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Bosnian Cyrillic, widely known as Bosan?ica is an extinct variant of the Cyrillic alphabet that originated in medieval Bosnia. The term was coined at the end of the 19th century by ?iro Truhelka. It was widely used in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina and the bordering areas of modern-day Croatia (southern and middle Dalmatia and Dubrovnik regions). Its name in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian is Bosan?ica and Bosanica the latter of which can be translated as Bosnian script. Croat scholars also call it Croatian-Bosnian script, Bosnian-Croat Cyrillic or Western Cyrillic. For other names of Bosnian Cyrillic, see below.
It is hard to ascertain when the earliest features of a characteristic Bosnian type of Cyrillic script had begun to appear, but paleographers consider the Humac tablet (a tablet written in Bosnian Cyrillic) to be the first document of this type of script and is believed to date from the 10th or 11th century. Bosnian Cyrillic was used continuously until the 18th century, with sporadic usage even taking place in the 20th century.
Historically, Bosnian Cyrillic is prominent in the following areas:
Numerous legal and commercial documents (charters, letters, donations) of nobles and royalty from medieval Bosnian state in correspondence with the Republic of Ragusa and various cities in Dalmatia (e.g. the Charter of Ban Kulin, beginning in the 12th and 13th centuries, and reaching its peak in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Legal documents in central Dalmatia, like the Poljica Statute (1440) and other numerous charters from this area; Poljica and neighbourhood Roman Catholic church books used this alphabet until the late 19th century.
The "Supetar fragment" from the 12th century was found in Monastery of Saint Peter in the Forest in central Istria, among the stones of a collapsed southern monastery wall. Until the 15th century it was a Benedictine monastery and later a Pauline monastery. This finding could indicate that Bosan?ica spread all the way to Istria and Kvarner Gulf.
The Roman Catholic diocese in Omi? had a seminary (called arvacki ?eminarij, "Croat seminary") active in the 19th century, in which arvatica letters were used.
Liturgical works (missals, breviaries, lectionaries) of the Roman Catholic Church from Dubrovnik, 15th and 16th century - the most famous is a printed breviary from 1512
After the Ottoman conquest, Bosnian Cyrillic was used, along with Arebica, by the Bosnian Muslim nobility, chiefly in correspondence, mainly from the 15th to 17th centuries (hence, the script has also been called begovica, "bey's script"). Isolated families and individuals could write in it even in the 20th century.
In conclusion, main traits of Bosnian Cyrillic include:
Its earliest monuments are from the 11th century, but the golden epoch covered the period from the 14th to 17th centuries. From the late 18th century it rather speedily fell into disuse to be replaced by the Latin script.
The form of Bosnian Cyrillic has passed through a few phases, so although culturally it is correct to speak about one script, it is evident that features present in Bosnian Franciscan documents in the 1650s differ from the charters from Bra? island in Dalmatia in the 1250s.
Controversies and polemic
The polemic about "ethnic affiliation" of Bosnian Cyrillic started in the 19th century, then reappeared in the mid-1990s. The polemic about attribution and affiliation of Bosnian Cyrillic texts seems to rest on following arguments:
Some Serbian scholars claim that it is just a variant of Serbian Cyrillic; actually, a "minuscle", or Italic (cursive) script devised at the court of Serbian king Stefan Dragutin, and accordingly, include Bosnian Cyrillic texts into the Serbian literary corpus. Authors in "Prilozi za knji?evnost, jezik, istoriju i folklor" in 1956, go as far to state that Bosan?ica was a term introduced through Austro-Hungarian propaganda, and regarded it a type of cursive Cyrillic script, without specifics that would warrant an "isolation from Cyrillic". The main Serbian authorities in the field are Jorjo Tadi?, Vladimir ?orovi?, Petar Kolendi?, Petar ?or?i?, Vera Jerkovi?, Irena Grickat, Pavle Ivi? and Aleksandar Mladenovi?.
