The Day of Slavic Writing and Culture was marked at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC) in New Delhi on May 25, 2018.
The highlight of the programme was a seminar “The Creators of the Slavic Alphabet Saints Cyril and Methodius” and a Book and Photo Exhibition “Churches and Monasteries of Russia” and “”Day of Slavic Writing and Culture”.
The prominent participants of the seminar were Dr. Neelakshi Suryanarayan, Head of the Department of Slavonic & Finno-Ugrian Studies, University of Delhi, who made her presentation on “Origins of Russian Literature. Kievan Period”, and Priest Dmitry Kulakov, the Cleric of the St. Thomas Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in Delhi, who made his observation on “Cyril and Methodius—Apostles to the Slavs”.
Mr. Ricardo A. Berna M., Third Secretary, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Panama, New Delhi, was present at the function.
Tracing the origins of Russian literature, Dr. Neelakshi Suryanarayan said that Russian literature is the body of written works produced in the Russian language, beginning with the Christianization of Kievan Rus in the late 10th century. Pointing out that there was no writing in pre-Christian period in Russia, she noted: “Slavonic alphabet and writing, devised by two Saint brothers Cyril and Methodius about a hundred years before that was brought to Kievan Rus by Christian priests along with a Bible and all essential church books. Thus, old Russian writings of above-mentioned Kiev period were generally written to serve ecclesiastic or church purposes, and were mostly translations from Greek to Old Slavonic language”.
Making a striking reference to a strange conjunction of Indian and Russian spirituality and culture, Dr. Neelakshi Suryanarayan described the tale of Varlaam and Loasaf (Barlaam and Joasaph)—a medieval philosophical narrative about the conversion to Christianity of the Indian prince Joasaph under the influence of the hermit Barlaam, who told him many parables. Modelled on Indian tales about Buddha, it was written in Middle East about 630 AD and translated with various revisions and additions, into Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Ethiopian, Armenian, and Georgian in the 1st millennium AD.
While making his observation, Priest Dmitry Kulakov noted that when the Moravian Prince Ratislav requested that the Byzantine Emperor Michael III send missionaries to Moravia “to explain to us the Christian truths in our own language”, it was the brothers Cyril and Methodius, who were sent. They had already developed a reputation as keen thinkers and administrators, and by the end of their lives, they were sell on the way to becoming the most celebrated missionary team in Eastern Orthodox history—the politics of liturgy. In 863, when Cyril and Methodius started their work among the Slavs, they began using Slalvonic in the liturgy. In 868, they were in Rome explaining themselves to Pope Adrian II who took their side and formally authorised the use of Slavonic liturgy. Cyril died in Roma, and Methodius was sent back to the Slavs.
Priest Dmitry Kulakov said: “The Slavonic liturgy and Bible made their way all over Eastern Europe, and gave birth to Bulgarian and Serbian Orthodox churches. Russia, which converted to Orthodoxy about a century after Methodius died, continues to use his Cyrillic alphabet to this day”.
He concluded by saying that for Eastern Orthodox Churches, which use the Julian Calendar, this the Day is marked on May 24, according to Gregorian calendar, the Day is celebrated as a public holiday on May 24 every year in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Czech Republic and Slovakia.