STANDARDIZATION OF THE OLD CHURCH SLAVONIC CYRILLIC SCRIPT AND
ITS REGISTRATION IN UNICODE
Conclusions adopted at the international academic conference held at the Serbian
Academy of Sciences and Arts [SASA], 15-17 October 2007, organised by the SASA
Division for Language and Literature and the SASA Institute for the Serbian
Heinz Miklas, Johannes Reinhart (Austria); Rumjan Lazov,
Anisava Miltenova (Bulgaria); Stana Jankoska, Violeta
Martinovska (Macedonia); Elena L. Aleksejeva, Viktor A.
Baranov, Anatolij A. Turilov (Russia); Dušnica Grbić, Jasmina
Grković-Major, Gordana Jovanović, Zoran Kostić, Katarina Mano-Zisi, Predrag
Miodrag, Slobodan Pavlović, Viktor Savić, Gojko Subotić,Gordana Tomović, Đorđe
Trifunović, Brankica Čigoja, Novka Šokica, Irena Špadijer (Serbia);
Father Josif (Hilandar Monastery); Václav Čermák (Czech
Republic); Jelica Stojanović (Montenegro).
The Belgrade conference dealt with three fundamental issues:
Establishing the standard for the Old Church Slavonic Cyrillic script – more
precisely, defining all of its characters and their order – for small and
capital letters as well as superimposed letters, diacritical marks, ligatures
Establishing alphabetical order;
Forwarding a joint recommendation to Unicode, on behalf of all institutions
represented at the conference, requesting registration of the Old Church
Slavonic Cyrillic script as separate and independent from the already
represented modern Cyrillic.
On the last day of the conference, during a workshop marked by lively and
productive discussion, the Belgrade initiative was amended repeatedly. An
agreement was finally reached, and can be viewed here:
Principles for Establishing a Standard).
Standard Established for Old Church Slavonic Cyrillic (See:
Standard for Old Slavic Script
At the suggestion of B. A. Baranov, it was decided to divide characters into
‘basic’ and ‘functional’ forms.
Characters were accordingly classified as basic, functional, and glyph forms.
The basic inventory comprises forms that have been stable
since the first preserved writings and have existed throughout the history of
the script. The basic forms are a constant within the written tradition. This
inventory is essentially supranational and is found as such in only the
earliest writings; it later takes on distinctive national forms or ‘recensions’
that can be distinguished from the wider tradition.
The functional inventory comprises necessary additions to the
basic inventory, without which it would be difficult or impossible to use the
script normally. This set includes not-yet stable forms occurring in the
earliest writings, characters with soft signs, rarely occurring older letter
forms, singularities of lesser importance in certain editions, characters
needed for transliterating Glagolitic, and characters needed for phonological
Cyrillic-Glagolitic). The standard Old Church Slavonic script
was determined to have 49 basic and 46 functional characters
Basic and Functional Characters).
It was determined that each character (whether basic or functional) should have
its own superimposed (superscript) letter both with and without titlos.
A list was established of basic diacritical marks and titlos, while those
remaining were transferred to the glyphs.
A list was established of basic punctuation and symbols, while those remaining
were transferred to the glyphs.
No final position was reached as to whether ligatures should be included in the
standard; the issue remains open.
Alphabetical Order Established for Old Church Slavonic Cyrillic,
and used for all further examples.
Agreement on Proposal for Registration of Old Church Slavonic Script in
Participants at the Belgrade conference agreed that the Old Church Slavonic
script is not represented in Unicode. To date, the closest script available is
Građanica, which has too many gaps to be workable.
It was agreed that it is necessary to register the entire standard Old Church
Slavonic script, with such font extensions as are required for electronic
document exchange, in order to functionally reproduce Old Church Slavonic. (See
It was agreed that registration should be independent of currently registration
for reasons detailed in the attached registration proposal.
Conclusions and attachments should be open to public review by experts who did
not attend the Belgrade conference, in order to ensure that the standard and
accompanying proposals are the best possible.
The final proposal should be presented at the International Conference of
Slavonic Studies in Ohrid, Macedonia, 2008, in order to gain widespread support
for its inclusion in Unicode
Regardless of the type of registration Unicode eventually implements, whether
partial or complete, Slavonic scholars must conform to the standard as
proposed. In the event that insufficiencies are later noted in the standard
script, the Belgrade team will recommend further codes from the Private Use
Area of Unicode. Such recommendations will also be open to public discussion.
Due to time constraints, some of the issues under discussion remained
unresolved, while others were not even dealt with. Further public discussions
should focus on the following:
Paragraph 1.3. of the Conclusions provides that “each character (whether basic
or functional) shall have its own superimposed letter, both with and without
titlos”. Such a requirement necessitates a certain amount of reconstruction.
The resulting oddities (technical, logical and historical) of certain solutions
should be pointed out; although they are consistent with the system as
conceived, it may have been better to exclude them from the proposal: он
многооко [many-eyed on], омега узвична [exclamatory
omega], хер паучасто [spider-legged her], омега глагољска
[Glagolitic omega], черв глагољско [Glagolitic cherv], шта
глагољско [Glagolitic shta], and perhaps all меке/умекшане
Among the standard small, uppercase and superimposed (superscript) letter,
there are two completely reconstructed forms: *слово меко [soft
letter] (no. 42), for phonological transcription of the Old Church Slavonic
phoneme [s’], and *хер паучасто
[spider-legged her] (no. 50), primarily for transliteration from Glagolitic.
The issue of ligatures was not resolved. Opinion on the matter was divided. The
Roman languages require a (small) number of ligatures which are characteristic
of their written tradition; such ligatures are listed in Unicode and can be
found in every font. In our case, the original proposal called for over 200
ligatures—and this was not the total number. Should such a wealth of forms be
The topic of naming the characters was not broached, as various conventions are
currently in use. It is not yet established whether they should be written in
the Old Church Slavonic script, or read according to publishing conventions and
customary usage, or whether a uniform usage should be put into place. The names
of the characters are therefore descriptive, for the most part. A larger
problem arises with the names of the diacritical marks, titlos, punctuation and
symbols. Our expectation is that Slavonic scholars will exert themselves to
resolve the uncertainties remaining in the important project of establishing
the standard for the Old Church Slavonic script.