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From the Presidential Library collections: Cyril and Methodius "carried to the Slavs a peaceful preaching of faith and love in their language"

24 May 2018

May 24 is the Day of Slavic Writing and Culture. It is timed to the Day of Remembrance of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius, who created the Old Slavonic alphabet 1155 years ago. Dedicated to them selection in the Presidential Library collections is intensively expanding due to rare publications such as "The Word in the day of St. Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius, the Enlighteners of the Slavs, in the presence of the Slavic guests, said at the St. Isaac's Cathedral by the rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, Archpriest John Janishev" (1867), essay E. de Witte "St. Slavonic Cyril and Methodius, and their cultural role in Slavdom and Russia" (1908), "Historical Reader of the Church Slavic and Russian Language" by A. Galakhov (1848).

Cyril and Methodius were deeply revered in Ancient Rus’. Their lives are mentioned in the "Tale of Bygone Years by the Laurentian List" - a hand-written artifact on the history of the Russian land, its electronic copy is posted on the portal of the Presidential Library. In pre-revolutionary Russia, St. Cyril and Methodius's Day was celebrated annually in large cities and in remote villages. In the middle of the XIX century, the 1000th anniversary of the creation of the Slavic alphabet was celebrated publicly. At that time in Russia, in connection with the growing interest in the origins of native culture, in particular writing, there appeared a considerable amount of research about the circumstances of the life of the brothers of Solun and the meaning of everything they did for Russian culture. 

"While the sermon of Christianity, going to the Slavs from Rome through the Germans", - writes P. Kulakovsky in his essay "The History of attempts to solve the question of a single literary language among the Slavs" (1885), always had hidden behind goals to amalgamate peoples, depriving them of both their language and their hopes for a national, special development, at a time when the West was spreading Christian truths among the peoples with fire and sword, St. Cyril and Methodius from the East carried the peaceful preaching of faith and love in their language to the Slavs". 

Russian scientists equated the contribution of Cyril and Methodius to the development of Slavic culture to the feat. And this is not an exaggeration. The brothers took on selfless work to create not only the Slavic alphabet, but also the introduction of the Old Slavonic language into church rituals, to which the Roman popes and cardinals looked with martial jealousy. "We hear, says Papa, that you are singing a liturgy in barbarian, that is, Slovene", - quotes I. Dobrovsky in his historical-critical study "Cyril and Methodius, Slovene First Teachers" (1825).

The work of K. Zelenetsky "On the Church-Slavic language, its origin, educators and historical destinies" (1846) sheds light on the circumstances under which the Cyrillic alphabet was invented and the translation of Holy Scripture into Slavonic languages: "The church language has never remained a language dead, like the Latin of the West. In all Slavic countries the language of the church was influenced by the language of the people. <...> Clergy not only in preaching and teaching, but also in daily conversations with laypeople used the expression of their ecclesiastical books and raised this dignity of speech. The people accepted this adverb for their own, although for such, which is dedicated to the Lord and his Church, and, therefore, rises with special majesty and charm".

According to the most common version, the brothers were Greeks, but some authors insist on their Slavic origin. The well-known Russian scientist and journalist Mikhail Pogodin devoted a whole study to this issue. His book "St. Cyril and Methodius - the Slavs, and not the Greeks" (1864) brings the reader to the conclusion that the holy brothers were Slavs. He deeply examines the topic and gives arguments: "Selune is a Greek city, but in Kirillovo time it was inhabited by Slavs in equal, or even more so, like Greeks, and the district side was then and still is a purely Slavic side". And further: "In the tale of St. Cyril philosopher in the synodal prologue (№ 24) XIII or XIV century, among other things, it is said that St. Cyril, taken to the imperial palace for education, "learned four languages ​​and philosophies: Hellenic, Roman, Sears, Jews". The question is - if the Hellenic language was a natural St. Cyril, then why would he study it, and why would not the Slavic language be mentioned here? It is clear that the Slavonic language was St.. Cyril the natural".

The views of the publicist relied, in particular, on the research by V. Aprilov "The Bulgarian scribes, or to which Slavic tribe actually the Cyrillic alphabet belongs to?" (1841): "Although Bulgarians, but as the Saloon residents, and consequently subjects of the emperor Constantinople, Cyril and Methodius wore name of the Romans. The erroneous rule of calling the Greeks by the Romans deceived prospectors here and was the reason that they were responsible for the Greeks of Cyril and Methodius".

The portal of the Presidential Library also presents modern research on the creation and development of Slavic writing, including theses abstracts. As part of the video lecture "Knowledge of Russia" it was recorded a lecture by Professor, Doctor of Philology Dmitry Romanov "To the history of Cyril and Methodius writing in Russia" - it is included in the Presidential Library collections.