The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, suggested that the Kazakhs should switch from Cyrillic to Latin to 2025. In this regard, he instructed the cabinet to develop a plan before 2018. For another year, scientists will discuss the standard of the new Kazakh alphabet (taking into account the wishes of the public), and then begin the preparation of teachers of the appropriate profile, the production of textbooks and teaching aids, training of schoolchildren. Since Kazakhstan is a hyper-presidential republic and the president bears the official title of “Elbasy” (Leader of the Nation), it has practically unlimited power there, there is no doubt that all these decisions will be implemented on time (although, of course, the quality of performance is in doubt).
The initiative of the Kazakh leader immediately caused the most controversial responses both in Kazakhstan and in Russia. Linguists believe that there are no purely linguistic grounds for such a radical step. According to Andrei Kibrik, a leading researcher at the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Astana’s decision has no practical meaning. The Cyrillic alphabet, developed for Kazakhs by Soviet specialists and introduced in 1940, was adapted to the peculiarities of this Turkic language. Such a large émigré linguist, Nikolai Sergeevich Trubetskoy, still in that era when the Soviet government translated the Turkic peoples from Latin (“Yanalif”) into Cyrillic writing, noted that the Cyrillic is generally better adapted than the Latin to convey the specifics of the Turkic speech. Indeed, in the same modern Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet 42 letters (33 Russian Cyrillic letters and 9 additional). Latin can only offer 26 letters.
It is clear that Nazarbayev’s demand has purely political overtones (although he himself tried to substantiate this with a large Latin value in the age of computer technology).
In fact, we have an attempt to get closer to Turkey (which, under Mustafa Kemal, also switched from Arabic to Latin) and to distance itself from Russia.
The younger generation of Kazakhs who will learn using the Latin alphabet and will not know Cyrillic writing will naturally make it easier to learn Turkish and read Turkish literature and newspapers with magazines, while Russian texts will become abracadabra for them, even if they are Other degrees will be fluent in spoken Russian. At the same time, of course, computer literacy will have no effect: after all, the same Turkey uses the Latin alphabet, however, the geniuses of programming do not engender in large numbers ...
The Russian press vividly discusses the questions: how will this affect the lives of Russians in Kazakhstan? On the use of Russian language in Kazakhstan? On the relationship of Kazakhstan and Russia? These questions are certainly important, but there is another side to the problem: how will this affect the culture and life of the Kazakhs themselves? If we are already talking about Eurasian unity, then we should be not indifferent to the fate of all Eurasian peoples, who are often led by their governments in a direction that is far from advantageous to them. The answer to this question will be clarified if we turn to the results of the relevant reform in Uzbekistan. There, this experiment was conducted in its pure form, and its experience due to the complex ethnic composition of the state is much more interesting than, for example, Azerbaijan.
In Uzbekistan, the law on the transition to the Latin script came out in 1993 year (it is interesting that Turkey also put its hand here; in 1991, at the initiative of Turkish President Turgut Ozal, a congress of Turkic linguists was convened, who urged post-Soviet Turkic states to switch to Latin and even suggested draft type alphabet). It was planned to complete this transition to 2000 year. In fact, it is not completed yet. There is no dispute, the Latin alphabet has become the official alphabet, it is taught in school, it has inscriptions on administrative buildings, enterprises, and institutions. But if you walk around Tashkent or any other Uzbek city, you will probably be shocked by what you see. The point is not only that good old inscriptions in Uzbek Cyrillic or simply in Russian coexist with inscriptions in Latin. An incredible mixture of alphabets happened: sometimes inscriptions in Russian are made in Latin (for example, “Salon krasoti”), sometimes Latin and Cyrillic characters are present in one word (“Himchistka”). The letter “C” is transmitted in Latin script either “Tc” or “S”, therefore the phrase “Sausage shop” is often spelled “Kolbasa sexi”, which became food for a lot of jokes and anecdotes. And this is not to mention the fact that the signs in Russian are made with monstrous errors. So, everywhere you can find on the door a sign “Eyeglass. Otkrita.
At the same time, about half of the printed materials (books, magazines, newspapers) still come out in Cyrillic. The older generation has not mastered the Latin alphabet, and a complete rejection of the Cyrillic alphabet would lead, in general opinion, simply to the destruction of these publications. Moreover, a significant part of the Uzbek segment of the Internet are sites in Uzbek Cyrillic. And what’s really funny is that most of the Uzbek nationalists who zealously advocate “full romanization” write and print in ... Cyrillic (this is reminiscent of the totally Russian-speaking Bandera phenomenon in Ukraine, who advocate a ban on Russian ... in the same Russian language).
It was not possible to switch completely to Latin even in the area of official office work. There was confusion with the recording of names and surnames, and in the official sphere it is very important: even a difference of one letter gives rise to a huge bureaucratic red tape.
For many years, cultural figures of Uzbekistan have been sounding the alarm, addressing both the authorities and the public.
A huge number of works of Uzbek literature created in Soviet times, as well as Russian and European classics, translated at the same time into Uzbek, are now inaccessible to Uzbek boys and girls.
The Alisher Navoi National Library has about 6 million storage units, most of them in Cyrillic. Where are those students who could read them now?
