Kyrgyzstan president voices doubts regarding switch to Latin alphabet

BISHKEK (TCA) — Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has expressed doubts about a possible switch of the Kyrgyz language from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

Speaking at a conference in Bishkek on July 20, Atambayev said the switch to Latin might divide Turkic languages and nations instead of uniting them, noting that many territories inhabited by Turkic-speaking peoples are subjects of the Russian Federation and they are using Cyrillic.

According to Atambayev, the change of the alphabet may also “break the link between generations, as many prominent Kyrgyz writers used Cyrillic when creating their works.”

The idea to switch to the Latin alphabet became an issue in Kyrgyzstan after the President of neighboring Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, announced in April that Kazakhstan will switch to Latin by 2025.

Nazarbayev also ordered authorities to come up with a Latin-based alphabet for the Kazakh language by the end of 2017, which appeared to be part of efforts to emphasize Kazakh culture while shedding rules and traditions left over after decades of Soviet-era domination by Moscow.

In 1929, Soviet authorities replaced traditional Arabic-based alphabets used by Muslim minorities in the Soviet Union with Latin-based national alphabets. In 1940, the Latin alphabet was replaced with Cyrillic, the alphabet used for the Russian language.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan switched to Latin, while in Uzbekistan both Latin and Cyrillic have been used in parallel since 1992.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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