In brief

New law to make Kyrgyz language mandatory in Kyrgyzstan administration

Act provides for minimum of 60% of broadcasts in country’s language on radio and television

Sadyr Japarov.
Sadyr Japarov. Author: Кыргыз Республикасынын Президенти
The former Soviet republics of Central Asia have been seeking for years to raise the status of indigenous languages against the hitherto hegemonic position of Russian in many areas. The latest move in this direction has taken place in Kyrgyzstan, where President Sadyr Japarov has just signed a constitutional law that aims to make Kyrgyz mandatory in the country's government and administration.

The newly enacted law, passed by parliament on 31 May, makes Kyrgyz compulsory in most state agencies, including education, notaries, and the armed forces. It also applies to municipalities, businesses, and organisations. The administration will also have to use the national language in office work, official documents, and information on goods and services.

If the law is effectively implemented, it will de facto make it compulsory for all civil servants in the country to be proficient in Kyrgyz. A previous law, dating from 2004, stipulated that Kyrgyz must be used by state institutions. However, it only provided for civil servants to know Kyrgyz to the extent necessary for their duties.

The newly passed law also covers audiovisuals. At least 60% of broadcasts by public and private radio and television stations will need to be in Kyrgyz.

The Kyrgyz Constitution recognises Kyrgyz as the state language, while Russian is the official language. Although this means that, hierarchically, Kyrgyz has a higher status, in practice, Russian still dominates in many areas of the country’s political and economic life —especially in the capital, Bishkek— and, more than anything else, in relations with the former Soviet area.