The transition to the Latin alphabet played a cruel joke even with those representatives of the Uzbek intelligentsia, who at the beginning of the 90's were zealous supporters of this reform. One of them was the famous Uzbek writer Pirimkul Kadyrov, who was recognized in Soviet times, worked in the Union of Soviet Writers, studied at the Literary Institute, translated Tolstoy and Lermontov into Uzbek, but in the years of perestroika, he joined the Uzbek nationalists. Under the article about him in the Uzbek Wikipedia, written now in Latin, his works are mentioned - almost all of them were not reprinted (although he lived a long time, up to 2010 of the year), the books are dated 1968, 1977, 1983 for years. Of course, all of them were then printed in Uzbek Cyrillic, and now most of the young Uzbeks who studied in Latin cannot read them. The philosopher Mikhail Lifshits wrote that stories There is a law of retribution: it seems that this is the case.
In general, the Uzbeks are very disappointed with the result of the “romanization” experiment. A year ago, the philologist Shukhrat Rizayev made an open appeal to the President of Uzbekistan. In particular, he said: “As a result of the change of the alphabet in the last century, the mass of printed publications turned into unnecessary trash. ... It’s not too late, I propose to legalize the Cyrillic alphabet as the main alphabet, and the Latin alphabet as the second alphabet. ”
It is unlikely that Rizayev will wait for an answer. Even if the president decided on such a bold political step, it would still make little difference. There is no money in the budget for this. Once they have already spent huge sums for a poor republic on the transition to the Latin script. However, there is no money for mass reprints of books in Latin. The situation is stalemate.
Things are even worse in the university sphere: only a small part of the educational-methodical literature is reprinted in the Latin alphabet. There are excellent textbooks in mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, English, German - in Cyrillic Uzbek and Russian, but fewer teachers (not to mention students) who could use them.
Of course, the Uzbeks who have completed new schools are barred from entering Russian universities. They will have to relearn for this. Therefore, we see Uzbek boys and girls not in the number of foreign students, but in the number of foreign low-skilled workers.
What is waiting for Kazakhstan?
There is no doubt that the Uzbek scenario will repeat in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh experts themselves admit that the Republic of Kazakhstan does not have such financial resources to make the transition to the Latin alphabet in full. Some even suggest that, judging by the insignificance of the amount that Nazarbayev pledged for this reform, it could be a purely symbolic act. So, it is easy to predict what the consequences of this experiment will be for one’s own people.
First of all, it is clear that a generation gap will occur.
Representatives of the older generation will use the Cyrillic alphabet and read literature in Cyrillic, young people will use the Latin alphabet, and their horizons will sharply narrow due to the scarcity of publications in the Latin alphabet.
Of course, young people will be cut off from all the literature of the Soviet period, as well as from the works of pre-revolutionary Kazakh poets, writers, scientists, public figures who were published and reprinted in Soviet Kazakhstan. The world classics in their native language, translated by Soviet writers (as well as its Russian translations), will not be available to them either. Since the knowledge of foreign languages in the republic is still not common, and in the original Balzac and Dreiser language, most young Kazakhs also do not read and are unlikely to read in the near future (even the presidential program assumes that after 10-15 only English will be known 20% of the population of Kazakhstan), then there will be a sharp drop in the cultural level of Kazakh youth, turning it into illiterate people, suitable only for low-skilled labor and easily managed with the help of ideological manipulations y.
The Kazakh intelligentsia is aware of this now and expresses serious concern. Already in the 2013 year, when there was still talk of reform, the writers of Kazakhstan addressed a letter to the president. It said: “Up to now, almost a million titles of books, scientific works about the ancient and subsequent history of the people (...) have been published in the republic. It is clear that with the transition to the Latin alphabet, our younger generation will be divorced from the history of their ancestors. ”
Another problem will be poor knowledge of the Russian language. Now about 95% of the people of Kazakhstan know Russian. This means that they do not just speak Russian (often completely without an accent, like their own), but they also read and write excellent Russian. Of course, switching to the Latin alphabet will not immediately affect the knowledge of Russian; from changing the alphabet no one loses their language skills. But for the next generations who will study the Latin at school, perhaps the Russian language will already be spoken. Fill the document, read the newspaper in Russian, they will not be able to. And this means that, coming to Russia, young Kazakhs will be doomed to occupy the lowest social positions. If now the guys from Kazakhstan become students of Russian universities, are engaged in business, working in reputable companies, then in the years through 20-25 the same guys will work on construction sites along with Uzbeks and Tajiks. Semi-literacy of these people will be used by all sorts of dishonest people from among the officials and employers, as well as banal fraudsters.
One more thing. Proponents of the transition to the Latin alphabet argue that it will help more likely to master the European languages, especially English. I do not think so. The number of people who speak English depends not on the character of the alphabet, but on the country's involvement in the culture and business life of world capitalism. The number of people who know English has sharply increased in China after the country “opened up” to the Western world and developed extensive economic, political and cultural ties with western partners, although the Chinese generally use hieroglyphs. But the literature in Turkish and the relevant websites after the transition to the Latin alphabet will be widely available. Turkic languages are very close, and in some cases Kazakh or Uzbek can understand Turkish speech without an interpreter. And in any case, as I said, it is much easier to learn Turkish Kazakh than English.
Post-Soviet Turkic regimes, including Kazakhstan, are very afraid of the growth of Islamist sentiments. However, the transition to the Latin alphabet is exactly what will whip them up, because in Turkish there is a huge amount of Islamist, extremist literature. Instead of thousands of English-speaking young Kazakhs, Latin supporters in Kazakhstan risk getting thousands of young Kazakhs who are ISIS supporters brought up by Turkish-language brochures and Internet sites.
In short, from whatever side you look, this reform is not the best idea for Kazakhstan.