The Cyrillic alphabet is based on an ancient method of writing called the Cyrillic script. Early Cyrillic alphabets were developed in the 9th Century, replacing an earlier Glagolitic script. These scripts were initially studied and developed over time through the study of the theologians Methodius and Cyril, the namesake of the alphabet itself. The Cyrillic alphabet is the basis of numerous languages around the world that are of Slavic origin.
It forms some of the alphabets of non-Slavic nations which have been influenced, either positively or negatively, by Russia. Hundreds of millions of people in Eurasia use the alphabet as their primary source of communication and writing, with about half of these people connected to a Russian origin. This makes Cyrillic, like the Latin alphabet, one of the most-encountered and used alphabets in the world.
To understand the Cyrillic alphabet, it is important to see how it differs from the Latin script. The Latin script and dialogue have adapted to many different languages, which have formulated their methods of speaking and writing through the use of supplements, accents, and other notations, largely for pronunciation. The Cyrillic alphabet is modified to each regional and cultural influence, usually by creating an entirely new shape of the letter.
The spread of the Cyrillic alphabet is unique and interesting. For example, non-Slavic alphabets that use Cyrillic are modeled after Russian, which is the largest nation that uses the modern Cyrillic alphabet. The first adaptions of the initial Cyrillic script were developed by missionaries who were spreading the orthodox faith to the Turic and Finnic people in the Eurasian region, particularly in the 1870s. The creation of such alphabets was primarily for use in Siberia and by people in the Caucasus who had recently converted to Christianity and needed to learn the religious texts.
People of the former Soviet Union who had been using Mongolian, Arabic, or Asian script adopted the Cyrillic alphabet. In the 1930s, the Latin alphabet in certain European countries under the Soviet Union was switched to Cyrillic as well, such as in the countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In many countries that are near Russia, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the use of Cyrillic to write historical and local languages has been controversial since the collapse of Soviet rule, which saw many people wanting to return to historical values.
The common Cyrillic alphabets that are used by Slavic languages are divided into East and West. Eastern Slavic languages, such as Russian and Bulgarian, share certain common features, including the characters Й, ь, and я. The Slavic languages which reside in the west and southwest share another set of common features, which include Ј and љ. Both sets of Slavic Cyrillic script derive their roots from Old Church Slavonic, mainly using these alphabets to spread certain aspects of the Christian faith in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The alphabet changed after 1918, simplifying it through the reforms of Russian orthography.