AZBUKA – what makes Serbian different from other Slavic alphabets

„Write as you read, read as it is written“ – Johann Christoph Adelung

Did you know that Serbian language is the only European language which has two different alphabets? Both of them were adapted by Serbian language reformer Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, with great help of the Grimm brothers and other European linguists; so they have created Serbian Cyrillic alphabet which is the official alphabet of Serbia, and Serbian Latin alphabet, which is – besides Serbia – used today in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thanks to them, today we have the simplest alphabet in the world where each sound has its own corresponding symbol. Thus, we have 30 letters in our alphabet, 5 of which are the vowels.

Serbian Cyrillic alphabet has a little bit different order than Roman Latin, and it goes like this:

Аа Бб Вв Гг Дд Ђђ Ее Жж Зз Ии Јј Кк Лл Љљ Мм Нн Њњ Оо Пп Рр Сс Тт Ћћ Уу Фф Хх Цц Чч Џџ Шш
Aa Bb Vv Gg Dd Đđ Ee Žž Zz Ii Jj Kk Ll LJlj Mm Nn NJnj Oo Pp Rr Ss Tt Ćć Uu Ff Hh Cc Čč DŽdž Šš
/a/ /b/ /ʋ/ /ɡ/ /d/ /dʑ/ /ɛ/ /ʒ/ /z/ /i/ /j/ /k/ /l/ /ʎ/ /m/ /n/ /ɲ/ /ɔ/ /p/ /r/ /s/ /t/ /tɕ/ /u/ /f/ /x/ /ts/ /tʃ/ /dʒ/ /ʃ/

It is very easy to learn it, and it’s a great way to start learning Serbian! Here are some guidelines for you:

Letters which are the same both in Serbian Cyrillic and in Latin:

A E O J K M T

Letters which you might puzzle you:

В Р С У X in Latin, their equivalents are:

V R S U H

Common Cyrillic letters are:

Б Г Д Ж З И Л Н П Ц Ч Ш their Latin (Central European) equivalents are:

B G D Ž Z I L N P C Č Š

Unique Serbian Cyrillic letters are:

Џ Ђ Ћ Љ Њ which have equivalents in:

DŽ Đ Ć LJ NJ

 

Serbian alphabet

Here’s an interesting way of learning Serbian Alphabet:

А is for ADA CIGANLIJA, or „the Belgrade Sea“ as we like to call it. Ada Ciganlija is a holm in Sava river, and it’s the favorite picnic for Belgradians. Ada Ciganlija is a perfect refuge from the urban heat during the summer.

Б is for BELGRADE, our capital. It is the largest city in the region, and one of the oldest known settlements in Europe which has never been abandoned. Belgrade already has the reputation of the most wanted destinations in Europe in past several years, and is declared as a „European hidden pearl“.

В stands for VOJVODINA, Serbian northern province. It is the southernmost part of the vast Pannonian plain, intersected by mighty rivers such as Danube, Tisa, Begej, Tamiš… Each of Vojvodina’s three regions has stories of their own. Vojvodina’s natural, cultural and ethnic wealth is among the greatest not only in Europe, but in the world.

Г is like GUČA TRUMPET FESTIVAL, held every summer for more than fifty years in the picturesque village Guča. Settled above beautiful West Morava river, in the shades of mountains Ovčar, Kablar and Jelica, this village becomes the world center of trumpet and partying once a year. It is the worldknown symbol of Serbian sense for party.

Д is for DRINA RIVER, beautiful and untamed. Drina river is a natural border between Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and it sheer raw beauty is the inspiration for thousands of painters and poets. Drina Regatta, held each July, gathers thousands of participants on a jolly rafting down the river speeds. Thanks to its pureness, Drina is known as angling paradise.

Ђ is the first letter of ĐERDAP GORGE, the largest, longest, widest and narrowest Danube gorge. It is the home of the oldest known European civilisation – civilisation of Lepenski Vir, dating back in 10th millenium BC. Đerdap gorge provides unique experience: outstanding natural beauty (it is the largest national park in the region) combined with cultural legacy from the Mesolith through Roman culture, Medieval kingdoms makes one-of-a-kind in the world.

Е stands for the EXIT MUSIC FESTIVAL, one of the largest music festivals in Europe. Each summer thousands of music lovers hurl to Novi Sad, second largest city in Serbia and to opposing Petrovaradin fortress to enjoy a whole week of outstanding musical performances held by the greatest names in show business.

Ж is for medieval Royal monastery ŽIČA. Founded in 1207 by the first king of Serbian medieval dynasty of Nemanjić – king Stefan the Firstcrowned, Žiča monastery was the Seat of the first autonomous Serbian Orthodox Church. Its distinctive color and beautiful frescoes were the state-of-the-art masterpieces in Europe. Today Žiča monastery is protected as the Cultural Monument of Exceptional Importance.

