Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 145

Three Central Asian states have in recent days asserted quite divergent priorities in the area of language policy, reflecting local circumstances and considerations which relate to both internal and external policies. In Uzbekistan, the cabinet of ministers has launched an initiative to supply native-language school textbooks for Uzbeks populations in the neighboring states and for those states’ compatriots who inhabit Uzbekistan as ethnic minorities. The initiative, if pursued in good faith and successful, has the potential to become a regional arrangement for ensuring the provision of ethnic minority languages.

Tashkent offers to supply Uzbek-language textbooks and teaching aids for use in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and to accept textbooks from those countries for use in Uzbekistan’s schools in ethnic minority areas. Uzbekistan intends to use for this project a US$20 million targeted credit from the Asian Development Bank. The Uzbek government’s stake in this project is greater than that of its neighbors, because the Uzbek minorities far outnumber the other countries’ compatriot groups across the borders.

In Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Niazov on July 20 issued orders to expand the official use of the Turkmen language, reduce that of the Russian language in the governmental sphere, and improve the teaching of English and German (as well as Arabic and Farsi) as top priorities. Addressing a policy meeting of education officials, televised live, Niazov admonished them to speak Turkmen rather than Russian, so as to resist “those external forces which want to bring us back under a common roof with one common language.” He gave the officials thirty days to prove that they have a good command of the Turkmen language or to resign. In Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, several times in recent days President Askar Akaev–preparing his official visit to Moscow–paid a Soviet-style tribute to the Russian language as a factor in the modern development of Kyrgyzstan. Following the recent parliamentary elections, Akaev successfully pushed legislation through the new parliament, conferring official status on the Russian language on a par with the Kyrgyz (Tashkent Radio and Television, July 25; Turkmen Television, July 20; KyrgyzKabar, Itar-Tass, July 21, 24).