In the history of mankind, there have been only a few powerful spiritual and religious directions of world outlook associated with certain types of writing. In the history of European culture, there are essentially two such types of writing. One is Latin, and as a result of its development, it can be called Western, since it is used primarily by Western European languages. Serving at first to express Roman pagan spirituality, the Latin alphabet in the first centuries A.D. began to simultaneously express Christian spirituality in its Western European manifestation. Barely getting stronger by the 4th-5th centuries, the Christian ministry of the Latin began to weaken more and more under the onslaught of the resurgent pagan culture. The Western European mixture of Christian and magical spirituality reached an intermediate peak during the Renaissance of the XIV-XVI centuries and further, in the Modern Age, only intensified, forming what began to be called the New Babylon of the West. This Western community, magical in its deepest spiritual essence, was made up of peoples whose writing system developed on the basis of the Latin alphabet (including peoples who are not at all Western and not at all European, still being drawn into the world whirlpool of the Western spirit and Latin writing).
Another, relatively speaking, eastern, type of European writing is formed by the dual unity of Greek and Slavic-Cyrillic writing, partly created on its basis. This letter, in its Greek component, at first expressed Hellenic, then Hellenistic pagan spirituality, and according to R.Kh. – with increasing power – the Christian Orthodox faith. At the peak of its mystical growth, Greek writing served as material for the creation of a new Slavic Cyrillic script, created and disseminated by the labors of the holy enlighteners Cyril and Methodius, primarily for the service of the sacred Orthodox worship. The original purpose of the Cyrillic alphabet was preserved as the main one for several centuries, and in essence it remains to this day, since the civil simplified Cyrillic script introduced by Peter I in 1708 only strengthened its liturgical use for Church Slavonic Cyrillic. In the course of the historical development of Europe, the Greek writing itself increasingly lost its significance and strength as Byzantium weakened, and the Slavic Cyrillic alphabet, on the contrary, became more and more asserted, mainly at the expense of Russia, Russia.
The struggle between the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets flared up immediately after the birth of the Cyrillic alphabet: in the 860s-870s. At that time, the West, despite the widespread trilingual heresy, nevertheless had to recognize the right of the Cyrillic alphabet for liturgical use and for translations of sacred Christian books. Since then, this struggle has never faded away, retaining its main features and techniques from era to era, and the success of the parties has been variable.
Western Catholic Rome gradually imposed the Latin alphabet on dependent Slavic peoples: from the 12th century on the Croats (moreover, their Cyrillic resistance ceased only in the 19th century), from the 13th century on the Czechs, from the 14th century on the Poles. Orthodox Romanians did not begin to switch to the Latin alphabet at all until 1860.
In recent history, the case of Serbia is indicative: under powerful Western pressure, since the 1990s, it has been experiencing a rapid romanization of writing. At the state level, the Cyrillic alphabet is still the only alphabet, but in everyday life the Latin alphabet is used very widely, a number of newspapers are published only in the Latin alphabet, and it also prevails in the electronic network. In Montenegro, which broke away from Serbia in 2006, the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are legally equal in rights, and in everyday life, Latinization is growing.
In Russia, some movement of writing towards the Latin alphabet was initiated by Peter I, when, from 1708, he began to introduce, in addition to Church Slavonic Cyrillic, a simplified civil alphabet, designed to serve non-church literature. In the opinion of many, the appearance of the new Cyrillic alphabet began to somewhat resemble the Latin alphabet: “<…> angular letters began to move closer to rounded Latin ones”. However, foreigners and local Westerners continued to consider the updated domestic writing insufficiently perfect, seeing pure perfection in the Latin alphabet.
In general, during the 19th century, Russia was relatively successful, although with varying degrees of success, in holding back the onslaught of the Latin alphabet. In the 20th century, the struggle continued, and there are two epochs of a relatively successful offensive of Latin writing, however, in both cases it was still stopped. Both offensives coincide with the waves of Western influence on the whole of Russian life, rising in the conditions of coups d’état.
In the first case, this is a decade of the early Soviet era. In 1919, the Scientific Department of the People’s Commissariat of Education and personally People’s Commissar A.V. Lunacharsky propose to translate the letter of all the nationalities of Russia, including Russians, into Latin. Lenin sympathized with this, but for tactical reasons he suspended the work in the part of the Russian language. In the newly created USSR, they began with the Latinization of the languages of national minorities, and among the Turkic peoples, the Arabic script was replaced with the Latin script. The business progressed well in the 1920s. Since 1928, there was a commission for the romanization of the Russian alphabet as well. However, already on January 25, 1930, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, chaired by Stalin, instructed Glavnauka to stop working on this issue. From the mid-1930s, under the leadership of Stalin, a pro-Russian state turn was made, and those alphabets of small peoples, for which the Latin alphabet had already been developed, were translated into Cyrillic. In the next half century, they tried to write down even mathematical formulas, programming languages and scientific transliteration of foreign words in Cyrillic.
A new wave of romanization naturally begins after the 1991 coup. It is reinforced from the outside in various ways, in particular by the rapid growth of the dominance of the English-language Latin alphabet in the global electronic network. Latin captures advertising in all its manifestations, fence and wall inscriptions of different levels of morality and artistry.
In the 1990s, a reverse translation from Cyrillic into Latin was made of the languages of a number of former Soviet republics, which had already experienced the first Latinization in the 1920s. In some cases it was successful (for example, in Moldova, Azerbaijan), in others (for example, in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) it was slowed down due to multidimensional difficulties. Some new states, such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, not to mention Belarus, then remained faithful to the Cyrillic alphabet, but they are still restless. In Ukraine, at the very beginning of the leadership of the pro-Western President Yushchenko, in 2005, “a draft Decree of the President of Ukraine on the phased translation of the national script from Cyrillic to Latin was prepared. <…> The Decree provides for the replacement of the Ukrainian alphabet, created on the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet, with the Latin alphabet in the system of education and office work in Ukraine during 2005‒2015. The transition to the Latin alphabet is carried out “with the aim of enhancing the integration of Ukraine into the European Community, expanding the communicative functions of the Ukrainian language … strengthening versatile ties with the states that make up the stronghold of modern civilization””. The implementation of the plan then slowed down, but after the coup d’état in early 2014, one of the first legislative movements of the self-proclaimed pro-Western government was a new formulation of the issue of romanization of writing. In March, it became known that “a temporary special commission for the preparation of a draft law “On the development and use of languages in Ukraine” is considering a gradual abandonment of the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in the country”.
In December 2012, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his next “Message to the People” stated: “It is necessary to start preparatory work on the translation of the Kazakh alphabet into the Latin script from 2025. This will serve not only the development of the Kazakh language, but also turn it into the language of modern information”.
Similar strivings for romanization arose in the 1990s within the newly formed Russia, both at the national level and at the level of individual subjects of the federation. Already in 1992, the parliament of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria allowed the Latin alphabet of the Chechen language, created back in 1925 (and replaced by Cyrillic in 1938). The Chechen Latin alphabet was used to a limited extent (in addition to the Cyrillic alphabet) during the period when the republic was most isolated from Russia (1992‒1994, 1996‒2000). True, the use was reduced to inscriptions in public places.
Similarly, in 1999, a law was passed in Tatarstan to restore the Latin script of the Tatar alphabet.