31 October 2006

Russian in Central Asia

The main reason I'm not as concerned about learning Russian is that it's pretty much assured that Russian's influence in Central Asia is only going to decline. Will Russian be very useful there in 30 years, or will Uzbek and Tajik and Kazakh have taken over? I've decided that learning Uzbek/Uyghur is a better choice than Kazakh/Kyrgyz, mostly because Russian is going downhill more quickly in Uzbekistan than Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and it never existed in Xinjiang province. Russian may still be pretty prevalent in Kyrgyzstan in 30 years, at least in the north.

But it's hard to guess where languages will go. French is still the official language of many of its former colonies, but that doesn't mean that French is necessarily a good choice for a foreigner to learn. But I think I'll not worry as much about Russian. And if we go back in 30 years and really need it, I'll be sorry. But I don't think that will happen. (I certainly plan to go back sooner than 30 years though.)


  1. Amira,

    Before Soviet takeover, did Uzbeks, Tajiks, etc. know Russian, or were they taught it during Soviet rule?

  2. Russian didn't become widespread among the local people until a few decades into the Soviet Union, so at that point it had been about 75 years since Russia had taken over the area.

  3. I have also heard that Russian is in decline in Uzbekistan. Uzbeks are proud of their language and have even abandoned the cyrillic alphabet for the Roman alphabet (after Ataturk). Learning Turkish or Uzbek would be useful. My husband can understand Turkmen, Turkish, and other Turkic languages because he speaks Uzbek. He can also understand some Farsi and Tajik (Farsi still ranks as my favorite language) and even some Urdu and Hindi. Uzbek and Mongolian even share some words (mainly names) My son is named Bek which is the same word in Mongolian and Uzbek. My brother who speaks Mongolian knew exactly what it meant.

    As for Russian, my mother-in-law and husband insist that I learn Russian and teach it to my children. They do not want my children to learn Uzbek, they say it is not as useful.

    For now, I am studying Russian because RIGHT NOW it is a useful language in Central Asia. As I look Russian, they will more than likely prefer to speak Russian to me rather than Uzbek. It is partly a racial issue. In Korea, Koreans refused to speak Korean to me because I did not look Korean for example. I am learning Russian faster because people think I am Russian and speak ACTUALLY speak it to me. Even in NYC the Russian assumed I was one of them. I guess I am taking the easy road right now, but plan to learn Uzbek soon.