Sunday, August 28, 2016

Language A Sensitive Issue In Kyrgyzstan

A speech by Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbaeva in favor of developing the Kyrgyz language has reignited an old debate in the country.
A speech by Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbaeva in favor of developing the Kyrgyz language has reignited an old debate in the country.
Language is a sensitive topic in Kyrgyzstan, as the country's interim president Roza Otunbaeva found out recently when she publicly backed promoting the development of the state language, Kyrgyz.

Otunbaeva made her remarks in a speech that has reopened debate over the role of the Kyrgyz and Russian languages in the country.

"The Kyrgyz language has not yet properly established itself as the country's state language; today it has an inferior position," the president said in a gathering in Bishkek focusing on the rights of ethnic minorities.

"We still should know Russian, the official language. No one is belittling other languages, the language of our large ethnic minorities, but we have to reconsider the role of the Kyrgyz language," Otunbaeva said, in a none-too-subtle hint at the continued dominance of the Russian language in the country.

The younger generation of all ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan should eventually learn to speak Kyrgyz, Otunbaeva advised, pointing out the importance of teaching the language in non-Kyrgyz schools.

Otunbaeva asked that the issue not be politicized, but such remarks in Central Asia almost always take on a political hue.

The Kyrgyz edition of the Russian publication "Pravda" swiftly claimed that Otunbaeva "among other things, practically suggested [students] refuse education in the Russian language."

The publication said some of Otunbaeva's suggestions could mean that the "status of Russian -- currently an official language -- will eventually diminish, and Kyrgyz will become the only official language in the country."

To further explain Otunbaeva's position on Kyrgyz-language education, Mira Karybaeva, a high-ranking official from the president's office, said the authorities have no intention of closing down or reducing the number of non-Kyrgyz schools.

"The idea is to increase the number of lessons and subjects in the Kyrgyz language in non-Kyrgyz schools," Karybaeva told Kyrgyz media.

Kyrgyzstan's "Alibi" publication focused on some Kyrgyz officials' and parliamentarians' lack of command of the Kyrgyz language.

"Parliament sessions are only rarely conducted in Kyrgyz, in the majority of cases they take place in Russian," the publication wrote.

Debates over the role of the Russian and Kyrgyz languages has cost at least one top official his job.

Azimjan Ibraimov, head of the Presidential Commission for the Development of the State (Kyrgyz) Language, has allegedly been sacked over his plans to de-Russify the names of some villages, towns, and other sites in order to restore their historical Kyrgyz names.

Kyrgyz authorities reportedly thought Ibraimov's plans were complicating Bishkek's relationships with Moscow.

Ibraimov's dismissal in February came only weeks after the Kyrgyz government named a 4,500-meter peak in the Tian-Shan mountains after Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin.

This was presumably intended as a nice gesture to underline the Kyrgyz government's goodwill toward Russia, and to appease any concern or doubts anyone has over the role that the Russian language -- and Russia itself -- has to play in Kyrgyzstan.

-- Farangis Najibullah
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Comment Sorting
by: Natasha from: Jersey City new york
June 26, 2011 23:22
Kyrgyz would not even be a written language if Russians didn't establish the kyrgyz alphabet. To a country with ailing population, this is a direct hint to the rest of Russians to leave. Ethnic tensions are easy to exploit to distract the masses from real problems. I am very disappointed this sentiment is still present. For all the people in Kyrgyzstan it is by far more useful to know Russian than Kyrgyz and no ethnic Kyrgyz should be prosecuted for speaking Russian better than Kyrgyz. These attitudes already forced Russians to flee in droves in early 90's...didn't Kyrgyz people learn anything?
In Response

by: Bakyt from: Kyrgyzstan
July 07, 2011 07:08
This is just a chauvinistic opinion. The Kyrgyz used to use the Orkhon-Yennissei script (6-12 centuries), Arabic script (gradualli since the 10th century until 1926, when Soviet Union switched the Turkic nations' script to Latin, while preserving Russian, Armenian, Georgian Christian scripts), then from Latin to Cyrillic without the Kyrgyz nation's concent in 1940 (by Stalinist method.)
Thanks God, a new generation of Russians are emerging in Kyrgyzstan, and they are learning Kyrgyz without politization of the education processes.
By the way, Otunbaeva no longer Interim President since the referendum on 27 June 2010. She is the President.
In Response

by: Kgzgrl
July 08, 2011 07:45
Kyrgyz is as useful as Russian. Kyrgyz is a part of Turkic language group, and it's easy for the Kyrgyz people to adopt to other Turkic languages, and to understand the grammatical structure of Japanese, Korean and Mongol. I am glad we speak Russian in Kyrgyzstan too, but it is very ignorant to so bluntly prioritize one over another.

by: Jim from: Germany
June 27, 2011 14:05
Natasha. You are Russian. I mean you not Kyrgyz, so you are telling this issue from Russian nation's point of view. If I say like "for all the people in Russia it is by far more useful to know English than Russian and no ethnic Russian should be prosecuted for speaking English better than Russian", because English language is international languge in the wolrd. Your point of view regarding kyrgyz language in Kyrgyz country came to you just from Russian imperial thought. You know that Russian language in Russia is a state and officail language and all nations in Russia accep this without any resistances. The same thing has to be in Kyrgyz country. All nations in Russua are not giving idea that English language is more useful then Russian. Kyrgyz language must be both state and official, then kyrgyz people start to develop thier country, because they will starting to become patriots thier country, otherwise kyrgyz people will loose thier languge, therefore they will loose thier nation. Me advise for you is you should quit your Russian imperial idea.

by: Expert from: Kg
June 27, 2011 14:07
None admits that behind this language issue is the fact that Kyrgyz nazism get dangerous forms. All parliament government police and army are mono-ethnic and leading nationalistic policy. What to say, all Kyrgyz population are support this policy against other native ethnicity who are "30%" there. Open attacks and prosecution of ethnic minorities is the norm over there. It is the worst country in human rights of minorities that still hasnt got proper reaction of United Nations.

by: Natasha from: JC
June 28, 2011 15:00
I am from Kyrgyzstan, I grew up there and experienced Kyrgyz racism first hand when Soviet Union broke up and some Kyrgyz people (such as store clerks and public employees) chose to speak Kyrgyz when Russian-speakers couldn't understand. I heard my parents talking about it, I heard my friends' families talk about it. It was a direct hint to the Russians they were not welcome in Kyrgyzstan. This caused Russian-speaking people flee the country in huge numbers, until Akaev tried to fix it up and made Russian an official language, but it was too late - the point was made.

Language will cause patriotism? Are you serious? You know what causes patriotism? Good economy, jobs, systems to support economically disadvantaged, security, education, and stable government, not a corrupt government supporting ethnic cleansing - this did not work for Germany, remember? This "language issue" is just scapegoating Russians again, since the government can't scapegoat Uzbeks anymore. Kyrgyz people don't flee Kyrgyzstan because they can't identify with being Kyrgyz, they flee because there are no jobs, prospects, or security, and no future living there.

I am ethnically Russian, but I consider myself Kyrgyz Russian because I can't identify with many Russians outside the former republics. Though I can read and write Russian and have been living in Kyrgyzstan half of my life, my English is much stronger. Yet speaking two languages gets me respect, and I don't get prosecuted by Russians when I stumble for words. This should be the case in Kyrgyzstan when Russians stumble with Kyrgyz language or Kyrgyz with Russian. This a by-product of living in culturally diverse country - which is NOT a bad thing. Kyrgyz identity was not taken away even during Soviet Times, Russians adapted to the culture, same as every immigrant adapts here in the US.

Kyrgyzstan should be progressive. Many European countries have two or more official languages and no one prosecutes, for example, Swiss for speaking German better than French. People adapt to whatever language the person speaks and figure out communications among themselves.

For practical purposes Russian should still have the same standing as Kyrgyz, and neither language should be considered superior by Russians or Kyrgyz people living in Kyrgyzstan. Yet, no one should be prosecuted for not speaking either. You know both, great, you know only Russian or only Kyrgyz- NO BIG DEAL - it will just present communication challenges. It should be an individual's responsibility to learn both and not a government's dictate.

It is shameful for Kyrgyz government to reopen this issue. Ethnic Russians can love Kyrgyzstan the same as Kyrgyz and language has nothing to do with it. If Kyrgyzstan is your motherland and your home, what other reason do you need to love it?
In Response

by: Jim from: Germany
June 30, 2011 17:23
That's quite good that you are from Kyrgyzstan. It means that you can understand easier the real situation in Kyrgyzstan. I will try to explain my thought regarding the Kyrgyz language. As reply to your questions "Language will cause patriotism? Are you serious?" my answer is yes, I am! I will try to explain it a little why I am answering yes! Because the language is first attribute of the statehood (nationality). If a human doesn't know his own language properly, he will not care about his ethnic origin (nationality). Why it's like that? Because he or she has no any feeling of closeness to his or her own national traditions, musics, songs, poetry, arts, history, national books etc. They will not cry or laugh when they watch Kyrgyz movies, or listen to Kyrgyz music, because for him these are strange at all. I think you know about well known Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov. His book named in Russian as "И дольше века длится день". In this book you can find many answers for your questions regarding nations who lost thier national identity. For instance, some Kyrgyz can't speak own Kyrgyz language, we call them "kirgiz". They don't care about own Kyrgyz people and country as well. What is the reason of unconcern for futurity of own nation? The reason is from the beginning of thier life they go to Russian kinder garten, elementary and secondary school as well as in university they study all subjects in Russian. Even at home they speak in Russian with thier parents. Parents would like to try to pay attention of thier children to own Kyrgyz language, but finaly they think that it does not make sence at all, since thier children should make thier future career and for that purpose they need to learn Russian languge. The Kyrgyz language in Kyrgyz country has been used always as second languge since October Revolution in 1917. Even nowadays the younger generation from Kyrgyz provinces try to move to big towns and cities in order to speak Russian only. If you ask a question in Kyrgyz they will answer in Russian. They think that if they answer in Kyrgyz the shame will be on them. Shortly saying the Kyrgyz language is becoming extinct in Kyrgyzstan. If I say about leadership of Kyrgyzstan at present and previous one as well. They don't think about the future of Kyrgyz language, because they are not patriot of thier own country, since they care about only money, money and money of thier own pockets, nothing else. I guess that my attemp to explain my view of point regading language has had some effect on you. I am not sure, but ... However, I so hope that a new president will be more patriotic than previous one.
In Response

by: Johann from: USA
July 08, 2011 15:21
Hallo Jim. Why are you so interested in that people in Kyrgtztan shouldn't use
Russian ? Russian ( or English) as a first language brings people close to each other. I have been several times in Frankfhurt A Main, on my way to Italy, and tried to speak German, that I learned for three years, but a lot of people there don't bother to speak German to me, event a staunt Nationalists. They prefere to speak English, although there are 100.000.000 German speakers in Europe, compared to 150.000.000 Russian speakers.
In Response

by: Jim from: Germany
July 11, 2011 16:38
Hi Johann. I guess you did not get my point as well. I am interested in that people in Kyrgyzstan should use Russian. If they like it they can use it. Nobody will disturb them. Actually what happens constantly in Kyrgyzstan. That is most peaple speak Russian in Kyrgyzstan. But actually I prefer that Kyrgyz people learn more English than Russian. What I want to tell is Kyrgyz language should be as a first language in Kyrgyzstan which brings all minority nations of Kyrgyzstan close to each other, because in fact this is the Kyrgyz country. I mean e.g. in Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyz language should be like in USA English language, in Germany German, in Russia Russian. I hope nobody never will argue with this oppinion. Shortly say after Kyrgyz language will be used as a workflow (office work, records management; business correspondence) in Kyrgyzstan, then Kyrgyz language will be starting to be developed, otherwise it will be just vanish from sight because it is unusable language. However, learning Russian and English in all schools and universities of Kyrgyzstan is a quite good idea, but just to be more educated as well as in order to find a better job eventually.

by: Turgai
June 30, 2011 07:31
The only antidote for nationalism, which is supported by the imperialist powers to carve up and rule over the Ummah, is Islam.

Ислам и национализм

Решение шариата относительно национализма и патриотизма

by: James from: Bishkek
July 05, 2011 11:32
Languages generally die because there are few incentives to speak them. Kyrgyz will probably only thrive if the country remains so poor that its economic connections with its trade partners continue to decline. If the economy turns around, probably people will increasingly speak Russian, Chinese, and English. The latter remains unlikely, unfortunately, unless the elites and society at large get serious about ending patronage and corruption while pursuing economic reform.

So, Kyrgyzstan is on track to be a country where nearly everyone speaks only Kyrgyz, if for no other reason than the fact that the incentives and resources for learning Chinese, Russian, or English will be insufficient if the economy remains perpetually stagnant.

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