The future of Russian language in Kazakhstan.

The status of Russian language in Kazakhstan has been a topic of heated debates among the general public as well as in the government since getting independence in 1991. Nevertheless, the topic of discussions seems to have changed recently from the official status to predicting the future of Russian in Kazakhstan.

Some say the prospects of Russian are stable and its role does not seem to wane, while others predict that Russian in Kazakhstan will lose its ground. One of those who conform to the latter opinion, a secondary school teacher Ayatzhan Akhmetzhanuly, caused some outbreak among Russian speakers by his article “I pity those who send their children to Russian medium schools” (2017). The growth in the number of Kazakh medium schools, a decrease in the number of the Russian in the country, and the growing popularity of English are his arguments for  Russian becoming unpopular and unnecessary in Kazakhstan in the future. Although he claims that he only operates with facts to show that Kazakh language is becoming dominant in the society, you can notice aggressiveness and ill feeling towards Russian in his tone:

“To tell the truth, there is no trilingual program at all; although it is called trilingual, we understand that, in fact, it is a bilingual program. The president says that Kazakh will be a dominant language and develop further. And if that happens how will the third language, which is English, develop. Of course, at the expense of Russian”. ( July 12, 2017)

The same idea about Russian being replaced by English under trilingual policy is put forward in in 2017:

“It can be noticed that in Kazakhstan Russian language is being gradually substituted by English in business and education. Even now all top universities in Kazakhstan instruct in English”. ( July 7, 2017)

“… prospects of Russian language in Kazakhstan are obscure. Kazakhstan is a unitary country. Thus, involuntary trilingualism will not work here, as it is superfluous, ineffective and unpractical.” ( July 7, 2017).

However, some politologists are more optimistic about the future of Russian language in Kazakhstan. Eduard Poletayev, for example, claims that although the number of Russian-speakers in Kazakhstan is falling, the proportion of communication in Russian is still high. Another politologist Petr Svoik holds an interesting view that even if all the Russian disappeared in Kazakhstan, Russian would still be kept here for at least half a century. Politologist Zamir Karazhanov gives three reasons for Kazakhstani people to need Russian: firstly, Russia is our big neighbor; secondly, Kazakhstan is a multinational country; thirdly, Russia is one of the biggest economies in the world, and is a big market for us.

There is truth in the arguments for both opinions, but I am inclined to think that people in Kazakhstan will not stop using Russian widely at least in the nearest future. What are your opinions?


Amir Zhanuzakov. (2017, 9 September). Shto zhdet russki v Kazkahstane – mneniya ekspertov [What does future hold for Russian in Kazakhstan – experts’ opinions] Retrieved from:

Ayatzhan Ahmetzhanuly. (2017, 12 July). Balasyn orys synyptaryna beretinderge jany ashidy [I pity those who send their children to Russian-medium schools]. Retrieved from

Budushchee Kazakhstana bez russkogo yazyka? [Future of Kazakhstan without Russian language?]. (2017, 7 July). Retrieved from

5 thoughts on “The future of Russian language in Kazakhstan.

  1. This is very strong post that looks at an important issue in Kazakhstan these days. I appreciate your use of outside sources and the way you organize your ideas clearly and logically.
    A couple minor revisions:
    1) predicting __ future of Russian in Kazakhstan. (article)
    2) The growth in the number of Kazakh medium schools, a decrease in the number of the Russian in the country, ___ the growing popularity of English are his arguments… (Nice attempt at parallelism, but X, Y, and Z)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for an interesting blog post, Makpal!
      I think I would disagree with the secondary school teacher who believes that a high number of Kazakh medium schools can increase the number of Kazakh speakers and make the Kazakh language popular, and at the same time decrease the use of Russian language. Unfortunately, today I see another picture: Kazakh medium school students speak Kazakh mostly during their lessons, but outside of the classroom they start communicating in Russian. It is not mainly about Kazakh schools, books or TV programs (that are also significant but as the supportive segment), it is all about our self-consciousness, understanding the deep meaning of importance of Kazakh language. For example, Kazakh people who speak only Russian language could somehow learn English or any other foreign language during 3-4 years on average. So it means that they are able to learn Kazakh as well, but unfortunately, they do not do it in spite of the fact that there are hundreds of Kazakh schools all over the country.
      And going back to your question, I don’t think that Kazakhstani people will stop using the Russian language, at least the nearest few decades.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the future of Russian language will be politically and socially dominant for a long time in Kazakhstan. We have some reasons for this situation. Firstly, most of the Kazakhstani government officials do not speak fluently in Kazakh. They prefer to use Russian at a workplace and legislate new language reforms where the Russian language has an equal status of communication as Kazakh. They are afraid of losing their jobs, their salaries and that’s why they protect the Russian language. Secondly, the “Russification” process has made urban Kazakhs as Russian speakers. If we want to decrease the usage of Russian language, government officials have to increase the status of Kazakh by making it’s as a single language of communication among different nationalities who are living here.


  3. At last here is a blog about the language I adore! But the point is not on that 🙂
    I cannot agree with that educator who mentioned the growth in a decrease of Russian medium (RM) schools. I have been witnessed more than ten family stories where young parents preferred to send their child to RM schools. Their main arguments were based on a belief that Kazakh medium (KM) schools do not provide quality education caused by their bitter experience of struggling with seeking materials and sources in Kazakh during their study at a university. This clearly illustrates perceptions of Russified parents of education in Kazakh as a medium of instruction, which ensures the stability in a number of RM schools.
    However, I presume there is a possibility of a Russian’s giving a way to English as a global language. What if a massive wave of English language learning due to world standards and to meet requirements will cause English to become more prioritized than Russian among the majority of the population in a very distant future?
    As for me, we need knowledge of Russian language, at least because Russia is the biggest and important strategic partner of Kazakhstan. Historically and more important geographically, there is a close partnership between those two countries. As long as they keep these ties the Russian language will be a constant a language of communication in all domains of our country.


  4. Dear Author,

    This is an ongoing debate between these two languages. I also have read some news articles about this issue, where some well-known politicians were claiming that Russian is being replaced by English in our society. (Although, they were saying it in Russian, not in English or Kazakh). I accept that English became a popular language to learn as it has its benefits in education, workplace or travel. But I differ in opinions with Ayatzhan Akhmetzhanuly, who states that Russian is unnecessary and unpopular. Probably, Russian may lose, to some extent, its dominance and value, but it is still taught at schools and will remain as our second language. Although, some may deny, It is an integral part of our history.

    Liked by 1 person

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