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Want To Do Business In Kazakhstan? Learn Kazakh

Drop the Russian

Drop the Russian

Reuters is reporting that Kazakhstan is pushing foreign companies to learn Kazakh.

"A U.S. Chevron-led oil venture, developing Kazakhstan's biggest oil deposit, said on Friday it had received a note from the authorities accusing it of neglecting Kazakh as a language of business communication.

The accusation is part of a broader trend in the resource-rich nation to revive Kazakh -- a Turkic language spoken in most parts of Central Asia -- as a symbol of the country's independence from Moscow's rule."

This issue is a long and slow burner. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the number of ethnic Kazakhs in Kazakhstan was around 37 percent, and certainly not all of them could speak their own language.

After independence, the revival of the Kazakh language became a state policy. Currently the Kazakh language is being used much more than before. But the language of business, especially big business, is still Russian.

So what's the motivation behind this? It might be an attempt to squeeze international businesses. The government certainly has a history of using the language lever for other purposes.

For instance, Kazakh laws require all media outlets to have at least 50 percent of their programs in Kazakh. But not all media outlets keep to that rule. Sometimes, private media outlets who dare to touch on some controversial issue face problems and the official line is that they don't have at least 50 percent of their content in Kazakh.

But other media, more loyal to the government, don't have to follow the letter of law. So do expect this latest initiative to be applied selectively.

-- Merkhat Sharipzhanov

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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