Nazarbayev’s Noiseless Maidan

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


While the whole world watches the events in Donbass, Catalonia, and Syria, in a country neighboring the Russian Federation the most real revolution takes place on the sly. The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on the stage-by-stage transition of the Kazakh language from Cyrillic to Latin by 2025. The alphabet is already developed and new graphics for nine letters transmitting the sibilant sounds were even created. This decision is by no means random or hasty. Mr. Nazarbayev consciously moves to sever from the Russian world and Russia.

The Latin alphabet was used for the Kazakh language during the period from 1929 to 1940, and was replaced with Cyrillic. Prior to that, the Kazakh language mainly used Arab script. Latin emerged as the carrier of Kazakh writing according to the general direction of the transformation of languages in the USSR. It is enough to remember books by the famous authors I. Ilf and E. Petrov. In “The Little Golden Calf” bureaucrats of the city of Chernomorsk are going to translate office-work into Latin. And it’s not a joke. If to compare literary events to the real history of the country, Ostap Bender’s crusade for obtaining the money of the underground millionaire Koreyko coincides exactly with 1929-1930. The “Russian Latin” project existed, but it wasn’t realized because of the international situation and the coming to power of the Nazis in Germany.

But after all, the Bolsheviks thought about the latinization of the Russian language as far back as 1919, or at least it is known from documents of the People’s Commissariat of that time that a transition was actively being prepared. In 1930 the commission of the People’s Commissariat stated: “The transition in the near future of Russians to a uniform international alphabet based on Latin is inevitable”.

The great Russian philosopher and publicist Konstantin Nikolaevich Leontiev once noted: “Shapka-murmolka, a cap and other similar things are much more important than you think; external forms of life, clothes, ceremonies, customs, fashions — all these differences and shades of alive public aesthetics, not those, i.e. aesthetics of reflection or a cemetery that you got used to worshipping, frequently understanding nothing about it, in museums and at exhibitions — all these external forms, I say, are not a fad, not a nonsense at all, not simply ‘external things’, as stupid people say; no, they in their essence are the inevitable consequences that integrally follow from changes in our internal world; these are inevitable plastic symbols of ideals, which ripened inside us or are ready to ripen…”

If to proceed from this postulate of Leontiev it is much easier to understand what the President of Kazakhstan cooked up. The form of writing letters will inevitably break the traditions of Kazakh literature, and the younger generations with inevitability will be hindered if, in general, normal access to Russian literature and to the values of the Russian world are not blocked, which will unambiguously worsen both communication and mutual understanding. Anyone who works with a computer knows very well that typical “users” always have difficulties with a quick transition when typing texts from Russian to the Latin keyboard layouts. And this is not a joke, but a fact of our time.

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Nazarbayev, for some reason esteemed as a big “friend” of Russia, clearly sends Kazakhstan into western civilization, gradually cutting ties with its northern neighbor. A language Maidan is a Maidan all the same.

Kazakh nationalism quietly intercepts the baton of russophobia from Ukrainian nationalists, which isn’t surprising. Kazakhstan, like Ukraine, is an artificially built State at the expense of Russia and against Russia. The Soviet power handed over to Ukraine the regions dismembered from primordially Russian regions. But the same thing happened also with Kazakhstan. Let’s consider the fact that the first capital of Kazakhstan, then still the Kirghiz Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic as a part of the RSFSR, became Orenburg in 1920. Do you naively believe that the Kazakh nationalists forgot this? No, they didn’t forget anything, and didn’t learned anything. The old Communist party functionary N. Nazarbayev is far from eternal and sooner or later Kazakh nationalists will surely come to replace him. And Russia will receive the Ukraine-2014 option already to the southeast of its border. Only the blind don’t see this danger.

Language reform according to Nazarbayev is the first step towards the “Ukrainization” of Kazakhstan. And the turn out of the main events will occur not tomorrow, but in the historical day after tomorrow. But if behind the back of Ukraine it is Western Europe – satiated and not willing to risk itself – that hides itself, then beyond Kazakhstan there is Central Asia, where Islamism advances, where social tension gradually grows, spurred by demographic and economic factors.

And we can only ask a question similar to the slogan of the known American disaster movie: “Where you will be the day after tomorrow?”

What will happen to Russia the day after tomorrow when the bubble of relative wellbeing in Kazakhstan bursts?

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