Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Uzbek Language Disappearing In Kyrgyzstan

Will children of Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek minority be educated in their native language at all?
Will children of Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek minority be educated in their native language at all?
In June 2010, southern Kyrgyzstan erupted in violence between the Uzbek minority and Kyrgyz majority. Almost 500 people were killed, hundreds injured, and many thousands left homeless in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions.

Most of the victims were ethnic Uzbeks and many members of the minority have since been tried and sentenced to long prison terms over the violence. Critics have attacked the government's failure to provide equal justice for the Uzbek minority.

One legacy of the violence -- and the lingering standoff between the two groups -- has been the place of the Uzbek language in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Elmurad Kasym writes on Registan that the Kyrgyz authorities seem bent on removing Uzbek from public life altogether. He points to the closure of Uzbek schools in the south, as well as the shift of many of them to an all-Kyrgyz curriculum.

As RFE/RL has reported in the past, there has been a movement toward more Uzbek children being educated in the Kyrgyz language, as some parents believe that it's in their children's interest in a Kyrgyz-majority society. But as Kasym says:

The latest of such occurrences has taken place in the town of Naukat in southern Kyrgyzstan where seven Uzbek-language schools chose Kyrgyz-language instruction. According to the Akipress news agency, "local residents requested" the move. Over the last two years, authorities in such cases advanced similar claims. But, for some mysterious reason, there was no single case when a parent would object such decision. At least, none was reported. It is quite understandable that even if one does not want to give up his constitutionally guaranteed right to obtain education in his native language, he better not voice that opinion (which is, too, guaranteed by the constitution).

And following statements by Kyrgyz officials earlier this year, some members of the Uzbek and Tajik minorities fear for the future of any education in their languages at all.

Osh's "peace bell" has no room for Uzbek.Osh's "peace bell" has no room for Uzbek.
Osh's "peace bell" has no room for Uzbek.
Osh's "peace bell" has no room for Uzbek.
One Kyrgyz legislator who led a campaign to end university exams in Uzbek said: "Why are we portrayed as the enemy the moment we call for Kyrgyz to be spoken? They [other ethnic groups] live in Kyrgyzstan, and their great-grandfathers lived in Kyrgyzstan. If you live here, there's nothing wrong with speaking Kyrgyz as a mark of respect. We should be patriots."

Another aspect of the disappearance of Uzbek, Kasym notes, is taking place more concretely -- in the names of schools, mosques, and businesses, especially cafes and restaurants. As Eurasianet notes, many of them have since been taken over "by Kyrgyz owners and now bear Kyrgyz names. In some cases, criminal groups forced Uzbek owners to sell; in others, Uzbeks fled in fear and their properties ended up being seized."

Perhaps then it's ironically fitting that a bell erected in Osh in memory of the victims of the June 2010 violence has inscriptions calling for peace in three languages: Kyrgyz, Russian -- and English.

-- Dan Wisniewski

Tags: ethnic minorities

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Aibek
October 01, 2012 15:41
There used to be Kyrgyz-Uzbek University in Osh, near Suleyman-Too. Is it still there?

by: Alexander from: Glasgow
October 02, 2012 12:10
Of course the move to teach minorities Kyrgyz is aimed at bridging divides and preventing another ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan. How many Spanish-only language public schools exist in California, Arizona or new Mexico? All-Mandarin schools in SanFrancisco's Chinatown? I think everyone would agree that it is extremely important for ethnic minorities to learn the language spoken by a country's majority ethnic group. Since Uzbeks speak Uzbek in their homes, how could they learn Kyrgyz if they attend an all Uzbek-language school? Maybe the reason you can't find anyone disagreeing is because most Uzbeks welcome the chance to learn Kyrgyz, which improves there future job opportunities in their home country, Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps you should do some reporting yourslef instead of relying on a paper by an Uzbek graduate student.
In Response

by: Agle from: Germany
October 04, 2012 06:47
Ethnic minorities typically do learn the majority's language, but folks from the majority hardly ever bother with learning minority languages. The reason you don't find many Spanish-only schools in California probably has a lot to do with the majority's fear of loosing English dominance ;-) It's not based on what is useful or helpful or has been reported to work, it's based on fear of loosing dominance (the same fear that's driven the No Welsh movement in Britain, and more explicit ethnic cleansing in other countries). Being allowed to speak your own language, being encouraged to do so, gives confidence in yourself and your abilities. Having to hide who you are takes away confidence. There's a reason why mother-tongue education is encouraged by researchers, it leads to better school performance in general.

by: Дилшод from: Ўш, Қирғизистон
October 02, 2012 17:47
Alexander, have you actually ever traveled to Kyrgyzstan and South in particular?

