Summer 1997 (5.2)
of Central Asia and Azerbaijan
One of the first laws passed by Parliament after the Soviet Union
collapsed was the adoption of a modified Latin alphabet (December
1991). Azerbaijanis opted for a script similar to one they had
used between 1928 and 1938 before Cyrillic was imposed.
Implementation of the new alphabet,
however,, has been rather slow, primarily due to economic pressures,
especially those related to the Karabakh war. The government
has been burdened with the care of 1 million Azerbaijani refugees
who fled their homes as a result of the military occupation of
20 percent of Azerbaijan'[s territory by Armenians.
This spring, however, Latin
has received a tremendous boost from the government. On numerous
occasions, both the President and the Parliament Speaker have
strongly advocated for the widespread and rapid implementation
of Latin. The government has just begun issuing documents in
the Latin script.
In 1992, schools began introducing
the new alphabet to first graders, and TV began using Latin for
titles and dubbing.
For the past several years,
new businesses have been posting their store signs in Latin.
Billboards in Cyrillic are increasingly rare. However, newspapers
still print text in Cyrillic although the headlines and titles
are often in Latin. Books are also published primarily in Cyrillic,
even though the covers may be in Latin.
Along with this gradual transition
to the Latin script, there is a stronger tendency for the usage
of the Azeri language. Foreign companies are finding they now
need to hire translators who are fluent in both Azeri and Russian,
instead of Russian only.
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
Discussions about shifting to Latin have taken place, but there
seems to be little inclination to make changes for fear of alarming
the large Russian populations living in these republics.
Prior to the civil war, Tajikistan adopted a language law which
equated Tajik with Persian, and they began teaching school children
to read and write the Arabic script. However, a systematic shift
to Arabic has not taken place. Since the war, the government
has been too absorbed with more pressing problems.
The Tatars in Crimea (eastern Ukraine) have just adopted Latin
this May (1997).
Turkmenistan adopted a new alphabet on their independence day
in October 1996. Currently, an idiosyncratic version of a Latin-based
script is used which substitutes symbols of money for some letters.
For example, the dollar mark "$" and cent mark "
///" are used for upper and lower case "sh." The
British pound mark "///" and the upper half of the
mathematical integral symbol are being used for "Zh"
/ "zh." Many public signs are using these new mathematics
symbols. Books and newspapers continue to be published primarily
Uzbekistan officially adopted first one version of the Latin
alphabet, and then another. The current version avoids any symbols
not available on the standard English keyboard, using "o"
for "+," "sh" for /sh/ and "gh"
From Azerbaijan International
© Azerbaijan International 1997. All rights reserved.
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AI 5.2 (Summer 1997)
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