Kazakh or Qazaq is a Turkic language spoken in Kazakhstan, Russia and China by about 8 million people. Kazakh was first written with the Arabic script during the 19th century when a number of poets, educated in Islamic schools, incited revolt against Russia. Russia’s response was to set up secular schools and devise a way of writing Kazakh with the Cyrillic alphabet, which was not widely accepted. By 1917, the Arabic script was reintroduced, even in schools and local government.

In 1927, Kazakh nationalist movement sprang up but was soon suppressed. At the same time the Arabic script was banned and the Latin alphabet was imposed for writing Kazakh. The Latin alphabet was in turn replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet in 1940.

Recently as part of a modernization program the government of Kazakhstan has stated plans to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet. Currently the costs and consequences of such a move are being investigated.


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