"Maybe the reason you can't find anyone disagreeing is because most Uzbeks welcome the chance to learn Kyrgyz, which improves there future job opportunities in their home country, Kyrgyzstan."

Well, apparently you have not. Because Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan speak perfect Kyrgyz. Perhaps even better than most of "Russianized" Kyrgyz citizens in Northern Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbeks do not (normally) seek jobs in Northern Kyrgyzstan; when they do, we are talking about baking bread and samsa, and cooking shashlyk and pilaf where your hands "speak", not tongues. In the South, Uzbeks do not actually need to speak Kyrgyz (which they still do) to run their own private businesses--stores in bazaars, cafes, car repair shops, etc.--the ethnic Kyrgyz perfectly understand Uzbek. Hence, your "improving job opportunities" argument does not hold water. If you were referring to official positions in gov't agencies, those Uzbeks aspiring for such position speak perfect Kyrgyz (yes, because that DOES improve job opportunities) but they are very few.

"Since Uzbeks speak Uzbek in their homes, how could they learn Kyrgyz if they attend an all Uzbek-language school?"

So you think Uzbeks' lives are limited to homes and schools? Yeah, you have NOT been to Kyrgyzstan, indeed.

Before teaching others (RFE/RL-English in this case) what to do, you might wanna do a little research and boom! www.ozodlik.org is that very RFE/RL's Uzbek-language service reporting on that very Naukat case http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/24714224.html. If you wanna respond saying "I don't speak Uzbek," then you might wanna just pipe down.

P.S. My gut feeling is telling me you are neither Alexander nor are you from/in Glasgow...
In Response

by: Andy from: Vancouver
October 03, 2012 21:35
Thank you, Dilshod, for your perspective on the ground there. Tell me, in Uzbek-medium schools in Kyrgyzstan, was the Kyrgyz language already a required subject of study? Alexander speaks as if it was not, but I wonder whether his assumption is correct.
In the Canadian province of Quebec, where French is the only official language, there are still English-medium schools, but students still take the French language as a subject (required, I expect).
It seems to me that this change in the school curriculum has more to do with current politics than with sound education. The message for the Uzbek minority is that they are welcome in Kyrgyzstan only if they keep themselves "invisible." Such an approach may placate Kyrgyz nationalists in the short-term, but will do nothing in the long-term to make members of the Uzbek minority feel secure in Kyrgyzstan or engender their loyalty to it.
In Response

by: Bek from: Bishkek
October 09, 2012 15:53
I disagree with Dilshod about his statement that Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan's south speak Kyrgyz perfectly. Based on a recent survey, only 48 per cent of ethnic Uzbeks consider Kyrgyz as their second language. The other 52 per cent do not speak it well or do not speak it at all.

How many ethnic Kyrgyz in Uzbekistan speak Uzbek? Every single one of them to such an extent that when they speak Kyrgyz they sound very Uzbek. The Kyrgyz in Uzbekistan are even discouraged to speak in their mother tongue in public places. Ethnic Kyrgyz are even afraid to say in public that they are Kyrgyz. As a result, many Kyrgyz change their ethnicity to Uzbek when they get passports.

In contrast, ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan can use their language in schools, universities and other places in public. Granted, after the 2010 conflict, the situation has changed somewhat, but it is still far better than that of ethnic Kyrgyz living in Uzbekistan.

In Response

by: Дилшод from: Ўш, Қирғизистон
October 14, 2012 05:37
Bek, why do you guys ALWAYS bring in the issue of Kyrgyz in Uzbekistan??? What do we -- Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan -- have to do with Tashkent's policies and the Uzbek population's attitude toward ethnic minorities living there??? Did/do Uzbeks of Kyrgyzstan have ANY role in shaping those??? Why do you and your ilk always hide behind this type of arguments, huh???

Concerning the poll: What was the sample: demography, number of polled, their education level? Where was it carried out? WHEN (!) was it carried out? Have YOU personally been to the South or are you relying on these polls?

And for God's sake, stop bringing in the Uzbek Kyrgyzs when we are talking about Kyrgyz Uzbeks!
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 03, 2012 23:00
Most informative - thanks for sharing.

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