Sociolinguistic policy in the Republic of Kazakhstan: cultural aspekt

 The article analyzes the development trend of this new field of Kazakh society as language policy. Copyright by analyzing the historical evolution of language policy in the Republic of Kazakhstan, shows the problem areas of the process. Author in the analysis of trends in language policy uses new methods to Kazakhstan science fields of knowledge — sociolinguistics. The article concluded that the need to find new forms of interaction between the state, experts and representatives of ethnic groups to develop an optimal model of language policy in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan language policy went through several stages of development. During the post-independence years Kazakhstan has elaborated rewarding experience in administrative management of language policy. A situation that occurred twenty years ago in the language sphere was the result of russification policy conducted in Kazakhstan, forceful removal of repressive nations, economic migration.

Moreover, government institutions did not provide any support to ethnic and cultural practices, including language practice. This policy had its advantages and disadvantages. The principal defect was the loss of native language by Kazakhs and representatives of other ethnic groups. One benefit of such system was that Kazakh intellectuals obtained access to education through the Russian language — in particular it should be emphasized that the percent of technical intellectuals in Kazakh ethnos had the highest rate among the Central Asian republics. Various countries deal with the national language matter in accordance with their own language situation. According to the purposes and the content of language policy, each state creates its own model of language development. Language functioning in modern Kazakhstan has some very unique features: the coexistence of a large number genetically distinct and typologically different languages (representatives of more than 130 nations and nationalities live in Kazakhstan) with the main combination of two widespread partner-languages (Kazahk and Russian).

Kazakhstan is a region of intense migratory movement. Since the second half of the nineteenth century the migration of peasants from Russia in the north, west and southeastern regions of Kazakhstan. Peasants were resettled in the country about 1.5 million. In the 30–50 years of the twentieth century as a result of the policy of the Soviet leadership, many ethnic groups settled in the territory of Kazakhstan by force. Were deported some 60 ethnic groups, the total number of the various data to three -million people. The repression of Stalin changed the ethnic picture of Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan were exiled and imprisoned in large groups of people.

In the years 1931–1933 the Soviet leadership conducts programs for settling nomadic Kazakh tribes, selecting cattle that was the main source of ethnic Kazakhs. In the country begins «zhut» (hunger) is killed as a result of which about 40 % of Kazakhs. Parts of the Kazakh families migrate to neighboring countries, the majority in China. Part of the modern Kazakh diaspora is the descendants of the very birth, who were forced to migrate to other countries.

Kazakhstan currently has a policy of repatriation of ethnic Kazakhs, forced or voluntarily left the territory of the country or living outside its current borders after the nationalstate demarcation of Central Asia and their descendants living in other countries (the term is used «repatriates»). From 1 October 1991 to 1 October 2011 in Kazakhstan returned 221.3 thousand families, or 860.4 thousand ethnic Kazakhs. Total living in Kazakhstan 10,764,253 ethnic Kazakh.

These demographic processes largely influenced the ethnic picture of modern Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has formed a special linguistic and cultural environment. Мultivariance language space due to the needs of ethnic groups to preserve their native language, mastering the national language, the development of Russian and learning English. Where ethnic communities contributed to the development of traditions and culture of ethnic groups. The national policy focused on maintaining ethnic diversity also played a role in the development of a stable multi-ethnic society.

Day-to-day realities of Kazakhstan demand a language policy that corresponds with the needs of Kazakhstan's poly-ethnic population and considers language features, demographic and political situation as a leading factor impacting on political stability in society. After gaining independence the republic started to realize the policy of a sequential bilingualism — the capacity of population to acquire both Kazakh and Russian languages equally. In present-day Kazakhstan there is implemented the unique cultural project «Trinity of languages» — motivational orientation of youth and all population in its entirety in Kazakh, Russian and English languages learning. It is worth noting that all sociolinguistic encyclopedias characterize bilingualism as an ability of individual to speak two languages, a person who speaks several languages is called polyglot. So far, it seems clear that the social requirement for working knowledge of more than two languages reveals that Kazakhstan enters the modern era in which person has to be compliant with extremely increased social standards. Government acceptance and scientific community awareness of the need for continuous progress monitoring in linguistic situation is the most significant factor. It is crucially important because the population of Kazakhstan is various by its ethnical compound. A simple example to illustrate the concept is the result of the national population census in 2009, according to it ethnic composition of Pavlodar area (January 1, 2009) is represented (Table 1).