З is the common letter for two twin-mountains: ZLATIBOR and ZLATAR. Along with the „sister mountain“ Tara, they form a true gem of Serbian alpine tourism. Mt. Zlatibor is one of the largest mountain resorts in the region, and is equally popular throughout the year. Mt. Zlatar, however, is a hidden gem of Serbia being almost completely dedicated to implementation of the ethno-influence in tourism.

И is for the most popular rafting destination in the Region – IBAR RIVER. Secluded between Mt. Čemerno and Mt. Stolovi, Ibar river speeds offer fantastic opportunity for those who seek adventure. Being at the very heart of the region which used to be the center of Serbian medieval state, Ibar river rafting is perfectly combined with expeditions to the old fortresses and monasteries.

Ј stands for the JERMA CANYON, one of the most scenic canyons in Europe. Hidden in Mt. Balkan, at the Southeast of Serbia, Jerma canyon is a part of one of the oldest geologic forms in Europe. Jerma canyon is a perfect destination for those who are looking for an adventure: fantastic landscapes and extraordinary history leave noone untouched.

К like the world’s naive arts center – KOVAČICA. This picturesque town is only an hour away from Belgrade, yet it represents a completely another perspective on Serbian cultural heritage. Local Slovak community made Kovačica famous for its naive painters, and a great number of them got the world’s glory. Kovačica is also a home of a virtuose, Mr. Jan Nemček, famous violin maker.

Л stands for the oldest European civilisation of LEPENSKI VIR. Dated in 9500 BC, Lepenski Vir was the corner-stone of the latter civilisations of Vinča and Starčevo cultures. Little is known about the culture of Lepenski Vir, however, the archaeologist keep discovering fascinating facts over and over. The large complex dedicated to this culture comprises of the large original settlement, where one can see the first urban systems. Yet, perhaps the best known symbol of Lepenski Vir are famous fish-people figurines.

Љ is best described in two words, tightly related: LJUBAV meaning „love“ and LJUBOSTINJA MONASTERY, 14th century endowment of Serbian princess Milica and Serbian symbol of feminine unconditional love to her beloved man. The heartbreaking story of Serbian heroism and sacrifice in Kosovo Battle and their women who took vows as nuns is still one of the most romantic legends in the world.

М is for MANASIJA MONASTERY, one of a kind sanctuary and fortress, built as a defense from the Ottoman attacks. Not only Manasija was a rampart against the Ottomans, but it was also a bastion of Serbian literacy and cultural heritage. During the fifteenth century, Manasija monastery had the largest scribal school in the Christian Orthodox world. Literally hundreds of old manustcripts were daily transcripted and translated by the brotherhood of monks. Although eventually conquered, Manasija remained to be a symbol of Serbian medieval culture.

Н is a starting letter of the third largest city in Serbia – NIŠ or NAISSUS, as the Romans called it. Niš is the birthplace of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Its turbulent history was an inspiration to dozens of dramas and comedies, and Niš spirit is quite famous and interesting among Serbs as they are recognized as great jokers. If you seek for an exquisite Balkan story, then Niš is a must. Niš is also a host of one of the largest jazz festivals in the world – famous „Nišville“.

Њ stands for NJIVA, Serbian expression for a cultivated field or soil. Serbia is abundant of wheat, corn and oat crops; and is one of the world leaders in fruit production. Thanks to its mild climate, Serbian soil is perfect for agriculture and some of our agricultural symbols are plum, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, apples… There is a saying that if there were no farmers – Serbia wouldn’t exist. Serbs nurture a kind of cult towards Serbian fruitful soil, and respect it very much. That’s why Serbs consider organic food as an daily routine.

О like OPLENAC HILL, the very center of Serbia. Nested among other picturesque hills of Serbian Šumadija region, Oplenac was chosen by the last Serbian Royal family to become their symbol, their home and their resting ground. Surrounded by century old vinyards and thick oak forest, at the very top of Oplenac hill lies the magnificent Royal Complex of Karađorđević Royal Dynasty. It comprises of the King Peter’s summer residence, Royal wine cellar, Queen’s Court and a jewel – St. George’s Church and Royal Mausoleum.

П is for PALIĆ LAKE, the northernmost lake in Serbia and one of the most respected Baths & Spas in this region. This eolic lake is enriched by fabulous Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture along its coastline. The nearby city of Subotica with its magnificent architecture, surrounding csardas – genuine guesthouses and taverns, and endles fields of vine form a beautiful picture of Serbian North.

Р stands for RAŠKA or RAS, Serbian southwestern county, which is considered to be a cradle of the first Serbian medieval kingdom. Hundreds of monasteries dating way back from 6th century, dozens of citadels and an exquisite mixture of European and Orient influence form a magnificent atmosphere for storytelling. Prepare yourself for breathtaking stories about Serbian knights, folklore and legends.

