Sunday, July 30, 2023

Astana’s Latinization Plans Seen Behind Rise in Kazakhs Studying in Russian-Language Schools

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Some analysts in Kazakhstan are suggesting that Astana’s plans to shift Kazakh from a Cyrillic-based script to a Latin one are behind an increase in the percentage of Kazakh pupils studying in Russian-language schools in that country and that the unintended result of Latinization may be the retention of Russian by a new generation of Kazakhs.

            While the share of Kazakhs in the population has increased dramatically in recent decades, the share of Kazakh children studying in Kazakh-language schools has not. Instead, between 2014 and 2022, the share of those studying in Russian-language schools has increased from 30.6 percent to 31.5 percent (

            Some analysts suggest that this reflects the desire of parents to give their children the opportunity to become migrant workers in Russia; but an increasing number argue that it is the result of the Latinization plans of the Kazakhstan government, with parents wanting to ensure that their children will learn Cyrillic to be able to read Kazakh materials published earlier.

            Changing alphabets, as other countries have discovered, means people are cut off from their national pasts and even decide to stop reading altogether. What is happening in Kazakhstan appears to be an effort from below to counter that, with parents likely more concerned about their children being comfortable in Cyrillic rather than wanting them to learn Russian. 

           But however that may be, this new finding is likely to exacerbate debates on the appropriateness and timing of alphabet change in Kazakhstan and other countries as well.

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