Ethnic groups and minorities of Pavlodar area [1]

T a b l e  1 

Ethnic groups and minorities of Pavlodar area [1]  

Minorities — less than 1 %. Sociological researches aimed on the language situation are regularly carried out in Kazakhstan. One of such studies was held within August-September, 2012 on the subject «Language observation in different ethnic minority groups». It was conducted 10 focus — groups in 10 regions of Kazakhstan, with representatives of 10 most numerous ethnic groups of Kazakhstan and questioning 800 people. The survey was conducted in the localities in which these ethnic groups live in compact. The survey questionnaire consisted of two parts: a thematic and socio-demographic (gender, age, ethnicity, socioprofessional data, income, etc.). Survey method — face-to-face. Duration of the poll — 30–35 minutes.

In the study, respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of language policy in Kazakhstan. The most appreciated — the answer is «balanced policy, active and promotes inter-ethnic accord» gave 74 % of Chechens, Ingush 61,3 %, Poles 53 %. A more critical assessment — the answer is «all is said is correct, but the field is done in a different way» dominant among Meskhetian Turks 58 %, 53 % of Koreans, 42 % Uzbeks, Uighurs 36 %. The view that «There is a conscious support of the Kazakh language and displacement of other» found a more or less substantial support only 29 % of the Uzbeks, Uighurs 17,7 %, Turks mesetintsev 15 % and 12 % of Koreans. Among the Uighurs, Koreans and Poles 1\3 — the largest proportion of undecided (Table 2).

How do you assess the language policy pursued in Kazakhstan? (in %)

T a b l e  2

 How do you assess the language policy pursued in Kazakhstan? (in %)

The survey showed a lack of awareness of ethnic groups on their ethnic and cultural associations.

The lowest level of information revealed in such ethnic groups as the Meskhetian Turks and Uzbeks — more than 90 % do not know about the existence of their ethnic and cultural associations.

However, about 10 % of Poles and Koreans are aware of their ethnic and cultural associations.

Finally, groups such as the Chechens, the Ingush and the Uighurs are most aware of the existence of their ethnic and cultural associations, respectively Chechens — 42 %, Ingush — 29.5 %, and the Uighurs — 21 %, which is generally a good indicator of these organizations (Table 3).

T a b l e  3

Do you know of any ethno-cultural associations of your ethnic group in your city (village)? (in %) 

 Do you know of any ethno-cultural associations of your ethnic group in your city (village)? (in %)

Ethnic focus-groups were divided into three categories:

  • Turkic-Speaking groups (Kyrgyzs, Uzbeks, Turks);
  • Slavic groups (Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians);
  • others (Germans, Dungans, Koreans, Chechens).

The age range of respondents varied from 18 to 65 years old. The research is at a stage of information processing, but it is already possible to draw preliminary conclusions. Representatives of all ethnic diasporas are well incorporated in Kazakhstan society, attain high social status in the course of their education ad categories of employment. They seem to show strong level of adaptability and along with this they remain true to own ethnocultural specifics. Some diasporas in Kazakhstan (Koreans, Germans, Poles) are involved in assimilation and integration process stronger than the rest (Azerbaijanians, Armenians). Generally it cannot go unmentioned that research participants (members of focus group conversations), display poor ethnic organization, practically all individuals are the third or the fourth generation, who have been born outside their historical homeland. At the same time the target group still has a clear understanding of their own intercultural origin, primarily due to the relatives with whom they are in touch, who have recently come back on their historical homeland or keep on living there. As a part of the study one of the questions was dedicated to informants' opinion in relation to the state language policy, the examination of language information space, the determination of sociolinguistic requirements. Essentially it was determined that respondents have some tensions in the state of language. On the contrary, the evolvement of their ethnic language gives a rise to concern. For example, Koreans, Dungans, Germans has practically lost their language identity, but at the same time hasn't lost the ethnic one. In these circumstances Russian language had an extrusive impact, becoming the unique native language for representatives of non-russian ethnoses. According to the data there was the revulsion in psychology and changes in consciousness of people. The vast majority of respondents recognizes the validity of a large-scale implementation of the national language (Kazakh) in the state structures and daily life, and they are sure that it will become a factor of society consolidation in the future. At the same time all respondents demonstrate the orientation to multilingualism, especially non-Turkic groups.

It is possible to speak about several factors influencing the formulation of a behavioral language strategy of informants in relation to the language learning and characterization of the language situation. First of all, presence or absence of nationhood in ethnic minority is a matter of great significance. Secondly, the economic and political situation in the historical homeland of ethnic groups has also a great value. Depending upon these two factors there was a discussion in groups, which related to the topic of possible migration. These groups are distinguished with high sociolinguistic requirements for studying the native language and the lowest requirement for studying the state language. Other ethnic groups — Koreans and all Turkic groups showed the total absence of migratory moods and talked about the state language learning process. The question: «Who helped respondents with Kazakh language learning» — got following answers:

  • I know it since the childhood, a family;
  • entourage, neighborhood, friends;
  • the last place took language courses and school

Responses to the cross question what blocks may prevent Kazakh language learning were ranked differently. Complaints about the absence of competent teachers and literature take the top position. Lack of time, complications in learning (for Slavic groups), absence of the motivation connected with an age of participants («I am old enough already, let children learn it») is ranked number two problem. However, young people also couldn't clearly formulate or call any reason that hinders mastering the Kazakh language.  Probably, it indicates their passive citizenship to the idea of realization the language policy.

