President Nazarbayev orders transition to Latin-based alphabet in Kazakhstan


ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an executive order on October 27 tasking his government to prepare the Kazakh alphabet for a transition to Latin letters from Cyrillic ones by 2025, Sputnik news agency reports.

“The government of Kazakhstan is to set up a national commission to change the Kazakh alphabet to Latin script; organize a gradual switch to Latin script by 2025,” the document circulated to state media read.

Previously, Nazarbayev emphasized that the changeover to the new Latin-based script would not affect the rights of the country’s Russian speakers.

“The transition of the Kazakh language to the Latin-based script does not in any way affect the rights of the Russian-speaking citizens, the Russian language and other languages. The use of the Russian language in Cyrillic script remains unchanged,” Nazarbayev was quoted as saying by the local media outlets.

The move, however, is seen by many as an effort to emphasize Kazakh culture and distance the country from Russia.

The new Latin-based alphabet will reportedly comprise 32 symbols with some new slight alteration of sounding and pronunciation features. The current one consists of 42 letters.

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 in 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