Russia Criticizes Uzbek Language Policy

The Russian Foreign Ministry said this month that supporters of the Uzbekistan government’s plan to enforce the use of Uzbek in the civil service were “obviously in the minority.”

Moscow also urged that the former Soviet republic retain Russian as an official language in order to “keep in line with the spirit of history, time, and the quality of bilateral relations.”

However, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry further said in a statement that the as-yet-unsigned regulations were merely an enforcement of longstanding rules, and that such decisions were “domestic policy at the prerogative of the state, so outside interference is unacceptable.”

Russia was not singled out in the statement, but it did mention comments by “foreign officials.” Russian is widely used in the country, and millions of Uzbek laborers work in Russia. Current president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has moved the country back closer to Russia by making Uzbekistan an observer in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and signing a contract with Rosatom to build a nuclear power plant last year. Former president Islam Karimov had tried to distance the country from Russia.

A recent poll in Ukraine found that the majority (69%) of Ukrainians believe Ukrainian must remain the country’s only official language. Just 15% of respondents support Russian being an official language in some regions of Ukraine, and 12% say Russian should be the second official language, according to the nationwide survey conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies named after Oleksandr Razumkov.

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