8 October 2009: Tajik now the only official language of Tajikistan (Russian dropped)

Friday, October 09, 2009

I heard this on Deutsche Welle Persian today (I download the mp3 to listen to as I go to the temple to feed the cats) and sure enough, it's true (در اینجا به فارسی نوشته است). The law signed by the president (Emomali Rakhmon) doesn't specifically mention that Russian is being dropped, but that's the effect of the bill which will now mean that government documents will only be in Tajik, so correspondence between government agencies will no longer be able to be done in Russian.

Tajik, of course, is a variant of Persian that is perfectly intelligible to someone from Iran but written in Cyrillic. The Perso-Arabic script does not really fit Persian all that well so Tajik is a nice reminder that it does not need to be written in its current script, though whether it would be worth it for Iran to switch to another alphabet is another matter. Personally I like the Perso-Arabic script, but am not particularly attached to it and it's quite obvious that it doesn't fit all that well.

Two quick examples:

گربه - gorbe, cat. Without knowing the word though you wouldn't know whether it was read as gorbe or garbe or gerbe. In Tajik it's гурба (gurba), and anyone can read it without even knowing the word.

کشور - keshvar, country. Since the third letter can be read as o or u or v or va, it first sight it would be impossible to know whether it was kashur or kashor or kashvar or keshor or a number of other possibilities. In Tajik this is кишвар (kişvar).

Now we wait for Russia's reaction. But if any of the ex-Soviet republics have a good reason to remove Russian as an official language, it would be Tajikistan. Only 50,000 native Russian speakers live in the country and geographically it's really quite far away, with Kyrgyzstan and gigantic Kazakhstan in between. China is also just next door. But then again, having more than one official language is a good thing in my opinion and proficiency in Russian has never hurt a country in terms of competitiveness.

Edit: this article also says that minorities have the right to choose the language in which they want their children educated.

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