On the Croatian side, the split exists among philologists. One group basically challenges the letters being Serbian, and claims that majority of the most important documents of Bosnian Cyrillic had been written either before any innovations devised at the Serbian royal court happened, or did not have any historical connection with it whatsoever, thus considering Serbian claims on the origin of Bosnian Cyrillic to be unfounded and that the script, since they allege belonging to the Croatian cultural sphere, should be called not Bosnian, but Croatian Cyrillic. Other group of Croatian philologists acknowledges that "Serbian connection", as exemplified in variants present at the Serbian court of king Dragutin, did influence Bosnian Cyrillic, but, they aver, it was just one strand, since scriptory innovations have been happening both before and after the mentioned one. First group insists that all Bosnian Cyrillic texts belong to the corpus of Croatian literacy, and the second school that all texts from Croatia and only a part from Bosnia and Herzegovina are to be placed into Croatian literary canon, so they exclude c. half of Bosnian Christian texts, but include all Franciscan and the majority of legal and commercial document. Also, the second school generally uses the name "Western Cyrillic" instead of "Croatian Cyrillic" (or Bosnian Cyrillic, for that matter). Both schools allege that supposedly various sources, both Croatian and other European, call this script "Croatian letters" or "Croatian script". The main Croatian authorities in the field are Vatroslav Jagi?, Mate Tentor, ?iro Truhelka, Vladimir Vrana, Jaroslav ?idak, Herta Kuna, Tomislav Raukar, Eduard Hercigonja and Benedikta Zeli?-Bu?an.
Jahi?, Halilovi?, and Pali? dismiss claims made by Croatian or Serbian philologists about national affiliation.
Ivan G. Iliev, in his "Short History of the Cyrillic Alphabet", summarize the Cyrillic variant, and acknowledge it was spread into and used in both Bosnia and Croatia, where these variants were called "bosan?ica" or "bosanica", in Bosnian and Croatian, which can literally be translated as Bosnian script, and that Croats also call it "arvatica" (Croatian script) or "Western Cyrillic".
The irony of the contemporary status of Bosnian Cyrillic is as follows: some scholars still trying to prove that Bosnian Cyrillic is ethnically their own, while simultaneously relegating the corpus of Bosnian Cyrillic written texts to the periphery of national culture. This extinct form of Cyrillic is peripheral to Croatian paleography which focuses on Glagolitic and Latin script corpora.
In 2015, a group of artists started a project called "I write to you in Bosan?ica" which involved art and graphic design students from Banja Luka, Sarajevo, ?iroki Brijeg, and Trebinje. Exhibitions of the submitted artworks will be held in Sarajevo, Trebinje, ?iroki Brijeg, Zagreb, and Belgrade. The purpose of the project was to resurrect the ancient script and show the "common cultural past" of all the groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first phase of the project was to reconstruct all of the ancient characters by using ancient, handwritten documents.
The name bosan?ica was first used by Fran Kurelac in 1861. Other instances of naming by individuals, in scholarship and literature or publications (chronological order, recent first):
zapadna varijanta ?irilskog brzopisa ("Western variant of Cyrillic cursive"), by Petar ?or?i?
serbian letters, by Bosnian Franciscan writer Matija Divkovi?, who explains in preface to his Nauk krstjanski za narod slovinski, that he wrote "for the Slavic folk in correct and true Bosnian language", while Georgijevi? also notes that he referred to the Bosnian Cyrillic, which he wrote in, as "Serbian letters".
^Fine, John V. A. (Jr ) (2010). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-Nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-Modern Periods. University of Michigan Press. pp. 304-305. ISBN978-0-472-02560-2. Retrieved 2020. Jagi? cites another seventeenth-century author, the Bosnian Matija Divkovi? (1563-1631), who was born in Bosnia, educated in Italy, and then became a Franciscan back in Bosnia; Divkovi?, though usually calling the language "Illyrian," at times called it "Bosnian." Georgijevi? disagrees, saying he usually called the language "Bosnian", "Slavic", or "ours" and goes on to cite a passage: that Divkovi? had translated (a work) into Slavic language, in the way that in Bosnia they speak the Slavic language. Moreover, Ravli? provides excerpts from Divkovi?'s "Beside varhu evandjela nediljnieh priko svehga godi?ta" (Venice 1614), including the whole dedication to Makarska Bishop Bartol Ka?i? (spelled Kad?i? by Divkovi?). In that dedication Divkovi? twice refers to the language he is employing; both times he calls it "Slavic" (Slovinski jezik). Divkovi? also used the term "Slavic," at times for the people involved; Kombol notes that he published in Venice, in 1611, a work entitled "Christian Doctrine for the Slavic People" (Nauk krstjanski za narod slovinski). In its preface, he stated that he wrote for the Slavic folk in correct and true Bosnian language. Georgijevi? also notes that he referred to the Bosnian Cyrillic, which he wrote in, as Serbian letters."