Reviews

Based on archival material from Moscow and Baku, this short but detailed article describes the main issues surrounding the choice of alphabet for Tatar literary language in the 1920s.  The author focuses on the beliefs and behalves of the Tatar intelligentsia:  Convinced well before 1917 that the Arabic alphabet is unable to fulfil the requirements of a modern literary language, most part of Tatar intelligentsia required its modification through the simplification of its characters and the addition of vowels.  These proposals were taken into account by a decree by the new Soviet Tatar government in December 1920.  Nevertheless, the pressure in favour of Latin alphabet grew up in Kazan during the mid-1920s, due to the influence of the Baku reformists who promoted the adoption of the Latin alphabet for all Turkic literary languages as the best way to bring together the Muslim peoples of the USSR.  After some unsuccessful attempts and despite the Central Committee’s wish to control the debates, Azerbaijani linguists managed during the Turkological Congress organized in Baku in 1926 to persuade Tatar delegates to vote a resolution in favour of the Latin alphabet.  Introducing the confrontation of interests defended by different national circles, the author breaks up with a now common historiographical viewpoint on the unity of Muslim elites all around the USSR.  His insistence on decision-making at local level also helps us to reconsider the specificities of Soviet language policy based on compromises and not only on one-side decisions from above.

Xavier Le Torrivellec, National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilisations,  Paris
CER: I-6.3.B-573