Azerbaijan International

Spring 2000 (8.1)

Nadir Karimov

For me, adopting the Latin alphabet was like returning Azerbaijan to its own past. Seventy years ago our nation used the Latin alphabet. Then came Cyrillic, which has created so many problems for us. A nation is considered wise if it has its own alphabet. Now we have ours, and we must keep it forever.

Not Enough Preparation
So when I heard that the alphabet was going to be changed, I was pleased. But later on, I was very sorry that we had not made adequate preparations beforehand. A new alphabet should be developed gradually to be able to penetrate into our lives. These days I see that almost everyone has difficulty with this new alphabet, including my students. Some of them know Cyrillic better, others prefer Latin. There is no definite pattern.

I teach economics, but there are almost no books on the subject available in Azeri Latin. I give lectures in both the Azeri track and the Russian track. For the Russian track, I don't have any difficulty because there are so many books available in the Russian language. But, unfortunately, this is not the case with Azeri.

Even during those 70 years when we used Cyrillic, there were only a few books on economics written in Azeri Cyrillic. So I constantly had to refer to Russian books, translate the material into Azeri and present it to my students. I thought that the situation would change after we switched to Latin. I thought that gradually more and more books would be published in Azeri Latin. But it looks like I'm terribly mistaken. Once again, I'm translating material from Russian books.

So, on the one hand, I'm glad that the alphabet has been changed, but I'm sorry that we didn't prepare ourselves better for the transition. I think our government needs to pay much more attention to book publishing. I'm still optimistic, and I'm sure that all of these difficulties will be resolved in the course of time. We simply have to be patient.

Personal Initiative
We also have to be more active in taking the initiative to learn Azeri Latin ourselves. I would suggest that every company or department organize special classes or groups for learning Latin, not just so that the employees can recognize the letters, but that they can become really comfortable and fluent with the new script.

I've noticed lately that store names, advertisements, names of governmental offices, names of companies - nearly everything - is in Azeri Latin. It makes me believe that despite all these problems, Latin will develop.

At the Economics Institute, all of our documentation is now in Azeri Latin. Of course, for me it was a little difficult to get used to this new script since I had learned Cyrillic at school and at the Institute. But I have succeeded in learning it.

French Language of the Caucasus
It's also interesting that the attitude toward the Azeri language has completely changed. More and more Azeri is penetrating into society, and it is now beginning to dominate all spheres. Why shouldn't it? Azeri is a very rich, melodic language. Even the renowned Russian poet Pushkin called Azeri "the French language of the Caucasus."

Before independence, I was considered to be more of a Russian speaker. Even though I knew Azeri perfectly well, it was easier for me to express my thoughts in Russian. Now I'm trying to speak more Azeri. My hope is that every Azerbaijani will begin to understand how significant it is to speak the mother tongue of their native land.

Nadir Karimov (born in 1936) is an Economics Professor at Azerbaijan's Institute of Cooperation. He is completely fluent in Russian, Azeri as well as Armenian, which he learned while growing up in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. At home, Karimov speaks Russian most of the time. He studied in the Russian track in school and university and, as was the practice at that time, defended his dissertation in Russian.

Azerbaijan International (8.1) Spring 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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