The “2nd Alphabet” of Europe

Most people in the world write using the Latin alphabet, the standard A, B, C, D, etc system of letters in countries such as the United States, much of Europe and South America. However, a large amount of people living in Eastern Europe and Russia use a different alphabet, known as the Cyrillic alphabet.

The Cyrillic alphabet is considered by most in the West as strange or unusual due to it’s different appearance and larger number of letters, compared to the Latin alphabet’s 26 letters. However, a large portion of Europe uses it, countries such as Bulgaria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine. Though the number of countries is fewer than those in Europe that use the Latin alphabet, these countries (Russia for example) possess the larger populations meaning Cyrillic is just as widespread.

Unlike the Latin alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet contains subtle differences; for example, the Cyrillic used in Bulgaria has a few different letters that would not be found elsewhere, such as in Russia or Serbia. As an example, the Russian Cyrillic alphabet is the most common. It contains 33 letters, some of which are identical to Latin such as “T” or “A”. However, the letter identical to the Latin “C” is actually used for the “S” sound. Other letters bear no resemblance to the Latin alphabet, such as the “П” used for the Latin “P” or the “Ф” used for the Latin “F”.

Although the Cyrillic alphabet is still often caricatured in Western media in films and video games, apparently most of Eastern Europe utilizes it. With Bulgaria’s joining to the European Union in 2007 making Cyrillic the third official script of the EU, the Cyrillic alphabet may be seen more often in the West and possibly more understood now that the Iron Curtain no longer exists as a barrier between the nations that use it and Western Europe.

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