Use of latin alphabet in international politics

A country's switching to another alphabet is a multi-layer issue that must be considered in different but interconnected bases which can be also divided into subbases. National layer has found its grounds in new alphabet's effects on national policies, such as linguistics, literature, administration, identity formation and etc. International (or global) layer, as an upper and complex environment, covers the all foreing or outer- directed policies ofa country, such as offical foreign policy, international political situation in international organizations, cultural or scientific relations with other nations and forming country's international identity in international or global politics. In another words, when we recognize a politics of alphabet, we must also think about the international political effects of that politics of alphabet.

Central Asian countries and other territories of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) system with Moscow at the center in international politics had been seen and identified in two ways in two different political areas. In Soviet Union itself, all peoples and territories were the Soviet. But in the other parts, especially in Western sphere, the countries were also of the other bloc, communist blok, Russian driven territories. Especially Central Asian region was mainly accepted a 'terra incognito' which was a metaphor for research areas that are unexplored or unknown [1] in international politics, in scientific world, in academics...etc. [2: p.l] [3, p. 17] [4, p. 53- 54]. And the situation had not changed easily even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Countries had been recognized diplomatically but their visibility in international politics has taken a longer time. Kazakhstan was the best performing politically, economically through Central Asian countries and many other ex-Soviet territories. Kazakhstan became the most progressive one that building its identity as an independent, developing and reliable Central Asian state. Switching from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet should also be seen as a further step on this road.

The Foreign Policy Concept of the Republic of Kazakhstan which has been developed on the basis of the Strategy Kazakhstan-2050 states: "The increased participation of Kazakhstan in world affairs can be seen by the rising role and strengthening international reputation of the state, its increased regional weight and importance for the world financial institutions and global economy" [5]. This approach also determines a practical path for achieving modernization and promotion of the national interest, namely pragmatism. This means the success of policies will depend on the level of practical applications of those policies. Switching from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet in Kazakhstan was not a new idea, it was on stage in the early 1990's. But in the early 2000's, This idea found its pragmatic grounds and thefirst step taken by President Nursultan Nazarbayev while addressing the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan in October 2006 set off the journey. He stated "I think we should return to the question of moving the Kazakh alphabet to Latin" and a commission was set up to start mission [6]. This pragmatic move should be read in line with the above practical path for achieving modernization and promotion of the national interest. This is also an international political issue because national interests are meaningful and visible within the international or global environment. According to the Concept, also: "Kazakhstan's foreign policy is based on the principles of multi-vector, balance, pragmatism, mutual benefit, and solid defense of its national interests... Kazakhstan's foreign policy is based on the balance of interests in which the principle of differentiated and tiered approach to interaction with foreign countries and international organizations is applied" [5]. By following a pragmatic and proactive approach, Kazakh foreign policy decision makers plan to expand Kazakhstan's diplomatic apperance in foreign world and prioritize the extent of its diplomatic missions. The aim of becoming more visible and integrated country in World politics, can also be seen through some foreign policy facts. At this point, we can take into consideration many examples of foreign policy insights that will be effected positively by using Latin alphabet.

Kazakhstan have diplomatic relations with 139 countries and is member to 65 international organizations, funds and programs including 11 inter-agency and thematic organizations in the world [7]. Cyrillic alphabet using is limited to a certain part of the world, but when we look at the Latin alphabet it is seen as more widespread. While the below Worldstandarts map shows the distribution of alphabets in the world, numbers are as follows: Latin alphabet (about 2.6 billion people-36% of the world population), Chinese script (about 1.3 billion people-18%), Devanagari script (India, about 1 billion people-14%), the Arabic alphabet (about 1 billion people-14%), the Cyrillic alphabet (about 0.3 billion people-4%) and Dravidian script (South India, about 0.25 billion people-3.5%) [8].

Figure 1. The Distribution of the World's Most Important Scripts

It is easily proved here, spreading foreign relations with the other parts of the world, the Latin script will be helpful and facilitative for Kazakhstan. For instance, the UN has 6 official languages in line with the multilangualism policy, namely Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish of which three are in the Latin script [9]. While the mostly accepted diplomatic language in the world is French, it is also a fact that the common communication languages in international relations and espeacially in international organizations are mainly English and French which uses the Latin scripts. Moreover, in today's international law, even using the same alphabet is experiencing technical problems originating from different languages. The EU which takes Kazakhstan as the leading partner in Central Asia regional policy [15] andis one of the most important vectors of contemporary Kazakh foreign policy [10] [11] has technical problems while translating official documents in one of 24 official languages into another one. For instance, in the near past an Irish case occured; "Ireland's ratification of an EU treaty was delayed by grammatical errors in the Irish version. There are obvious tradeoffs to language equality, but the EU has calculated that the delays and costs are worth it" [12]. In a world of rapid changes, developments and transformations, Kazakhstan as a country which aims to follow open diplomacy and comprehensive relations with other countries and regions [13, p.70-82],as a power on the energy radar of the Western World [4, p.61] and as a rising actor in energy diplomacy, energy supply security and energy economics within the Central Asia[14, p. 356-364] [15, p. 102-104] must be prepared for global tendencies. Information technologies, financial tools, science and even international politics show parallel development within today's globalization phenomenon. Using the Latin scripts will be helpful for Kazakhstan to catch, follow and then to be a indispensable actor in international politics. We should also emphasize that the Cyrillic experience and the spread Russian language knowledge are enriching factors in Kazakhstan's foreign policy balance, cultural and scientific environment.

By emphasizing those realities, we can sum up the expected positive effects of using the Latin script for Kazakhstan in line with its multi-vector, pragmatist and proactive foreign policy in international politics as:

  • Provides alternative foreign policy directions throughout the world adding the Latin script area to the Cyrillic experience,
  • Ensures a more tangible and distinct location in international organizations and institutions,
  • Makes diplomatic communication faster and more active both in bilateral and multilataral relations.
  • Provides foreign diplomatic envoys who originally speaks languages in the Latin script to learn Kazakh language easier and to communicate more intensely with Kazakh public.
  • Facilitates Kazakh officials especially of foreign policy institutons to use written correspondence in diplomacy more directly with the Latin script using countries.
  • Fastens trade, finance and monetary relations with the rest of the world.
  • Facilitates to catch up with information technologies and communication techniques which are also very prominent in Comtemporary global politics.
  • Introduces modern Kazakhstan to the rest of the world by facilitating foreign tourism, cultural, sports dialogues and etc.
  • Creates and supports a positive image of Kazakhstan which left Soviet policies in the past and determined to integrate to all democratic and developed countries and open world economy while keeping its own respected national identity rich in itself.



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  10. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Finland, Nazarbayev: EU is one of the most important vectors of Kazakhstan's foreign policy (31.03.2016), saasatyndagy-mayzdy-vektordy-biri, date of access: 19.5.2018.
  11. Johnson, "Languages of diplomacy: Towards a fairer distribution", The Economist, April 2nd 2013, fairer-distribution, date of access: 19.5.2018.
  12. Diyarbakirlioglu, Kaan and Slireyya Yigit. "Kazakh Multi Vector Foreign Policy in Action", Alternatives Turkish Journal ff International Relations, Vol. 13, No.4, Winter 2014, pp. 70-82.
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Year: 2018
City: Atyrau
Category: History