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INSTITUTUL "G. BARIŢIU"

Serbian Language and Cyrillic Script as a Means of Diplomatic Literacy
in South Eastern Europe in 15th and 16th Centuries


Neven ISAILOVIC, Aleksandar KRSTIC

Abstract:
Cyrillic script was used as the main means of written communication of the South Slavic nations in the Balkans since the 9th Century. From neighbouring Bulgaria and Serbia, Slavic language and Cyrillic alphabet were introduced to the Romanian lands. During the period of Ottoman conquest the use of afore-mentioned language and alphabet was gradually becoming international. After the fall of the Bulgarian Empire, the Serbian (Serbo-Croatian) variant became dominant, especially in diplomacy. Hungarian and Turkish (and sometimes Venetian) authorities wrote to their Slavic and Romanian neighbours or subjects in Serbian vernacular, using diplomatic minuscule (or cursive) Cyrillic script. In late 15th and during the first quarter of the 16th century, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire started to use this language and script for mutual correspondence. This trend influenced Romanian lands too. King Sigismund and John Hunyadi issued charters for Wallachian monasteries in Serbian, the peace treaties of 1503 and 1519 between the Hungarian king and the Ottoman sultan were most probably drafted in “lingua Rasciana” and Stephen Báthory and John Zápolya wrote to Turkish commanders in Serbia in the same vernacular. After the fall of Hungary and the development of written Romanian language, the use of Serbian subsided, but Cyrillic script was used in the Romanian lands up until 19th century.
Keywords:
Serbian language, Cyrillic alphabet, South Eastern Europe, diplomatic literacy, 15th - 16th centuries