Today we’re starting a new section: history. Actually, too: English language.

First of all, I am not a Slavic philologist (unfortunately). Thus, it is not my intention to speak about Slavic languages as an expert. I would gladly do it, but as I said, I am not a philologist. If I address Slavic languages at any point, it is to accompany the history or details thereof. With this clarification made, I will begin:

Usually, I’ll be focusing on the history of the Western Balkans, particularly Serbia, as it’s the central topic of my thesis and articles, but I’ll be expanding to other countries and historical periods. It will be fascinating (for me it was) to discover how the extinct Byzantine civilization contributes knowledge and new perspectives to the today and not-so-current Balkans. My thesis, in fact, deals with the international relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Balkans. And it was a continuous discovery. We’ll see how, in the context of Byzantium, the current Balkan peoples emerged: admired for the sophistication of Byzantium and the cosmopolitanism and history of its capital, the millenary Constantinople (the Slavic peoples called it «Tsarigrad,» city of the emperors, or «city of the Caesars») and, paradoxically, they had the intention of destroying it to occupy such a privileged place in the «international stage” of the time. In fact, the Byzantine Empire was the legal successor to the Roman Empire, and the Roman legacy continued uninterrupted through Byzantium. Therefore, Serbs or Bulgarians have tried to take Constantinople. And they came pretty close, although the city had an amulet that prevented it…until 1453, when the Turks, under Mehmed II’s command, gathered such a force against it that no amulet could prevent it anymore. Although it wasn’t easy: in the 15th century, there were several Ottoman sultans who had the misfortune of experiencing the «curse» that weighed on anyone who dared to attack the «Queen of the Bosphorus,» (another name of Constantinople). Thus, Bayezid I, who ruled from 1389 to 1402, had to cancel his plans to take the city (something many Turkish rulers dreamed of) to face the Mongol leader Tamerlane in the Battle of Ankara. He was defeated and taken prisoner, causing a civil war in the Ottoman Empire among his four sons, from which Mehmed I emerged victorious. He should have given up his imperial dreams and focused on the internal situation of his country after a civil conflict. His son Murad II tried not once, but twice to take the Byzantine capital. The first attempt failed when he fell victim to a disease that forced him to temporarily relinquish power. The second attempt also had to be aborted due to a Mongol invasion of Anatolia. His son, the aforementioned Mehmed II, did not fail. It should also be noted that the Byzantine Empire was actually little more than its capital and had been bleeding for two centuries.

And now, who’s up for taking the city?

As a very illustrative curiosity, it should be noted that the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI Dragases Palaiologos was half Serbian; in fact, Dragases was a Hellenization of his real surname: Dragaš, because his Serbian mother Helena Dragaš, daughter of the Serbian ruler Constantine Dejanović. What a coincidence, isn’t?

The Byzantine civilization was decisive for the Slavic peoples and the Balkans (except for present-day Croatia, Slovenia, and somewhat Montenegro, which had more Venetian influence), including the Cyrillic alphabet, by one of the Greek monk brothers (the other was Methodius) who went on an “evangelizing mission” to Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) to spread Christianity to the Slavic peoples there. At the beginning, they used Greek Alphabet, but they found that was better to create a new script that was more suitable for the phonetic characteristics of Slavic languages (first, the Glagolitic alphabet, but it evolved into the modern Cyrillic alphabet). They used their such newly created alphabet to translate religious texts into Old Church Slavonic, which became the liturgical language of the Orthodox Church in the Slavic world. Cyril and Methodius are revered as saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and their legacy has had a profound impact on Slavic culture and identity. The Cyrillic alphabet is still used today in various Slavic languages, including Russian, Bulgarian, (Northern) Macedonians, Serbian, and Ukrainian. Thus, the current alphabet owes its name to this Greek monk: it is called Cyrillic because of «Cyril.» So, when people outlined above, and other Asian countries whose language (even when such language is not Slavic, although they were dominated by the Russians) write or send a WhatsApp message, they are using a Byzantine adaptation: they continue to write with the tools that the Byzantines gave them over a millennium ago.

Well…I will take it slowly. I don’t have much time because I am doing this alone. In any case, I hope you like it and find it useful.



Por Antonio Rando Casermeiro

Me llamo Antonio y nací en Santander en 1974, aunque soy, sobre todo, de Málaga. Soy licenciado en Derecho e Historia y doctor en Derecho Internacional Público y Relaciones Internacionales por la universidad de Málaga y quisiera dedicarme a ello. Soy un apasionado desde pequeño del este de Europa, especialmente de los Balcanes y Yugoslavia. Me encantan las relaciones internacionales y concibo escribir sobre ellas como una especie de cuento. Soy apasionado de escribir también cuentos y otras cosillas. Desde 2013 resido en Colonia (Alemania)

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