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Politics

Kazakhstan seeks to accelerate switch to Western alphabet

Long-serving president seeks escape from Russia's shadow

Kazkommertsbank, which also uses the Romanized name Kazkom, is in the process of rebranding to Qazkom as the use of the Western alphabet spreads. (Photo by Naubet Bisenov)

ALMATY -- For more than 75 years, the Kazakh language has been written in Cyrillic, the alphabet of Russian and other Slavic tongues. But President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led Kazakhstan to independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, is accelerating plans to switch to the Roman alphabet used in Western Europe, even as Russia steps up efforts to exert regional leadership.

Nazarbayev, who is keen for Kazakhstan to gain a higher global profile, last month directed officials to complete plans for the switchover by the end of 2017, with the target of a full conversion by 2025. The process could cost government agencies $300 million in training and new signage.

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