On May 24th, Bulgaria celebrates one of its most impressive and enduring contributions to the world: the Cyrillic alphabet. The enthusiasm is contagious: after only a few weeks here, I was referring to it as the Bulgarian alphabet with the latent pride of the locals. For a plucky country of 9 million worldwide, it’s an impressive accomplishment to have created the script used by 250+ million people. Some big-shot countries in this neighborhood make a big deal out of adopting alphabets that they didn’t even invent–looking at you, Turkey!
Cyrillic was created by the two handsome guys pictured on the billboard above: Saints Cyril and Methodius. In the 9th century, the two evangelists spread Christianity throughout the Balkans and the Middle East before Cyril created the Glagolithic script. A student of Methodius’s adapted Cyrillic from Glagolithic and Greek, and it caught on because Glagolithic is a beast of an alphabet. Seriously, scholars don’t even know how many characters there are, but they know there are at least 41, and most of them look like secret Hobo glyphs or crop circle patterns.