Ancient Slavic Writing
The Slavs were always believed to have no script in the pre-Christian epoch, until the 9th century, when St. Cyril and St. Methodius invented Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabets to write the Bible in Slavic. For hundred years Cyrillic and Glagolitic were thought to be the first scripts used by Slavic nations. However, excavations made this century in Russia, the uKraine and in several West Slavic countries, gave a reason to think that Slavs possessed writing much before they were converted to Christianity.

Old Russian manuscripts written already in the 10th century several times mention the "lines and curvings" which had been in use in pagan Russia. They were considered as a part of old Slavic cults of paganism, and priests could "read and tell fortunes" by them. An Arabic traveler in the late 9th century wrote about Eastern Slavs: "...They constructed a monument and wrote the name of their dead leader on it". How could Slavs write a name when there was no Cyrillic yet? Such "lines and curvings" were found on different stone and wooden tablets, and also on rocks, instruments and pots all over Russia and several in East Europe. The first such inscription, consisting of 14 symbols, was discovered in 1897 not far from Ryazan, a city southeast from Moscow.

Later similar symbols were found in Belorussia, Bulgaria, Poland, Crimea; they all probably represent modifications of the same writing system. But no idea exists about what kind of writing it was. The number of symbols makes more than 75, this makes us suppose this was a syllabic script or even a logographic one. Still, as the territory of its usage was very wide, different variant of the same letter can differ from each other and considered now as two different letters.

Several symbols look much like Cyrillic, or remind the Greek alphabet. Hard to say how this happened: either the script originally borrowed from the Greek, or modified later under the influence of Cyrillic. Perhaps the "lines and curvings" were written from the left.

Still many scientists do not admit this was a script. Other theories say it was: calendar symbols; pictograms; Cyrillic letters written by illiterate Slavic scribes. Most of inscriptions date back from the 9-11 centuries, later the script (if it was a script) was replaced by Cyrillic together with the change of religion from polytheism to Christianity.

Languages which used the script: Slavic (dialectal forms of Common Slavic, Old Russian).

Image: "Lines and Curvings" inscriptions

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