A Study on the Controversy over the Writing Systems in Central Asia: Cyrillic, Latin or Arabic
In this paper I examine the controversy about the shift of writing systems in Azerbaijan and five Central Asian countries. The transition from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet is important as a symbol of elimination of Soviet traditions, independence from Russia, revival of national identity, facilitation of informations in the West, and contact with the Western civilization.
Currently, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have implemented a transition to Latin alphabet. The shift of the writing system in Azerbaijan is the most successful, followed by Turkmenistan. Uzbekistan is regarded as having half success, since both of Latin and Cyrillic alphabets still co-exist. Among the remaining three central Asian countries, Kazakhstan has been actively promoting the conversion to Latin alphabet, planning to complete the conversion by 2025, but there will be many obstacles to its realization. In other words, they need to overcome the opposition of many Russians, Russian speakers, and the Russian Federation. Also an initiative of the second president Tokaev, who was appointed in March 2019, is uncertain.
In Kyrgyzstan, there have been no attempts of conversion until recently, but it is also possible to begin discussions regarding the shift of the writing system by looking at geopolitical situations including Kazakhstan's experience. In Tajikistan, unlike other countries, the transition to the Arabic-Persian alphabet is discussed. A successful transition of the writing system in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will depend on the relationship with the Russian government.
As a result, the change of writing system depends on the external relationship with Russia, financial conditions, and agreement between the Russian-speaking and young generations.