- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2021

Americans who have spent decades debating the metric system and the relative merits of Celsius and Fahrenheit could take a lesson in mental flexibility from Uzbekistan.

Residents of the Central Asian nation are poised to adopt what would be the fifth different official alphabet in less than a century, announcing a final transition from the Russian Cyrillic script to a modified Latin-based alphabet by the beginning of 2023.

The Uzbekistan Justice Ministry announced the timetable Thursday, after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev late last year issued the decree mandating the switch, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported this week.

The changing nature of Uzbekistan’s ABCs reflects the country’s rocky geopolitics over the recent decades. The Turkic-based Uzbek language had traditionally been written in an Arabic script, but switched to the familiar Latin-based lettering in the 1920s. Absorbed into the Soviet Union, Uzbeks were ordered during Stalin’s reign to switch over to the Cyrillic lettering used in Russia and many Eastern European and Central Asian states. The move was ordered in part to distance the new Soviet republics from their historic and linguistic ties to Turkey.

Independent once again after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbeks began a partial transition back to the Latin alphabet while many retained a loyalty to Cyrillic script.

RFE/RL reported that the official new alphabet, devised by Uzbek linguists, will be a variation on the Western-style Latin script, with 29 letters and an apostrophe to accommodate the requirements of spoken Uzbek.

Several other newly independent Central Asian countries have already made the Cyrillic-to-Latin shift. Kazakhstan has announced plans to transition to the Latin alphabet by 2025.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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