Reading, Writing and Geopolitics

What's in an alphabet? For the six Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union -- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- the answer may be cultural identity. As the 55 million inhabitants of the republics, most of them Muslims, consider a new written form of expression to replace the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, the choice has taken on geopolitical implications. Turkey, whose switch from Arabic to Latin script 64 years ago symbolized its shift toward Western-style democracy, wants the republics to follow its lead. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Iran are pressuring them to adopt Arabic script -- and, they...

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