The Cyrillic alphabet (pronounced /sɨˈrɪlɪk/; also called azbuka, from the old name of the first two letters) is a family of alphabets, subsets of which are used by six Slavic national languages (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian and Belarusian) as well as non-Slavic (Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik of the former Soviet Union, and Mongolian). It is also used by many other languages of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Siberia and other languages in the past. Not all letters in the Cyrillic alphabet are used in every language that is written with it.
The alphabet has official status with many organizations. With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Cyrillic became the third official alphabet of the EU, along with Latin and Greek.
The Cyrillic alphabet was based on the Greek uncial script, augmented by ligatures and consonants from the older Glagolitic alphabet for sounds not found in Greek. It along with Glagolitic was formalized by the two Slavic (Bulgarian) brothers Saints Cyril and Methodii, who brought Christianity to the southern Slavs, or their disciples. Paul Cubberly posits that while Cyril may have codified and expanded Glagolitic, it was his students, perhaps at the Preslav Literary School in Bulgaria, that developed Cyrillic from Greek in the 890s as a more suitable script for church books.
The Cyrillic alphabet came to dominate over Glagolitic in the 12th century. It was disseminated along with the Old Church Slavonic liturgical language, and the alphabet used for modern Church Slavonic language in Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic rites still resembles early Cyrillic. However, over the following ten centuries, the Cyrillic alphabet adapted to changes in spoken language, developed regional variations to suit the features of national languages, and was subjected to academic reforms and political decrees. Today, dozens of languages in Eastern Europe and Asia are written in the Cyrillic alphabet.
As the Cyrillic alphabet spread throughout the East and South Slavic territories, it was adopted for writing local languages, such as Old Ruthenian. Its adaptation to the characteristics of local languages led to the development of its many modern variants, below.
The following list shows the differences between the upright and italic/cursive Cyrillic letters as used in Russian:
а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я
A number of languages written in the Cyrillic alphabet have also been written in the Latin alphabet, such as Azerbaijani, Uzbek and Moldavian. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, official status shifted from Cyrillic to Latin. The transition is complete in most of Moldova and Azerbaijan, but Uzbekistan still uses both systems.
The three main variations of the Cyrillic alphabet used in the Balkans: Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian.