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 Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev 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.