The History of Kazakh Language

The Kazakh language is the native language of the Kazakh people. Kazakh is the state language of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Kazakh or Qazaq is a Turkic language spoken in Kazakhstan, Russia and China by about 11 million people. There are also Kazakh speakers in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Russia and Iran.

Kazakh was first written with the Arabic script during the 19th century when a number of poets, educated in Islamic schools, incited revolt against Russia. Russia's response was to set up secular schools and devise a way of writing Kazakh with the Cyrillic alphabet, which was not widely accepted. By 1917, the Arabic script was reintroduced, even in schools and local government.

The Kazakh language is one of the Kypchak subgroup of Turkish languages, and the Turkish languages themselves are part of the Altai family of languages, which in addition to the Turkish languages include the Tungus-Manchzhur, Mongol, Finnish-Ugric, and – according to some speculations – the Japanese and Korean languages. In the world today there are representatives of over 60 Turkish peoples living from the North Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1927, Kazakh nationalist movement sprang up but was soon suppressed. At the same time the Arabic script was banned and the Latin alphabet was imposed for writing Kazakh. The Latin alphabet was in turn replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet in 1940. Recently as part of a modernization program the government of Kazakhstan has stated plans to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet. Currently the costs and consequences of such a move are being investigated.

In October 2006, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, brought up the topic of using the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic alphabet as the official script for Kazakh in Kazakhstan. A Kazakh government study released in September 2007 said that Kazakhstan could feasibly switch to a Latin script over a 10- to 12-year period, for a cost of $300 million.[5] The transition was halted temporarily on December 13, 2007, with President Nazarbayev declaring: “For 70 years the Kazakhstanis read and wrote in Cyrillic. More than 100 nationalities live in our state. Thus we need stability and peace. We should be in no hurry in the issue of alphabet transformation”. However, on January 30, 2015, the Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly announced that a transition plan was underway, with specialists working on the orthography in order to accommodate the phonological aspects of the language.

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The Kazakh Language as the State Language

The Kazakh language was declared the official state language. In 1995 a constitutional resolution was passed that is clearly and precisely spelled out in article 7 of the Constitution: "The state language of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall be Kazakh." The law adopted two years after this resolution, "On languages in the Republic of Kazakhstan", states that "the state language in the Republic of Kazakhstan shall be Kazakh", and that it is necessary to provide all the organizational, material, and technical conditions needed to enable all citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan to master the state language easily and free of charge. The government passed numerous acts and resolutions in order to comply with this law. State programs were implemented to expand the sphere of language application.

Thus, throughout an entire region where the native language had been trampled over the course of many years, a new movement began: it became the goal to freely use the language in public life. In state organizations and local authorities, record keeping began to be converted to the state language. Kazakh-language media outlets began to increase in number.
Despite these positive changes, in many spheres of our society's daily activity Kazakh remains merely a language of translation. This is due to deep-running political and judicial factors.

The law "On languages in the Republic of Kazakhstan" was passed at a time when the country was in the midst of a complex demographic situation. While the number of Kazakhs did not exceed 40% of the population in their own land, Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians numbered over 7 million persons, comprising over 40% of the total population. This factor must not be ignored, given that the first document proclaiming freedom – the Declaration of the State Sovereignty of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic – ascribed primary importance to the task of consolidating and fortifying good relations among the peoples living in our country.

The Kazakh language, however, the state language now for twenty years, in reality is unable to achieve its actual status. Schools in which studies are conducted in Kazakh account for less than half of the approximately eight thousand secondary schools across the republic. The same situation is witnessed in vocational secondary and postsecondary educational institutions. And the current percentage of Kazakh-language media outlets is less than satisfactory to our country-forming nation.

On the basis of the conviction that these longstanding difficulties can only be overcome by passing a special law regarding the state language, in 2008 a group of academicians from the Kazakh Humanitarian and Judicial University of Astana drew up a proposed law "On the state language of the Republic of Kazakhstan". It was published in volume No. 14 (903) in 2008 by the republican newspaper Ana tílí. The government, however, did has not accepted the proposal. Executive authorities hold that the current law "On languages" is sufficient to resolve the situation.

In the opinion of many philologists, it is impossible to correct the current situation without adopting a special law regarding the state language. A regulatory basis for adopting such a law could be found in article 93 of our primary law, which states the following: "In order to implement article 7 of the Constitution, the Government and local representative and executive authorities shall provide all the necessary organizational, material, and technical conditions needed to enable all the citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan to master the state language easily and free of charge in compliance with a special law".

Hence, the fate of the state language requires an awakening of national existence. To be quite frank, if one examines the problem more in depth, the means of action, i.e., the fate of the Kazakh language, is in the hands of Kazakhs themselves. In civilized countries the fate of the language is decided by the activity of the masses, and the level of dignity of the Kazakhs in power. And this must be our chief path. This has been borne out indisputably in our own life over the past twenty years, and the historical experience of advanced peoples.


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Kazakh literature

The modern Kazakh literature began to from in the beginning of the XX century. During this period modern Kazakh language was being formed, new stylistic forms appeared. Kazakh writers to master new genres.

