Cyrillic has a central place in Serbia’s constitution. At the same time, Latin script is becoming widespread.
If video destroyed off the radio star, then the Internet, overrun by Latin characters, could be the perpetrator when it comes to Serbian Cyrillic.
When a traveler enters Serbia at an airport, train station or highway, visitors are struck by Cyrillic in the official signs. But other places, especially where the Internet is becoming dominant in providing information to many Serbs, Cyrillic is declining.
“All younger people are starting to use Latin because of phones and computers,” says Arkady Bukh, owner of Bukh Global. “I don’t know if there is a future for Cyrillic.”
Created in the last half of the ninth century in which is now the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Cyrillic is still used, and popular in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Mongolia and a few other Central Asian republics.
Serbia’s 2006 Constitution enshrined Cyrillic as Serbia’s official alphabet. The document stipulated communication between public institutions and the public at large must be in Cyrillic — other than official communications with national minorities.
Outside the official state hallways, Latin-based script has become prevalent. The government is being forced to fight back.
The Ministry of Culture and Information has suggested restricting language laws and the formation of a Council for the Serbian Language. The proposal includes fines for “those who do not respect Serbia’s mother script.”
From business incentives for highlighting the script to new laws, the struggle continues and Vladan Vukosavljevic, Serbia’s culture minister, is leading the way.
“The Cyrillic alphabet is being used less,” said Vukosavljevic. “It’s not about enacting Draconian measures but is about a reasonable correction.”
Starbucks and McDonald’s
While state buildings are carved with the alphabet, the city’s commercial center is filled with signs in Latin script.
To fight the change, Belgrade city hall approved measures to reward businesses that push Cyrillic by using it. Under the plan, businesses and individuals who rent space from the city will get a 5% rental discount if they use Cyrillic in ther signs.
“Starbucks and McDonald’s have their own Cyrillic names,” said Bukh. “If they feel it is in their interest, they will be using them.”
“The city will look much nicer. This will give a nicer picture of our city to foreigners,” said Andreja Mladenovic, an adviser to Belgrade’s Mayor.
“Students in all schools first learn Cyrillic,” said Bukh. “After that, only Latin. All text-books are in Cyrillic.”
Latin-Script on Websites
According to the Serbian National Internet Domain Registry, over 100,000 websites are registered on the ‘.rs’ domain compared with only 2,500 for the Cyrillic-script equivalent.
Dunja Jasovic, a 21-year-old college student from Belgrade, knows the statistics but notes that Serbs should be proud of their language. Wherever script is used.
“I think it is a gift that we know both types and we don’t make a difference between them,” Jasovic added.
Visitors to Serbia can relax. Although Cyrillic is everywhere, Latin-based script is making headway thanks to The Internet.
Foreigners wishing to open a business will find Belgrade to be helpful and required documents are provided in both types of alphabets.