Literacy Committee (Turkestan)

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One of the greatest accomplishments of the Qurultaı govenment in the 1920s and 1930s was the promotion of the Soğdo script and accompanying literacy drive.

On independence from Russia in 1918, many people were functionally, if not fully, illiterate, and this problem was compounded by the plethora of scripts in use by those who could read. Zoroastrian scribes used the Persian Pahlavi script; Assyrian Christians the Syriac Estrangelo script, Muslims used Arabic writing and Manesians used the Manichaean writing invented by their founder. Still others used Russian Cyrillic or the old Sogdian/Ugyur scripts.

Even before independence, many young intellectuals in Turkestan were promoting educational reform and literacy as a means of achieving greater self-determination. After the peace treaty of 1922 which recognised Turkestan's independent nationhood, this effort was ramped up into one of the first and best-functioning of the Qurultaı's myriad working groups.

The Literacy Committee, as it became known, settled on a development of the Sogdian/Uygur script as a new national standard. This script had the twin advantages of being fairly non-partisan (all of the different religious groups could use it without it being "the writing of the infidel") and also, it fit the sounds of the Turkestani languages with only minimal alteration.

Having selected a script, the Literacy Committee set out on an ambitious program of education and translation/transliteration which touched the lives of the vast majority of Turkestanis, men and women, sarts, tajiks and nomads. Schools were founded all over the country, and existing schools were overhauled and teaching methods improved greatly. It became a point of national pride to put your children into one of the new schools, and slowly, learning began to take root among the common people.

By the mid 1930s the project was beginning to bear fruit, and by the time the Russians took over the country in 1948 and installed a pro-snorist regime, a majority of the population could actually read and write in a common script.

When writing in Roman or Cyrillic scripts, a preferred form of transcription scheme is used.

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