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News 05 Jun 17

Serbia to ‘Fight to Save’ Cyrillic Alphabet

Worried that the future of the Cyrillic alphabet could be under threat, the Serbian authorities will introduce fines and benefits to defend it against the Latin script, media have reported.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Culture minister Vladan Vukosavljevic. Photo: Beta

The Serbian government is planning to set up a Council for the Serbian Language and introduce fines for public institutions and companies that do not use Cyrillic, as well as tax benefits to promote wider use of the script, state-owned newspaper Vecernje Novosti reported on Monday. 

The changes are envisaged in the new strategy for the development of culture that the Serbian culture ministry is preparing, the newspaper said.

Culture minister Vladan Vukosavljevic told Vecernje Novosti that the Cyrillic alphabet is in danger because of globalisation.

“The condition is relatively worrisome primarily because of the dominant use of the Latin alphabet,” warned Vukosavljevic, adding that younger people are using Latin script rather than Cyrillic because of the internet, television, brands and logos. 

"World trade, the media and especially the Internet, imposed this [Latin] alphabet as the language of universal communication,” he added.

According to the Serbian constitution, adopted in 2006, Cyrillic alphabet is in official use, together with the Serbian language, which means that all communication between public institutions, but also between them and companies or citizens, should be in Cyrillic.

Vukosavljevic said that the new culture strategy and changes to the law on the official use of language and the alphabet, which the ministry will also launch, will both impose stricter rules on the use of Cyrillic, while the Council for the Serbian Language will tasked with taking care of the language policy. 

Cyrillic is defined as a “native alphabet” in the strategy, while Latin will have the status of a support script.

Belgrade city manager Goran Vesic recently said that Belgrade is considering tax cuts for companies whose advertisements use the Cyrillic alphabet.

“In this way, we would give an additional incentive to save the Cyrillic alphabet. Although the Latin alphabet is no less Serbian, we believe that protecting Cyrillic in a time of globalisation and the internet is one of our most important tasks,” Vesic said on May 24, Beta news agency reported. 

In 2015, Serbian newspapers Politika and Vecernje Novosti campaigned for a law that would entirely eliminate taxes for papers that are printed in Cyrillic. Both newspapers use in Cyrillic.

The initiative was supported by the Journalists’ Association of Serbia, whose president at the time, Ljiljana Smajlovic, was editor-in-chief of Politika.

The campaign failed as Serbian politicians did not take any action.

But the new changes announced in Vecernje Novosti could affect media, as Dragan Hamovic, an adviser to the minister of culture, told the newspaper.

“We will propose benefits for use of Cyrillic in print media, and for introducing a certain amount of Cyrillic in electronic media,” Hamovic explained.

He added that the state will ask mobile operators to allow the sending of Cyrillic text messages for the same price for Latin ones, as currently messages in Cyrillic are more expensive.

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