Language is harmfully intertwined with politics these days in Eurasia. The swirling debates are raising questions about the boundaries of Russianness.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s March 12 statement that the Kazakh language would move from the Cyrillic to the Latin script by 2025 has renewed political debate over the language question in Kazakhstan. The move has been mooted since at least the 1990s, and was announced as a long-term goal in 2012. It follows similar moves in Turkmenistan (1995) and Azerbaijan (2001), where the transition to Latin has been largely successful; and Uzbekistan, where 20 years since the process began, it remains incomplete, with Cyrillic still in widespread use for writing Uzbek.
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Alexander Morrison is Professor of History at Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan. He is the author of Russian Rule in Samarkand 1868 - 1910. A Comparison with British India (Oxford, 2008) and is currently writing a history of the Russian conquest of Central Asia. Morrison’s web page can be found at: https://nu-kz.academia.edu/AlexanderMorrison The views expressed in this commentary are Morrison’s own and do not necessarily represent the position of Nazarbayev University.