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Kyrgyzstan Appoints New State Language Commission Chief

Ryskeldi Mombekov

Ryskeldi Mombekov

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva appointed a new head of the State Language Commission today after firing the previous chief over a de-Russification plan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The new director, Ryskeldi Mombekov, had previously served as culture minister for several months after the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiev in April. Before that he was an editor at the Bishkek-based newspaper "Forum."

Otunbaeva last week sacked the commission's former head, Azimjan Ibraimov, allegedly because of a plan to de-Russify place names in Kyrgyzstan.

Presidential office officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told RFE/RL on February 11 that the plan would apparently complicate Bishkek's efforts to improve ties with Moscow.

The plan was initiated after the commission was reformed in July and Ibraimov made its head. It entailed restoring the historic Kyrgyz names of some villages, towns, and other sites in place of Soviet-era Russian names.

The initiative was criticized, particularly by some of Kyrgyzstan's Russian-language media outlets, who called it a political decision directed against Russia and an attempt to violate "the rights of the non-Kyrgyz population of the country."

Russian, Kyrgyzstan's second state language, is widely spoken in Kyrgyzstan, especially in big cities. Ethnic Russians are estimated to make up between 7-10 percent of the Central Asian country's 5.2 million people.

Read more in Kyrgyz here