Uzbekistan declares full transition to Latin-based alphabet by 2023

By Caravanserai

Uzbek students take open-air entrance exams in Tashkent on September 2, 2020. Uzbekistan is planning to fully switch from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet by January 1, 2023. [Yuri Korsuntsev/AFP]

Uzbek students take open-air entrance exams in Tashkent on September 2, 2020. Uzbekistan is planning to fully switch from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet by January 1, 2023. [Yuri Korsuntsev/AFP]

TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan will complete its full transition from Cyrillic to Latin script by January 1, 2023, the Justice Ministry announced on Telegram last week.

The cabinet on February 10 approved a road map for completing the transition by that date, it said.

The decision comes less than four months after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev decreed a faster transition to Latin script.

Presently, Uzbekistan uses both alphabets.

Users of Uzbek, as well as of other Central Asian languages, wrote in an Arabic script until the late 1920s. The Soviet Union imposed Latin script at that point, but it introduced Cyrillic in 1940.

The two orthographic reforms severed Central Asians from Islamic literature, culture and history, unless they pursued advanced study in those fields.

In 1993, Uzbekistan began its long transition to Latin script. However, Uzbeks still use Cyrillic widely.

The Uzbek Latin alphabet has 30 characters.

Neighbouring states reform alphabets too

Other Central Asian states are pursuing orthographic reform as a way to emphasise their culture and distance themselves from Russia and their Soviet histories.

Kazakhstan began the process in 2017, and the government's deadline for transitioning is 2025.

In November, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev asked the ministers of culture and education to work with experts on creating the alphabet and present their proposals to a national commission working on the issue, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

At least two variants of the new Latin-based alphabets have been proposed by experts, but neither has been approved so far.

Turkmenistan switched to Latin script in 1993.

Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic in the South Caucasus that also speaks a Turkic language, adopted Latin script on December 25, 1991, the day before the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.

Kyrgyzstan has discussed the idea but has not yet acted upon it.

A variety of motives has driven the shift.

Leaders of the Turkic-speaking nations sought to break away from years of Russian influence and to encourage stronger national identity. Many linguists also consider Latin script more suitable for Turkic languages.

The move incidentally will make it easier for young Central Asians to learn and read Turkish, which comes from the same language family as Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Uzbek.

The Stalinist regime's imposition of Cyrillic was in part meant to cut off Central Asia and Azerbaijan from Turkey. Under reformer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who founded the Turkish Republic, Turkey adopted a Latin script in the 1920s.

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11 Comment(s)

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Let them switch to Latin sooner, it is taking too long. Isn't it high time to kill Cyrillic and bury it without shroud and funerals?


The pronunciation of certain letter combinations differs from the English pronunciation. They will interfere with each other.


Language and script aren't the proper tools to use for political purposes. You can't trust a couple scientists and linguists to develop a language, alphabet, and writing system. Practical suitability should be one's guidance. An alphabet must not depict sounds with a few letters. And the number of letters should not be decreased. For instance, the letter 's' has no use in the Latin-Uzbek script, but it is used along with the letters 'ch' for the sound 'ch'. It shows linguists do not understand the issue correctly; this proveswhat I'm saying. The same is true for other sounds like 'sh', 'st,' etc. We don't need letter pairs to depict the sounds. It'll result in slower reading. It forces your brain to perform extra work analysing similar words; I'm saying this as a speed reading specialist.


Just to let you know, the letter C has been added to Uzbek language in 2019


The less in common we have with a dumpster like Russia, the better.


Why Latin script; what's wrong with Cyrillic, which is familiar and convenient for everybody? Do older folks even know the Latin script - did you think about that? There is a reason people say that а fool is more dangerous than an enemy.


Elders will die soo, future is for youth, isn't it better to reform youth than elders, for example you dream of future not past. You can not invest in the past, investment is made into future.


Who needs this deadwood Cyrillic


Of course, Latin script is the real alphabet for you. You should switch to the Chinese "alphabet." That makes more sense. You can also do talking knots - that's near and dear to you. The Turks switched to Latin script to be closer to the European Union, but what is in it for you? This is the first time I want to thank Gorbachev that you are no longer in our Russian Empire.


So, don't come sneaking around here with your USSR. Just stay where you are.


Only Kyrgyzstan still uses Cyrillic