagolhic alphabet and copied already translated books with the main purpose to give a common Christen expression of his mission in Velikomoravia.
Nowadays Cyrillic alphabet is used not only by Bulgarian people, but also by Serbians, Montenegrins, Russians, Byelorussians, as well as by many others non Slavonic nations from the USSR and many Mongolians – about 200 million people.
The life work of Kiril and Methody was continued by their students – Kliemnt, Naum, Angelarii, Gorazd and Sava who came into Bulgaria and got for their saint work the support of Bulgarian king Boris I. Everyone of the fifth students has his own Church holiday. We also celebrate the day of the two teachers Kiril and Methody and their five students on 27th of July every year. This holiday is named the Seventh Saints. At a church in Sofia wearing the same name is kept a part of the arm of St Kiril as a priceless relic.
Associated professor Krasimira Aleksova, Ph.D.
Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski"
Faculty of Slavic Studes
Departement of Bulgarian Language