Influences in the Soviet Period

Uzbekistan Table of Contents

Unfortunately for the reformers and their efforts to reform the language, following the national delimitation the Soviet government began a deliberate policy of separating the Turkic languages from each other. Each nationality was given a separate literary language. Often new languages had to be invented where no such languages had existed before. This was the case for Uzbek, which was declared to be a continuation of Chaghatai and a descendant of all of the ancient Turkic languages spoken in the region. In the initial stage of reform, in 1928-30, the Arabic alphabet was abandoned in favor of the Latin alphabet. Then in 1940, Cyrillic was made the official alphabet with the rationale that sharing the Arabic alphabet with Turkey might lead to common literature and hence a resumption of the Turkish threat to Russian control in the region.

Because of this artificial reform process, the ancient literature of the region became inaccessible to all but specialists. Instead, the use of Russian and Russian borrowings into Uzbek was strongly encouraged, and the study of Russian became compulsory in all schools. The emphasis on the study of Russian varied at various times in the Soviet period. At the height of Stalinism (1930s and 1940s), and in the Brezhnev period (1964-82), the study of Russian was strongly encouraged. Increasingly, Russian became the language of higher education and advancement in society, especially after Stalin orchestrated the Great Purge of 1937-38, which uprooted much indigenous culture in the non-Slavic Soviet republics. The language of the military was Russian as well. Those Uzbeks who did not study in higher education establishments and had no desire to work for the state did not make a great effort to study Russian. As a result, such people found their social mobility stifled, and males who served in the armed forces suffered discrimination and persecution because they could not communicate with their superiors. This communication problem was one of the reasons for disproportionate numbers of Uzbeks and other Central Asians in the noncombat construction battalions of the Soviet army.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress