The report by Kazakhstan's Ministry of Education and Science from 2007
did mention other reasons beside modernization - forging a national identity, marking a clear break with the colonial identity, improving the phonological representation of the language by the orthography, etc. (original report in Russian here
). However, the eventual switch to the Latin script only became official government policy in 2012, when President Nazarbayev proclaimed the Strategy "Kazakhstan-2050
", and his proclamation mainly focuses on the modernization arguments:
From 2025 we need to modernise our language to use Latin fonts and a Latin alphabet. We make this decision for the sake of the future of our children – it is necessary for Kazakhstan to enjoy full global integration. This will enable our children to have a better understanding of the English language, the internet and reinforce our desire to modernise the Kazakh language.
We should modernise the Kazakh language. It is necessary to make the language modern, to allow agreement on issues of terminology, permanently resolving the issues that come from translating foreign words into Kazakh language. These issues should not be resolved by disparate individuals – the Government should resolve this.
Even if politically and culturally distancing Kazakhstan from Russia was a factor, Nazarbayev won't stress this, at least for now. He has spent much of his tenure in power carefully balancing between the interests of Russia, China and the West, and positioning himself as a guarantor of inter-ethnic harmony within the country. Nevertheless, this action will likely be viewed with suspicion in Russia, especially in the larger context of increasing tensions
since 2014 (not to mention somewhat similar processes seemingly happening in Belarus
). On the other hand, Turkey will likely welcome this development, since they've been softly pushing for Latinization ever since the Turkic nations of the former USSR got their independence
It should be noted that there is a generally workable Kazakh Latin script currently used by Kazakhstan's official news agency
(and the Kazakh Wikipedia
has seen a peaceful coexistence of three scripts for years). There's probably still some questions left to resolve before they fully standardize it, like the treatment of loanwords and foreign proper names, but otherwise the groundwork has largely been laid.
I'd hesitate to call this a general trend, mostly because the process of Latinization has so far lead to very different results in the Turkic countries where it's been implemented. Azerbaijan, likely due to its geographic, linguistic and cultural closeness to Turkey, initiated the process early on and has for all intents and purposes finalized it, with a alphabet highly compatible with the Turkish one yet reflective of local distinctive features. On the other hand, both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan hesitated for some time, ended up diverging from the models proposed by Turkey and still face a situation of parallel coexistence of two scripts with most people having clear preferences for one or the other. Politically both of these countries' leaders have been somewhat isolationist and therefore have expressed even less enthusiasm for Pan-Turkic initiatives than Kazakhstan, so it's hard to see their switch to Latin alphabets as a restoration of historical ties, the way the Azerbaijani switch has been portrayed. Detractors see those scripts less as modernization efforts and more as personal pet projects of the respective leaders (probably the reason why Uzbek-language opposition
media tend to default to Cyrillic). But then, it's not too late for Nazarbayev to introduce similar changes to the Turkish-based script and to create something similar to the Turkmen and Uzbek systems.