Back in the days of the fabled Silk Road, Samarkand was a byword for cross-cultural exchange. For hundreds of years, Tajik served as a lingua franca in this flourishing center of Persian civilization, situated in present-day Uzbekistan. But now, Uzbek authorities seem intent on ripping up the city’s Tajik roots.
By law, Uzbek is Uzbekistan's exclusive nation-wide state language. Government policy requires the use of Uzbek in all dealings with officials, in street signage, and in business and education. Russian is still spoken widely, however, and enjoys ambiguous legal status as “the language of interethnic communication." In the autonomous Karakalpakstan region, Karakalpak is a state language alongside Uzbek.
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Murat Sadykov is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.