Languages of Kyrgyzstan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Languages of Kyrgyzstan
Sign in English, Kyrgyz and Russian
OfficialKyrgyz (national/state language)
Russian (official and interethnic)[1]
IndigenousDialects of Kyrgyz language
MinorityTajik; Uzbek; Uyghur
ImmigrantTurkic languages
ForeignEnglish; Arabic (coming with Islam); Chinese; French
SignedRussian Sign Language
Keyboard layout
AlphabetKyrgyz alphabets
Kyrgyz Braille

Kyrgyzstan is one of four former Soviet republics in Central Asia to have Russian as a de jure official language. The Kyrgyz language was adopted as the official language in 1991. After pressure from the Russian and other minorities in the country, the republic adopted Russian as an official language as well in 1997, to become an officially bilingual country.

Official languages[edit]

The languages of government in Kyrgyzstan are Russian as the official and interethnic language and Kyrgyz as the state/national language.

Kyrgyz is a Turkic language of the Kipchak branch, closely related to Kazakh, Karakalpak, and Nogay Tatar. It was written in the Arabic alphabet until the twentieth century. Latin script was introduced and adopted in 1928, and was subsequently replaced on Stalin's orders by Cyrillic script in 1941. As a result of the pending language reform in neighboring Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan will be the only independent Turkic-speaking country in a few years that exclusively uses the Cyrillic script.[3]

According to the 2009 census,[4] 4.1 million people spoke Kyrgyz as native or second language and 2.5 million spoke Russian as native or second language, with 482,000 specifically identifying as native speakers.[5] Russian is the most widely spoken second language, followed by Kyrgyz and Uzbek.

Russian TV media enjoy enormous popularity in Kyrgyzstan, especially in Russian-speaking city of Bishkek and Chüy Region. Russian media outlets have an enormous impact on public opinion in Kyrgyzstan, especially in areas such as human rights and international political developments.[6] The Russian dialects spoken in Kyrgyzstan are referred to as Kyrgyz(stani) Russian.

Many business and political affairs are carried out in Russian. Russian was the primary language of the government of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic for decades. Until recently, Kyrgyz remained a language spoken at home and was rarely used during meetings or other events. However, most parliamentary meetings today are conducted in Kyrgyz, with simultaneous interpretation available for those who do not speak Kyrgyz. However a great number of Russian-speaking residents of Kyrgyzstan have left since independence.


Following the 2005 Tulip Revolution, educational reforms in 2007 required that Kyrgyz become a required subject in non-Kyrgyz-language schools, and that Russian become a required subject in schools with a language of instruction other than Russian.[5] The Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, one of the top universities of Kyrgyzstan, is a Russian-medium institution and therefore fluency in Russian is still extremely valuable in higher education.

Minority languages[edit]

Uzbek is spoken by approximately 850 thousand residents of Kyrgyzstan and is the second most spoken native language, ahead of Russian and behind Kyrgyz.

In 2011, Almazbek Atambayev won a highly contested elections marked by irregularities by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSEC). The Atambayev government subsequently banned graduating high school students from taking exit examinations in Uzbek, or any language other than Kyrgyz or Russian.[5]

Aside from Turkic languages, Tajik, an Iranian language, is also spoken by some.

Language by number of speakers[edit]

Language name Native speakers Second-language speakers Total speakers
Kyrgyz 3,830,556 271,187 4,121,743
Russian 482,243 2,109,393 2,591,636
Uzbek 772,561 97,753 870,314
English 28,416 28,416
French 641 641
Other 277,433 31,411


In Bishkek, Russian is the main language, while Kyrgyz continues losing ground, especially among the younger generations.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kyrgyzstan's Constitution of 2010 with Amendments through 2016" (PDF). Constitute Project. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  2. ^ "To hear the world through the sign language, to see the world through the finger tips | United Nations Development Programme". UNDP.
  3. ^ "'Only Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia insists on Cyrillic' — Tokayev - News of Kyrgyzstan, press and media".
  4. ^ "Перепись населения и жилищного фонда Кыргызской Республики (Population and Housing Census of the Kyrgyz Republic), 2009". NSC of Kyrgyzstan. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b c McDermott, Ashley (2019). "The Linguistic Landscape of Post-Soviet Bishkek". Region. 8 (2): 227–256. ISSN 2166-4307.
  6. ^ "Major Russian TV Channel Sidelined in Kyrgyzstan - Jamestown".
  7. ^ Komlosi-Ferdinand, Flora; Ferdinand, Siarl (25 July 2016). "Vitality of the Kyrgyz Language in Bishkek". Ijors - International Journal of Russian Studies. Retrieved 4 August 2018.