We believe that it is suitable to start
that section so essential to all Bulgarians with that fine
excerpt from a book most important for the development of
Bulgarian literature and the preservation of Bulgarian spirit
- “About the Letters”, by Chernorizets Hrabar
(his name could be translated as The Brave Man in a Black
Outfit, or The Bold Monk, since monks were referred to as
Wearing black clothes):
“If you asked the Greek Bookmen: "Who created
your letters and translated your books, and when?" you
would see that few bookmen knew about it. But if asking the
Slavonic first-year pupils: "Who created your alphabet
and translated the books?", all pupils would answer:
"St. Constantine the Philosopher, called Cyril. He invented
our alphabet and translated the books together with his brother
Methodius." And if you asked: " When did that happen?"
They would answer that it was during the reign of the Greek
King Mikhail, the Bulgarian prince Boris, the Moravian Prince
Rostislav, the Blatenian Prince Kozel, in the year 6363 from
the creating of the world (i.e. 855).”
The two brothers, Sts. Cyril and Methodius (or Constantine
and Methodius) – known as the Apostles of the Slavs,
were born in Thessalonica, in 827 and 826 respectively. Though
belonging to a senatorial family, they renounced secular honours
and became priests. They were living in a monastery on the
Bosphorus, when the Khazars sent to Constantinople for a Christian
teacher. Cyril was selected and was accompanied by his brother.
They learned the Khazar language and converted many of the
Soon after their Khazar mission, came the invitation of the
Moravian Prince Rostislav, who sought missionaries able to
preach in the Slavonic vernacular (people’s) language,
and thereby check German influence in Moravia - the Moravians
wished a teacher who could instruct them and conduct Divine
service in the Slavonic tongue. On account of their acquaintance
with that language, Cyril and Methodius were chosen for their
work. In preparation for it Cyril invented a new alphabet
and, with the help of Methodius, translated the Gospels and
the necessary liturgical books into that new South Slavonic
language. They went to Moravia in 863, and laboured over the
translations for four and a half years.
The immediate success aroused the hostility of the German
rulers and ecclesiastics. Cyril died in Rome, 4 Feb., 869.
Methodius went to Constantinople and with the assistance of
several priests he completed the translation of the Bible
and ecclesiastical books into Slavonic. The enemies of Methodius
did not cease to antagonize him. His health was worn out from
the long struggle, and he died 6 April, 885, recommending
as his successor Gorazd, a Slav who had been his disciple.
Methodius’ influence in Moravia was wiped out after
his death but was carried to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia,
where the Southern Slavonic language of Cyril and Methodius
(and their alphabet, known as the Cyrillic alphabet) is still
the liturgical language of churches and they all use, with
variations, that same alphabet as the basis of their languages.
Canonical recognition of the Slavonic alphabet came in 879
when the Slavonic books were sanctified by Pope Johann VIII.
For centuries on, Europe had only one Patron acknowledged
by canon law - Saint Benedict. Then, in 20th century –
in 1979, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the creators of the
Slavonic alphabet, the Bulgarian Sts Cyril and Methodius,
to also be Patrons of Europe.
The Old Bulgarian language was the basis of Russian, Serbian,
Slovenian, and Croatian variants and gained the significance
of a universal literary Slavonic language. The modern Bulgarian
literary language is characterized by dropping off the case
forms, by the use of the definite article, by nine tenses,
four moods, etc.
Before your visit to Bulgaria be fully prepared for reliance
upon the Cyrillic alphabet. Some hotels will use English and
some restaurants will have translated English menus but you
should always remember that the Bulgarian language is the
official language and the Cyrillic alphabet is the official
alphabet. Having no knowledge of Bulgarian grammar or the
Cyrillic alphabet you will become reliant upon someone else
to help you around to read the Bulgarian words on signs, in
advertising and newspapers. If you can assert your independence,
you will enjoy your visit much more. Bulgarians are pleased
to assist one who makes some effort.
This table of the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet, the pronunciation
help and the sidebar notes do not pretend for a linguistic-study
status. Very often local accents and dialects vary and are
somewhat dependent upon the individual and the locale. You
should bear in mind that this information should be used as
it is intended – just as a helper to familiarize you
with the Cyrillic alphabet.
as in car,
/b/, as in boy
/v/, as in
/g/, as in garage
/d/, as in
/e/ as the
the "zh" sound as the in garage
, or beige
/z/ as the
final "z" in "buzz”
/ee/ as in
as in yes,
/k/ as in
/l/ as in
/m/ as in
/n/ as in
/o/ as in
/p/ as in
/r/ as in
/s/ as in
/t/ as in
/oo/ as in
/f/ as in
/h/ as in
/ts/ as in
as the “ch” sound in chair
as the "sh" sound in ship
as the "sht" sound in the final letters
of the word "crushed"
the "uh" sound in fur
Not a proper letter – it is a variant
of /j ? / as the "y" in york
/ju/ as in
but a bit shorter
/ja/ as in
but a bit shorter
There are many words which you will see in Cyrillic that
would have an English pronunciation, such as "PECTOPAHT"
(restaurant), "HOBO" ("novo" is the Bulgarian
word for "new"), "HE" ("ne"
is the Bulgarian word for "no"), "CHEK"
(Bulgarian for "snack" ... as in "snack bar")
and thousands more. Don't be confused by them.
As important as the correct sound of each letter is the pronunciation
of the word, including correct placement of the stress. For
example the Bulgarian word for "restaurant" is "PECTOPAHT"
... in English, phonetically, we say "rest-raunt",
but in Bulgarian, it becomes "rest-o-‘rant"
with the stress upon the final syllable. All letters in Bulgarian
are pronounced (there is no silent ones). Since we do not
attempt here to write a linguistic review but just to brief
you on some landmarks, we assume the possibility of misusing
or misinterpreting certain aspects.