The Waiting Game of Kazakhstan’s Nation-Building

by Diana T. Kudaibergenova

DKSince the mid 2000s, amongst political and non-political circles, the question of when Kazakhstan would become a real nation had turned into a fixation point. Numerous state programs and development strategies seemed to raise more questions rather than give answers to the growing demands of Kazakh national-patriots. During this time, unofficial and official media outlets presented programs in the Russian language, initiating debates surrounding ‘concrete’ nation-building projects. The multiplicity of national discourse, symbols and opinions within Kazakhstan had intentionally been facilitated by the regime. For various nationalist and semi civic signifiers, the completed project of the ‘national idea’ became a strategically ambiguous field as well as a waiting game for the elites. The past Soviet tradition of a concrete nationalist policy and definitive nation-building through a state language had a decade later, transformed into a growing demand amongst national patriots and their sympathizers. Continue reading

Reading Dostoyevsky in English: A Who Dunnit in Khorog, Tajikistan

by Brook Bolander

picture for blog You meet people in Khorog who read Dostoyevsky in English, and others who barely speak a word of English. Nestled in Tajikistan’s Pamir mountains, just over 2000 metres above sea level, the city of Khorog is home to a population of approximately 30,000 people, the majority of whom are native speakers of Shugni. Other predominant languages are Tajik and Russian, both of which used to be official languages. Yet since Tajik was made the country’s sole official language through President Emomali Rahmon’s 2009 law “On the state language of the Republic of Tajikistan”, it has been gaining ground at the expense of Russian, at least in official institutions. Continue reading

Bilingualism in Kyrgyzstan

by Madeleine Reeves

In the summer of 1998, before finishing University, I taught English in a village in Kyrgyzstan’s northern Issyk-Kul region. I had been learning Russian since leaving school and relied on that language for communication. My host, Saltanat, taught me a few essential phrases in Kyrgyz to counter my feeling of being permanently overfed: Rahmat, toidum! (“Thanks, I’m full”) and Jok, ichpeim! (“No, I won’t drink”). Mostly, however, when I listened to Saltanat and her friends switching effortlessly between Kyrgyz and Russian I had the sensation of listening to a radio when someone is moving the dial: a fragment I understood amidst a lot that I didn’t. I returned to England with a ‘teach yourself Kyrgyz’ textbook in my luggage. The following year I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the politics of language reform in Kyrgyzstan, a decade after the 1989 language law promised to accord Kyrgyz greater status within the social and political life of the then-Kyrgyz SSR. Continue reading