Kazakh president orders deeper look into transition from Cyrillic alphabet



Pupils attend a lesson at the Bilim Innovation Lyceum for gifted girls in Astana in March 2018. Some schools in Kazakhstan have already started teaching Kazakh in the Latin alphabet. [File]

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered scholars to develop another variation of the Latin alphabet meant to replace the country's Cyrillic alphabet, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Monday (November 9).

Tokayev asked Culture Minister Aktoty Raimkulov and Education Minister Askhat Aimagambetov to work with alphabet specialists and to present their work to a national commission studying the issue, according to Tokayev's press office.

Since 2017, Kazakhstan has been planning to switch to a Latin alphabet by 2025. However, multiple versions of that new alphabet are under discussion, as scholars debate letter pronunciation and diacritical markings. Tokayev has ordered the formulation of yet another version.

Moving away

The orthographic reform is seen as an effort to promote Kazakh culture and to separate Kazakhstan still more from Russian influence. Kazakhstan gained its independence in 1991.

Since becoming president in 2019, Tokayev has said that developing an appropriate Latin alphabet for Kazakh will require more work.

In 1929, Soviet authorities replaced traditional Arabic-based alphabets used by Muslim minorities in the Soviet Union with Latin-based alphabets, in a push to distance them from Islamic culture and materials.

In 1940, they imposed Cyrillic alphabets, tying those languages to Russian.

Coming generations in Kazakhstan will master foreign languages and integrate into the global community more easily if they learn Kazakh through the Latin alphabet, Saule Tursunova, the mother of an Almaty schoolchild, told Caravanserai in 2018.

Meanwhile, a decree issued by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev last month seeks to hasten the full transition of the Uzbek language from the Cyrillic to Latin alphabet.

Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan have also discussed a similar switch.

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