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08 Jan 13

Croats Revive Forgotten Cyrillic Through Stone

The ancient Croatian Cyrillic alphabet, long since displaced by Latin, is to be memorialised in rock along the main highway from Split in Dalmatia to Mostar in Bosnia.

Slobodna Dalmacija, HINA Zagreb

An organisation in Croatia plans to finish carving the whole of the old and little known Croatian Cyrillic alphabet in rock, close to the main highway from Mostar in Bosnia to Split in Dalmatia.

The project emerged following a scientific gathering called "Croatia's Cyrillic Heritage" organized by the Croatian Academmy of Arts and Sciences in Zagreb from November 27 to 29.

Fifteen letters have already been carved in stone. Once it is finished, the monument will include 27 letters.

The monument is being built by the organization "Stecak", and will be financed by the government of Croatia, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the West Herzegovina Canton - which is part of the Bosnian entity.

The sculptor is the director of the tourist bureau of Siroki Brijeg in Western Herzegovina, Grgo Mikulic, who is also a poet, writer and ethnologist.

“At the beginning there was a lot of disbelief and amazement, but when we explained that this is an old Croatian alphabet ... everything fell into place,” Mikulic told the newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija.

He noted that many Croats feel a kind of cultural animosity towards the Cyrillic script, associating it with Serbian domination during the era of Yugoslavia.

“Because of this, we threw out the baby with the bathwater, which we now wish to save,” Mikulic added.

According to Grga Mikulic the final goal of the project is to register Croatian Cyrillic as part of Croatia's heritage at UNESCO.

According to historical sources, Croats used Cyrillic letters since 11th century. The oldest document that proves this is so called Supetarski ulomak from Istra.

Croatian Cyrillic was widely used in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia with its islands and Dubrovnik with its surroundings, fighting for supremacy against Latin. .

However by 19th century latin alphabet won the battle, and Cyrillic went out of use.

Some Serbian linguists have criticised the project, calling it an act of cultural theft. 

A leading Serbian scientist in the area of linguistics, Milos Kovacevic, says  that “Cyrillic is being taken away from the Serbs.

 “Croats are revising history,” Kovacevic said to Croatian news agency Hina in November 2012.

He added that they remembered their ancient script only in 2012, because “they wish to have the primacy over the language and alphabet of the Balkans in Brussels”.

"Having in mind that Croats think that everything starts with them, they refuse to give up on the begginings of litteracy, and want to show that this is their historical alphabet that Serbs took latter on", Kovacevic concluded.

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