Rector of Zagreb University Wants to Return Cyrillic Script to Croatian Schools

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Time for the Cyrillic alphabet  to be taught once more in Croatia’s schools? Yes, say some leading academics.

Damir Boras, Rector of the University of Zagreb, has proposed that Cyrillic alphabet lessons should be returned to Croatian elementary schools, after they were discontinued in the early 1990s after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia. While the idea may sound surprising to many, the School of Philosophy of the Zagreb University has long discussed it in the context of problems arising from using Cyrillic script on public signs in Vukovar. “I think that we should bring back the learning of Cyrillic script to schools, while Glagolitic script should be offered as an optional subject. These are two old Croatian scripts and it would be nice to see them again in our classrooms”, says the Rector, confident that many experts share his view, reports Jutarnji List on January 19, 2016.

Davor Dukić, professor at the Department of Croatian Language Studies and Department of Old Croatian Literature, says there are two reasons why it would be good to learn Cyrillic script in schools. “We have a number of ancient texts written in Cyrillic, and knowing this script would help us learn Russian language as well. Another reason is that in our neighbouring countries both Latin and Cyrillic scripts are used, and by mastering the basis of Cyrillic alphabet in primary school, our students would get the opportunity to read professional literature written in Cyrillic”, says Dukić.

He agrees that, if Cyrillic had remained part of the Croatian education system, today we would not have so many difficulties with the introduction of Cyrillic public signs in Vukovar. “When you know something better, there is less chance you might be against it”, says Davor Dukić.

Josip Bratulić, former Dean of the School of Philosophy, shares these views toward Cyrillic script. “No knowledge can burden a man enough to leave him more impoverished. The brain has a lot of free space, and it is good to know various scripts.” Aware that in the context of everyday politics this issue may be greeted with hostility, he offers a solution. “The question is how to remove political aura from Cyrillic script. How? It is very simple – let’s call it Croatian Cyrillic script”, proposes Bratulić.

Željko Jozić, director of the Croatian Institute of Language, wonders how it happened that Cyrillic script is no longer taught in schools when linguists today agree that it should be brought back? He says it is clear that the Cyrillic and the Glagolitic are old Croatian scripts, and that Croats used to be a three-script nation. The fact is, continues Jozić, that Croatian Cyrillic and Glagolitic scripts are today quite neglected, even though some of the most important documents in Croatian history have been written using these scripts.

“I know how to write and read Cyrillic alphabet because I used to teach at schools when the assignments were written both in Latin and Cyrillic scripts”, says Lilja Vokić, former Education Minister and professor of Croatian language. In her opinion, it is still useful to know Cyrillic script. Vokić reiterates that Cyrillic script is not owned by any nation so there is no need to feel aversion towards it. “It is not a Serbian script, it is just that the Serbs had kept it, while Croats have turned towards the West and adopted Latin script. If students were able to choose to learn it, I believe there would be those who would take that chance”, says Vokić.


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