Just weeks after making its debut, Kazakhstan’s provisional Latin alphabet is drawing widespread criticism, even from those who strongly support the Latinization of the written language. Discontent is running especially high among Internet users, who say the new alphabet is incompatible with Web-based social and economic activity.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced in the spring that the country would fully transition from Cyrillic to Latin letters by 2025. Parliament got behind the plan earlier this fall. Prior to the rollout in late October, two versions of a Latin alphabet had been discussed, one using diacritics, much like the Turkish alphabet, and one reliant on digraphs to avoid the need for special characters. Instead, the government opted for a third version, one that uses apostrophes to denote vowels and consonants specific to Kazakh.
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Maria Blackwood is a PhD candidate in History at Harvard University. She is currently based in Moscow as an Alfa Fellow.