One of the outstanding authors in the literature of the beginning of the XX century was Akhmet Baitursynov. He was busy with pedagogical and literary activity. His first works were the translation of Krylov’s fables, a collection of poems “Kyryk mysal” published several times was very popular among Kazakh people. He wrote some articles about the Kazakh language. The name of Abai Kunanbayev (1845-1904) is signed with golden letters into the history of world literature. He is called “the greatest poet among the Kazakh”. He was also an outstanding thinker. He shares his thoughts and sympathies in the prosaic telling “Kara soz”.

The noticeable figure in the Kazakh literature was Mirzhakyp Dulatov (1885-1931). He is known as a poet and a prosaic. Dulatov is the author of the first Kazakh novel “The Unhappy Zhamal”.

The 30s brought away many representatives of the Kazakh intelligentsia. Saken Seifullin, Beyimbet Mailin were repressed; among these people was also Shakarim Kudaibergenov. The special role in the development of the Kazakh philosophical thought belongs to him. Shakarim wrote letters to Leo Tolstoi, translated Pushkin’s works into Kazakh. Among modern writers of Kazakhstan Mukhtar Auezov (1897-1961) has a special place. His writing activity his life he wrote more than 20 plays, novels and many short stories. His best work in considered to be the epic novel “Abai”. The novel was translated into many languages. M.Auezov was a also a great translator. His translations of Tolstoi, Chehov, Shakespeare, and London enriched the Kazakh literature.


Ilyas Yesemberlin

Ilyas Yesenberlin was the great Kazakh writer and author of the historical trilogy "Nomads". He left only 15 novels during his short life.

He was born on January 10, 1915 in the town of Atbasar of Akmola region. He loved reading world literary classics and drawing. After his marriage to the daughter of an "enemy of the people" and "companion of S. Seyfullin" he was chased by the authorities. He lost his job and then was sent to the construction of the Karakum Canal. After Stalin’s death Ilyas Yesenberlin was released and rehabilitated. Later, with his wife Ilyas went to work in the mines of the Semipalatinsk region. He began to write during the war time. His first poems were published in 1945. Only after the war, he realized that literature was his calling. Having moved to Alma-Ata and working as an ordinary editor, he worked on his first novel "Pesnya o cheloveke" (The song about the person). Later Yesenberlin moved to the studio, where he was in surrounded by his close friends Kapan Satybaldin, Shaken Aimanov, Olzhas Suleimenov and other famous masters of art and literature. He edited many films, wrote dozens of plays and screenplays. Although, he admitted that he was able to become a professional playwright.

Ilyas Yeseberlin is the first and largest Kazakh writer of historic theme. He managed to unravel many mysteries of the past of the Great Steppe and create a timeline of events during several centuries by highlighting the most significant figures such as Zhanibek Khan, Kerey Khan, Zhangir Khan, Abylay Khan, abulhair Khan, Kasim Khan, Kenesary Khan, and three famous bies, three famous batyrs, three wise zhyraus and other historical figures. Works of Ilyas Yesemberlin have external policy value. His books have been translated into many languages and published in millions of copies. Due to translation into other languages, people all over the world learn about the Kazakh people, their heroic history and unique culture. In 1965, in three months I. Yesenberlin wrote the first book from his well-known trilogy "Kakhar" and later the whole trilogy, given the name to it — "Nomads". His main historical trilogy is “Nomads”, which has not only about five centuries of a history of Kazakh statehood.

After the trilogy "Nomads" the historical works "Golden Horde", "Dangerous Crossing", novels on present subjects "A gold bird", "Flight" and many others were created. Ilyas Yesenberlin’s works differ in relevance of the lifted problems and courage of their decisions and colorfulness of the characters.. Historical novels of Ilyas Yesenberlin are a significant event in the culture of Kazakhstan. On October 5, 1983 Ilyas Esenberlin died of a rupture of heart, at that day when his son brought just published five-volume edition of his works.

Abai Kunanbaev

The great Kazakh poet was born in 1845 in the Chinghis Mountains in Semipalatinsk Region. His father, Kunanbai, a stern and willful steppe ruler, was an elder of the Tobykty clan.

Abai`s mother, Ulzhan, was a wonderful woman, and with her innate reserve, tolerance, and soundness of reasoning. She loved Abai best of all her children, and affectionately called him Abai (which means thoughtful, circumspect) instead of Ibraghim – the name given the boy by his father.

Abai became an ardent champion of friendship and brotherhood between the Russian and Kazakh cultures. He loved Pushkin, Lermontov, Krylov, Saltykov – Shedrin and Tolstoi, and after that memorable summer of 1886 when he opened embarked on his poetic career Abai started translating Krylov, Pushkin and Lermontov into Kazakh, acquainting countrymen for the first time with these great writers.

Having an excellent knowledge and understanding of Kazakh folk music, Abai composed several melodies. He also wrote music for his translations from Eugene Onegin. By this time the name of Abai himself – a poet, thinker and composer – had earned countrywide popularity and esteem. He composed about twenty melodies.

The greatest poet Abai Kunanbaev was died in 1904. The glory of Abai, the real founder of modern Kazakh culture and the greatest Kazakh classical poet, shall never dim.

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