Kazakhstan Prepares to Ditch Cyrillic for a Latin-Based Alphabet

Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have already made this switch in the 1990s. Kazakhstan has now set a timetable that would phase out cyrilllic by 2025

Sat, Apr 15, 2017 | 2759 Comments
Turkic language, Slavic alphabet

From a political perspective, while some embrace Latinization as a way of distancing Kazakhstan from Russia, others view it as a threat to the nation’s cultural heritage.

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has set a target date of 2025 for completing a transition from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet for publications in the Kazakh language, official daily Egemen Kazakhstan reported Wednesday.

Though this is not president’s first mention of the issue, as Latinization has been on the agenda in Kazakhstan since the 1990s, Nazarbayev’s past comments did not specify a timeframe for the change.

Work is already under way with the aim of drawing up a detailed program by the end of 2017, Egemen Kazakhstan said.

The idea of substituting the Latin alphabet for Cyrillic is not without controversy.

Egemen Kazakhstan cites Nazarbayev as describing the transition to Latin script as key to the modernization of the Central Asian country.

The president also said that Kazakhstan’s young people will adapt easily to the change, given their knowledge of English. At the same time, the shift away from the Cyrillic alphabet could leave part of the population virtually illiterate.

From a political perspective, while some embrace Latinization as a way of distancing Kazakhstan from Russia, others view it as a threat to the nation’s cultural heritage.

Adopting Latin script is the right step for Kazakhstan’s interests, but the process must be carried out in stages, lawmaker Maulen Ashimbayev told the press.

Political scientist Eduard Poletaev expressed similar views, telling EFE that changing the alphabet is “a long-term solution” which will require years of discussion.

For the moment, according to Poletaev, the prospects for Latinization in Kazakhstan will remain hazy until officials put forward a plan.

Kazakhstan began introducing the Latin alphabet in 1929, but the process was aborted in 1940 when Moscow decreed the use of Cyrillic script nationwide with the aim of improving communication among the numerous ethnic groups in the Soviet Union.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, only Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have made significant progress in the adoption of the Latin alphabet, while a similar effort in Uzbekistan went awry at the stage of implementation.

Source: teleSUR

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