С is for SLAVA – genuine Serbian holiday which celebrates the patron saint of one family. It is considered that Slava derives from the pre-Christian Slavic customs which celebrated ancestral line and tribal god. Today Slava cannot be unchained from Serbian Orthodox Church, and is one of the most cheerful holidays in the world. It is dedicated to the family, to pay respect to family ancestors and to celebrate continuance of family legacy. Slava is protected by UNESCO as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Т is dedicated to beautiful TARA, one of the three gem  mountains in West Serbia. The untouched nature overlooking mighty river Drina and surrounding mountains is a true paradise for its visitors. Its very name – Tara – is closely related to the Celtic deity, as Mt. Tara was considered to be the home of gods. Today Mt. Tara is a National Park of great significance, as it is one of rare European bear natural habitats.

Ћ stands for ĆEVAPI, sort of kebabs without which one cannot visit Serbian tavern – kafana. Being great meat fans, Serbs have formed a complete philosophy of making grill. Each region in Serbia has its own school and ĆEVAP or ĆEVAPČIĆI as we call them dearly are the perfect example of grilling arts & crafts. There is no chance that any BBQ or any tavern gathering or party can pass without sweet delicious ćevapi.

У is for one of the most beautiful panoramas in Europe, and home to Griffon Vulture – river and canyon UVAC. Located at the southwest of Serbia, Uvac river forms a one of a kind phenomenon, as it meandres through magnificent mountains and mountain plateaus. The natural reservate nurtures one of the most endagered bird species in Europe and the largest European vulture – Griffon Vulture. Along with nearby Mt. Zlatar and Raška county Uvac forms a fantastic choice for a dynamic vacation.

Ф is dedicated to FELIX ROMULIANA, a magnificent complex of Roman Emperor Galerius. The complex itself was a vast palace of emperor’s mother Romula, hence Felix Romuliana. Being a high priestess of a pagan cult, Romula had a shrine within the Royal complex. Its magnificent mosaics are among the best preserved ones and the richest in Roman heritage. Felix Romuliana is listed on UNESCO World Heritage list.

Х like HOMOLJE, mountain region in East Serbia, home of Vlahs. They say that Vlahs are descendants of the Roman legionnaires and ancient settlers. There are many legends which claim that Vlah magic is the mightiest one in the world. It is certain that their folklore is among the most interesting ones in the world, and we are sure that a part of Vlah magic can be found in local specialties such as Homolje cheese and Homolje honey.

Ц is for CARSKA BARA BIRD RESERVATE, not the largest, but the richest ornitological station in Europe. Nested in Banat county Carska Bara is a large swamp complex which nurtures hundreds of rare bird species and hundreds of herb species. Its flora and fauna is extraordinary and makes the perfect refuge for nature enthusiasts.

Ч is for „cheers!“ when you drink from ČOKANJ. Čokanj is a miniature bottle from which Serbs drink their favorite spirit – Rakija. It is a symbol of Serbian art of toasting, as it makes cheerful sound when Čokanjs are crossed. There are many anecdotes about Čokanj: a woman decided to spoil her husband’s joy of drinking from Čokanj by insertind a spider into it. A man looked at the poor spider for a few seconds, and advised it: „draw in your legs, my friend, you are about to travel…“

Џ is for another Serbian treat – DŽERVIN WINES. Mountainous regions of East Serbia are famous for fantastic wines and wine sorts. Perhaps the best representative would be Džervin hill, near town of Knjaževac. There is an opinion that the Džervin area was under the vinyards for thousands of years. One thing is for certain – this fruitful hill trully keeps its wealth in outstanding fruit and wine collection.

Ш stands for ŠUMADIJA, Serbian central region. This hilly area carries its name for numerous forests, or „šuma“ in Serbian. Intersected by hundreds of creeks and rivers, Šumadija is famous for the fruit production. There are only several mountains in Šumadija region, and its mild climate is perfect to visit all year round. Šumadija is perfect for those who seek a true gourmet adventure, as its culinary specialties made of pure organic ingredients are always accompanied by a shot of rakija and make a perfect match with a glass of Šumadija wine.

Now that you have mastered our alphabet, let’s try to learn couple of phrases, OK?

CYRILLIC LATIN PRONOUNCING ENGLISH TRANSLATION
ДОБРО ЈУТРО! DOBRO JUTRO! DAW-BRO YOU-TRAW GOOD MORNING!
ДОБАР ДАН! DOBAR DAN! DAW-BAR DONE GOOD DAY!
ДОВИЂЕЊА! DOVIĐENJA! DAW-VEE-JANYA GOODBYE!
ЗБОГОМ! ZBOGOM! ZBAW-GOM FAREWELL!
ХВАЛА HVALA HVULLAH THANK YOU
НЕМА НА ЧЕМУ NEMA NA ČEMU NEM-A NA CHE-MOO YOU’RE WELCOME
ПРИЈАТНО PRIJATNO PREE-YUT-NO BON APPETIT
ЖИВЕЛИ! ŽIVELI! ZHEE-VE-LEE CHEERS!

Now that you have mastered our alphabet, or АЗБУКА, you’re on a great way to become a true Serb or – Србин!

Живели!

 

Writen by Petar Živić / Serbia Incoming DMC Project Manager

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