In an effort to prop up its official script, Serbia’s parliament is expected this month to bolster a law that makes Cyrillic mandatory in all official government communication and imposes fines on those who do not respect the “mother script.”
“The situation is worrying due to the dominant use of Latin in all. . . . 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,” the Ministry of Culture told Balkan Insight.
The revised law would create a Council for the Serbian Language that would encourage and enforce the use of Cyrillic, which is Serbia’s official alphabet as stipulated in the country’s 2006 constitution. A version of the Cyrillic protection law drafted last year included a provision for mobile operators to stop charging more for text messages in Cyrillic, as reported by B92.
Earlier this year, the government of Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, decided to reward companies that promote the use of Cyrillic, including a five percent discount for companies that rent city-owned offices and write their names in Cyrillic. “Starbucks and McDonald’s have their own Cyrillic names in countries where this is the official script. If they feel that this is in their interest, I think it will be accepted,” Andreja Mladenovic, an adviser to the Belgrade Mayor, told the Beta News Agency.
It remains to be seen if these efforts to salvage Cyrillic will pay off. Based on the Greek alphabet and created in the late ninth century for the Orthodox Slavic population in Europe, Cyrillic is currently used in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, parts of Bosnia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Mongolia. The fate of Cyrillic has always been closely linked to the Orthodox churches and Russian dominance in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
With the demise of the Soviet Union and the almost simultaneous rise of the Latin-dominated Internet, the use of the Cyrillic script is slowly on the decline. Many former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, have switched to the Latin alphabet. Most recently, Kazakhstan decided to re-introduce the Latin alphabet.
Just as Cyrillic thrived under imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, its slow demise is no surprise in a world dominated by the –Latin-based– Internet.