Kazakhstan Spells Out Script Swap

Astana, the modern capital of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev has announced a timeline to switch the country’s writing system over from the Cyrillic to the Latin script with full implementation occurring by 2025.

According to the state-owned “Egemen Kazakhstan” newspaper, Nazarbayev has asked the government to start “preparatory work” and “create a schedule for the switch” with the first deadline looming at the end of this year. “By the end of 2017, after consultation with academics and representatives of the public, a single standard for the new Kazakh alphabet and script should be developed,” wrote the President, adding that as of 2018, educators need to be trained and ready to teach the new alphabet and publishers would need to to be able to provide suitable textbooks.

The move is part of Nazarbayev’s push for modernization and a drive for expanded international recognition for the Central Asian nation that formed part of the Soviet Union until gaining independence in 1991. He has rejected suggestions that the script change would result in making many Kazakhstanis effectively illiterate.

Nazarbayev described the use of the Cyrillic script as “political,” noting that the Latin alphabet had been used from 1929 until 1940, while prior to 1929, the Arabic script had been used.

President Nazarbayev uses Russian alongside Kazakh in his speeches, and the language of the country’s giant neighbor has official status.

Kazakh belongs to the family of Turkic languages, whereas Russian is Slavic. Other countries with Turkic languages, such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan, currently use the Latin alphabet.

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