Multilingualism in the Central Asian republics after 1991. A hierarchy of Sorts
(55th Meeting, 2012)
Central Asia has always been a multiethnic and multicultural region which also implies that ethnics using different languages lived side by side. Even before the Soviet period, the ruling elites had to cope with the basically decisive factors that characterized these societies. In the Soviet Union, one way of unifying and homogenizing the region was to promote the use of Russian. After independence in 1991, the emerging republics were faced with similar problems of diversity in their efforts of state-building. Language is a strong symbol of identity, and policy makers in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have tried to make use of the titular language in creating a new national identity. Twenty years after independence, the results of their language policies are mixed, especially because the situation of Russian and the minority languages were not given enough attention. This paper examines the legal, hence theoretical, status of languages in the Central Asian republics and the reality of language use in practical life.