Kyrgyzstan celebrates International Mother Language Day

28 February 2023

On February 21, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan celebrates Mother Language Day, a holiday created at the initiative of UNESCO to assist and promote cultural and linguistic diversity.

This fact is of particular interest due to the fact that recently in Kyrgyzstan they began to actively strengthen the position of the state language. Recall that a month ago the parliament of the republic adopted in the first reading the draft law “On the state language of the Kyrgyz Republic”, according to which state authorities should completely switch to the Kyrgyz language. 75 deputies out of 90 voted for the law. “It is wrong to conduct documents in Russian, being Kyrgyz. Document flow in departments should be conducted in the state language by at least 50%,” President Sadyr Japarov spoke earlier.

Such measures affected not only the activities of state power, but also legal proceedings and defense, international treaties, giving geographical names, notaries, as well as education, science, culture and the media (in particular, the volume of television and radio broadcasting in Kyrgyz should be at least ⅔ of the total). At the same time, in some cases, translation into Russian is possible.

Kyrgyzstan is one of those post-Soviet countries where the status of the Russian language is enshrined in the Constitution. In Kyrgyzstan, the state language is Kyrgyz, and Russian has had official status since 2004 (before that it was the second state language). The decline in the status of the Russian language is explained by concern for the development of the Kyrgyz language. However, not everything is so simple. The next step may be to reduce the status of the Russian language from official to the language of interethnic communication. Therefore, fears are justified that the strengthening of the position of the native language of Kyrgyzstan is inevitably associated with pressure on the position of the Russian in this country. But since the Russian language is in demand in Kyrgyz society today, it will not be easy to artificially reduce its role and importance.

For example, according to the data of the National Statistical Committee of Kyrgyzstan for 2021, 539.8 thousand people study in Kyrgyz institutions, in bilingual Kyrgyz-Russian institutions – 529.8 thousand people, which is a small difference and confirms the firm position of the Russian in the space of Kyrgyzstan.

This is also confirmed by the lack of methodology for teaching in the Kyrgyz language when working with children with disabilities. For example, there is no sign language in Kyrgyz. Children learn in Russian sign language. From the literature there are translations only of Kyrgyz fairy tales. Thus, bilingualism and multilingualism is seen as the best option for the language policy of Kyrgyzstan.

Photo source: press service of the Russian House in Bishkek