Monday commemorates St Cyril and St Methodius, Equal to the Apostles, the brothers who created the Slavic alphabet, also known as the Cyrillic alphabet (after the elder brother's name), which is used in Russia and a number of countries of east and central Europe in the almost unchanged form to this day.
The brothers were born into a rich and pious family that lived in the Greek city of Thessalonica. Methodius was a warrior and governor of a Slavic, supposedly Bulgarian, princedom subordinate to the Byzantine Empire. It was where he learned Slavonic. He then took the vows at a monastery on the Olympus mountain in Asia Minor.
Cyril (originally named Constantine) was a prominent scholar, theologian and linguist.
The Byzantine emperor sent both brothers to covert the Chazars into Christianity. When they stopped off in Korsun, Constantine found a Gospel and a Hymnal written in Russian, and he met a man who spoke Russian there. Constantine began learning to read and speak the language.
When back from the mission, the brothers were sent to Moravia. Moravian Prince Rostislav, who was persecuted by the archibishop of Saltzburg and bishop of Passau, requested the Byzantine emperor for missionaries who could to preach Christ in Slavic.
Constantine and Methodius compiled a Slavic alphabet and translated the Holy Scriptures (the Gospel, the Epistle, and the Hymnal) from Greek into Slavic for their new mission. This happened in 863.
Moravia received the brothers with great honours, and they began teaching to conduct church services in Slavic. The outraged German clergy, who conducted services in Moravia's churches in Latin, complained to Rome.
Constantine and Methodius took the relics of St Pope Kliment, which they had found in Korsun, and headed for Rome. Pope Adrian therefore met the brothers with honours and authorised the use of the Slavic liturgy. He even ordered to put the translated holy books in Roman churches and conduct communion services in Slavic.
St Constantine died in 869 under the monastic name of Cyril. St Methodius continued promoting church services in Slavic and spreading the holy books in Slavic, a lot of which were damaged by outraged German clergymen. Methodius spent two and a half years in prison in Swabia (Germany). When released on the new Pope's order, he continued missionary activities among the Slavs and baptised Czech Prince Borivoi and his wife Lyudmila and a Polish prince.
In the last years of his life, Methodius translated the Bible, the Apostolic Canons and the Paterik (Patristic Writings) into Slavic.
Samara is this year's centre of Slavic alphabet celebrations in Russia, while Voronezh hosted relevant festivities last year.