Language Education Policy Studies
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Language Education Policy in Uzbekistan,

Central Eurasia

Uzbekistan was very active in reforming its language policy and planning after 1991 starting with declaring Uzbek as the official language of the state and later switching the Cyrillic alphabet into Latin in 1995. This was not surprising as during the Soviet era, Uzbeks had always shown more success in preserving their language despite the prodding from above. They did not have more books and magazines in Russian than in Uzbek; the other minorities living in Uzbekistan were also proficient in Uzbek. Therefore, unlike its neighbor, Kazakhstan, the country did not go through the language shift. Even before the independence, in mid 1980s, Uzbekistan started efforts in promoting the mother tongue (MT) by publishing textbooks in the MT and offering more hours of learning Uzbek in spite of Kazakh or Tajik (the next two largest ethnical groups in the country) also being the LOI in mid 1990s, after sometime the attention and emphasis in promoting Uzbek language rose and strengthened.  The president of the country, Islom Karimov (1995) emphasized in his speech, that foreign languages should be taught and learned but not to the oblivion of the MT.

Complete language equality or “ethno linguistic democracy” is very difficult and probably impossible to achieve in full according to Fishman (1996). Unfortunately, this is true in many cases, therefore Karimov’s ‘A people is its language’ (Literaturnaya Gazeta, 1991) gives an insight on what was reflected by the law on the state language that was accepted in 1991. After the law was adopted, Uzbek became visible both literally and practically. Alphabet selection has often been selected on political grounds, as it can be an important unifying or divisive factor (Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001). Uzbekistan that had a long literary tradition preserved in Arabic-based script did not doubt too long before its decision to implement Latin alphabet. There were several reasons that seem to support the favor towards Latin script.   First, the state’s need for the new identity for its nation, i.e. de-russification of its population, was of utmost importance. Currently, there is no debate over a language status in Uzbekistan unlike in Kazakh or Kyrgyz republics. Uzbek is the state language and a LOI in majority of schools. Russian is often learned as an additional first or second language, while English is learned as a foreign language. With English getting more and more attention, far East languages, such as Korean and Chinese are also increasing in popularity among Uzbeks. In parts of the country, where there is a dense number of minority groups, such as Tajiks, Kazakhs, Turkmen, there are mixed-language schools, where students may choose whether to receive instruction in one of their ethnical languages or in Uzbek. Unlike its neighboring country, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan does not seem to show any need in producing Uzbek language tests, as with early language reforms in education, majority of current Uzbek youth are competent in the state language. As the years go, the number of Uzbek school is increasing, while the number of Russian or other ethnic language schools is decreasing, which makes the status of the state language grow stronger in the nation.


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Korean language class in Nizomiy (Uzbekistan).


Craze for the Chinese language sweeping Uzbekistan.


Landau, J.M & Kellner-Heinkele, B. 2001. Politics of Language in the Ex-Soviet Muslim States. Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan Press.

Fierman, W. (1991). New York: Mouton de Gruyter.


Djuraeva, M. 2013. Comparative analysis of language policy in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Education.

Language Reform and Language Status in Multilingual Uzbekistan, Asian Cultures and Modernity Research Reports, Vol. 13, Stockholm 2007. 

Language Policy in Independent Uzbekistan, FoCAS Working Paper 1, Forum for Central Asian Studies, Stockholm 1997.

Smith, G. et al. (1998). Nation building in the post-Soviet borderlands. Cambridge University Press. Pp:197-223.

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Baker & McKenzie. Language Policy. 



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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as


Djuraeva, M. (2013). Language Education Policy in Uzbekistan, Central Eurasia. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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