Here are some considered answers of respondents:

  • it is impossible to be engaged in language learning in parallel with the day job;
  • the place of employment does not provide any conditions.

It has been pointed out that the single greatest factor that determines language learning process in general and the Kazakh language in particular refers to the problem of generations. Senior respondents marked an urgent need of the state language learning by younger respondents. The majority of respondents gives a high rating to the state language policy. The majority of informants noted a sequence in realization of language policy, an absence of inconstancy, conducive environment towards those who do not know the state language — «you can always get help, prompting etc.». In the meantime, representatives of Turkic ethnic groups, for whom the Kazakh language and the Kazakh culture is close linguistically («we are Muslims with equal culture»), have a good command of language, with great pleasure send their children to the Kazakh schools, and are deeply motivated to the language learning which will help to promote their social up-rise and professional success. Thematic reviews show that population has wide range of sociolinguistic requirements. All ethnic groups remarked the experience of various problems when studying the native language or keeping it up in an active condition. Following issues were listed: low grade using of vernacular languages in the print media, absence of TV channels or broadcasting at least a few hours of local programming per week.

There is a lack of useful textbooks, classes with enhanced language learning. On the other hand, everybody notices that Kazakh language, in terms of the information space, remains in rather safe position. Television channels transmit a great number of programs in Kazakh language. Representatives of Turkic ethnic groups permanently watch Kazakh-speaking telecasts; reveal their high quality and they even oppose the transmissions of foreign channels. It was not possible to specify the role of Internet in the language learning, but some informants expressed a common desire for studying various languages with the help of it. Undertaken analysis demonstrates the complication of language practice among ethnic groups of Kazakhstan.

The role of language in the construction of ethnic identity is ambiguous [2]. The study showed that ethnic identity is not so much with the actual use of language by all members of the group, but with its symbolic role in developing a sense of kinship with the group and at the same time in the process of intergroup differentiation. Adequate explanation of the ambiguity of the role of language in the formation and preservation of ethnic identity is only possible in the context of inter-group. Ethnic groups are in constant contact. In a multiethnic society are various languages , and ethnic identity of each of the operating groups is largely due to the expertise of its members in «foreign» languages and the degree of conformity of the real and the desired use.

Residing in the territory of Kazakhstan ethnic groups are well integrated into society. Living in a multiethnic state, these groups on the one hand, preserved the culture, language, traditions and customs of their people, on the other, adapted, partially assimilated, losing some elements of culture and language.

This situation primarily emerges from the desire of the group to continue as an ethnic group [3]. This explains why on the one hand respondents demonstrated openness to familyrelated relations with other ethnic groups, on the other hand, a small number of inoetnichnyh relatives in the structure of these families.

The results show a positive ethno-psychological situation in the areas inhabited by ethnic groups. Significantly affect the retention or loss of ethnic certainty has pursued public policy in society. The result of the Soviet policy of bilingualism is a modern (Russian, an ethnic Russian) ethnic groups. The result of policies to improve the status of the Kazakh language is the emergence of new trends, in particular, the formation of stable requirements from ethnic groups to learn Kazakh. The study showed that in the eyes of public opinion ethnic status of the state language and its application in practice has increased enormously and expansion.

Cultural and social priorities, and focus on the KazakhRussian socio-cultural space largely determine the everyday language behavior of the respondents. Main language is still Russian. He often prevails in the private, family sphere, and in the workplace. The problem of language learning is solved at the level of the school and the family. The role of language courses in the study of ethnic, Russian and Kazakh languages is still insignificant.

Despite the fact that the ethnic and linguistic identity as a result of complex social and political developments of recent decades has ceased to be the same as the survey showed, we are witnessing a process of ethnic and linguistic renaissance among all ethnic groups, primarily manifested in the increasing interest in the study of the native language and observance of ethnic traditions.

On the other hand, the results support the intensification of the processes of adaptation and acculturation of ethnic groups that began in Soviet times, and inevitably continue today.

We can observe the process of inclusion in daily and vernacular language the foreign education. It was discovered that the citizens of Kazakhstan tend to have sustaining orientation in the field of language multilingualism.



  1. The URL:
  2. Pinevich E.V., Starodubcev V.F. Sociolingvistica, Moscow: Nauka, 2011, 215
  3. Naumov V.V. The state and the language, Moscow: URSS, 2010, 178
Name of author: A.A.Injigolyan
Year: 2014
City: Karaganda
Category: Sociology