Language problem in Kazakhstan: Russian vs Kazakh





Zhanaiym Aubekerova





ESL 015 - Section 7

Instructor: Jie Zhang

April 16, 2007





















More and more Kazakh people, living in the Republic of Kazakhstan, are loosing their own language because they use Russian in their everyday speech. Kazakhstan is an independent country with its own national cultural heritages, including its own language. Unfortunately, this fact is ignored by millions of those Kazakhs, especially by the youth, who prefer to use Russian language everywhere, whether at home or public places. These people donít recognize the possibility of loosing their own language and, maybe, their own culture in the near future, if they continue using Russian in daily life in their home country.

Language problem in Kazakhstan emerged, in 1920-1990s, during decades of Soviet cultural and political domination, when almost all people in the Republic were required to speak Russian whether they are Russians or not. It wasnít forbidden to speak Kazakh, but if people did not know Russian well, they would not succeed and couldnít get highly-paid jobs; they were thought to be uneducated and belonged to a lower social class. Since that time, most families were sending their children to Russian schools and tried to speak primarily Russian at home. And nowadays, when those children have grown up, most donít speak Kazakh while some donít even know the language at all. You will be surprised to know the fact, that if a Kazakh young man approaches to a Kazakh young lady walking in the street to introduce himself in Kazakh language, most likely, she will ignore him. In most cases, this situation does not occur if people use Russian language on first encounter.

Because today Kazakhstan is a bilingual country, itís useful to know both languages, Kazakh and Russian. Everyone is free to choose which language to speak.

Russian was declared the second official language. Government papers, newspapers and magazines are written both in Kazakh and Russian. All schools and universities have two types of classes: Russian and Kazakh. TV and radio programs have both language versions.Some people question themselves on why should they even know the Kazakh language when Russian is the main communication tool. They speak Russian to their job partners, families and friends. It is (Russian language) understood by most country fellows. So, what is the problem of not knowing Kazakh by native people?It must be shameful for Kazakhs living in Kazakhstan who donít speak their language at all. It is very important for Kazakhs to know and value their own language and speak it on the level of the Russian (Makulbekov, 2006).

In the first place, language is closely related to nationís history, culture, its traditions and customs. Historically, when most Turkic tribes were separated and developed their own culture and own language to communicate with each other, it was the Kazakh language that united the nation (Berdiyev, 1995). Language is the foundation for turning a big community to the whole nation.Moreover, language is the key for understanding the nationís culture. There is no person in the world who would know traditions or culture of the nation well, while not speaking their language. In order to understand foreign culture, people first learn foreign language to speak to the native people. How could someone understand and follow the customs of a country when he or she does not possess the knowledge of the language pertaining to the place? Language is a strong tool in learning any other culture or even religion. How can a person become a true Muslim if he or she can not to read sacred Koran written in Arabic? Certainly, they

would first try to learn that language in order to understand what they are saying while praying. So, itís very clear that language is closely connected to the nationís culture. ďLoss of the language ultimately means loss of a culture, of entire way of thinkingĒ (Krauss, 2000). A nationís whole identity is wrapped up in their language. When nation loses a language, it loses a whole cultural identity. In addition, people wonít be able to read their ancestorsí great writings if they donít know the language in which those works were written. Of course, the poems and stories have been translated to different languages, including Russian, but the original writings are always different from the translations. Abaiís poems, Kurmangazyís songs, Valikhanovís life stories are great masterpieces of Kazakh national literature. These people are Kazakhsí great famous ancestors, and most of their works were addressed exactly towards Kazakh nation, supporting them to preserve Kazakh language for the next generations, as they saved it for their children, during cruel struggles and wars. The ignorance of native language by Kazakhs today means that their ancestorsí endeavor in preserving their culture turns out to be worthless.

Kazakh language promotion in Kazakhstan is necessary, especially, nowadays, when the country is trying to achieve an ambitious goal on accession to the 50 most competitive countries of the globe it is crucial to withstand language competition. Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov thinks that development of the Kazakh language is an affair of national importance (Makulbekov, 2007). Kazakh language is a tool strengthening Kazakhstanís statehood. Therefore, a lot of activities are to be held in the country to improve Kazakh language skills for all citizens of Kazakhstan. ďIf we start

teaching Kazakh at the kindergartens we will achieve certain results. We will create all necessary conditions for that.Ē(Massimov, 2007). The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan included in his annual Message the importance of developing nationís Kazakh language skills. Several projects are being prepared to be executed in all areas. For example, free Kazakh lessons will be available for everyone: authority bodies, students, workers from different organizations. These activities are worthy of doing only if people themselves desire to participate in them and will understand the importance of knowing native language. Kazakh will be both official and state language, however, this doesnít discriminate other nationalities living in Kazakhstan. On the contrary, they are encouraged to learn Kazakh language to understand Kazakh culture better. Other languages are highly respected in Kazakhstan and will be saved thanks to hundreds of different nations occupying the country. Kazakhstan will continue ďpromotion of the domestic multination culture and art, strengthening mutual understanding, tolerance and inter-faith respectĒ (Massimov, 2007).

Altogether, it is beneficial to know several languages, but first and foremost people should know they own language perfectly and try to preserve it. Kazakhstan is a young independent country struggling to maintain the respected place among the most highly developed countries in the world. One of the main tools in achieving that goal is respecting its national heritages, including native language. Thatís why Kazakhs should value Kazakh language, which is so closely related to their bright independent future.



Berdiyev, K., (2000, March). History of Kazakhstan (4thed.). Almaty: Atamura.


Krauss, M., (2000, November). Rescue efforts. CQ Researcher, 40, 943-944


Makulbekov, M., (2006, May). Kazakhstan needs new concept of state language †††††

††††††††††††† development. Retrieved May, 2006, from



Makulbekov, M., (2007, February). Kazakh language development an affair of national †††

†††††††††††††† importance: Massimov. Retrieved February, 2007, from††

†††††† ††††††††


Makulbekov, M., (2007, February). Development of the Presidentís Message. Retrieved

†††††††††††††† March, 2007, from ††††



Massimov, K., (2007, February) on Khabar News Channel indicated that ďIf we start

†††††††††††††† teaching Kazakh at the kindergartens we will achieve certain results. We will

†††††††††††††† create all necessary conditions for that.Ē