Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed a decree to switch the country’s official alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin.
The president’s office on Friday announced that the government will appoint a national commission to “ensure a gradual transition of the Kazakh alphabet to the Latin-based script until 2025”.
The former Soviet Republic declared independence in 1991. Its state language is Kazakh, a member of the Turkic family.
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Yet, Russian is widely spoken across Kazakhstan and is its second official language.
A number of other ex-Soviet, Turkic nations have also made the switch to Latin alphabets in recent years.
“This is not something that can be done in haste. We study experience of our neighbours and foreign countries. Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have already done it [switched to the Latin-based script],” Karlygash Kabdulova, professor of International Relations and World Languages at the Abylai Khan University, told the Kazinform news portal.
“Of course, we have taken all opinions into account and discussed all aspects in detail,” added Kabdulova, noting that Latin and Arabic-based scripts were being used by Kazakhs in the past.
Kazakh was written in Arabic script until 1920 when it was substituted by the Latin alphabet. In 1940, it was replaced by a Cyrillic one.
The current Cyrillic alphabet consists of 42 characters – 33 characters of the Russian alphabet and nine characters for specific Kazakh sounds.
The plan for the switch to Latin reportedly centres on an alphabet of 32 letters, with some specific sounds of the Kazakh language to be covered with the use of apostrophes.
“Given that over 100 countries in the world use the Latin script, it is crucial for Kazakhstan’s integration into the global educational and economic environment,” Gulnar Karbozova, lecturer at Auezov South Kazakhstan State University, told Kazinform.