Kazakhstan's President, Nursultan Nazarbayev predicted on Monday that Kazakh would become widely spoken in the country in the next decade, replacing Russian as the main language.
Russian has been spoken by large numbers of people in Kazakhstan since the Soviet period, especially in large cities. In the Stalin era, peoples from all across the Soviet Union were deported to Kazakhstan and many former Gulag prisoners were sent there after their release.
In the Soviet period the majority of Kazakh officials were not Kazakhs, but Russians, a situation which led to interethnic tension both before and after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
According to the national constitution, Russian has the status of an official language. Kazakh is the state language, but it is currently far less spoken than Russian.
"We would like 100% of those who will start learning Kazakh language in the first class to be able to speak Kazakh. I am sure this will happen," Nazarbayev said at a meeting of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan.
He emphasized that over 80 percent of the residents of the country should be able to speak the national language by 2017.
"The knowledge of Kazakh language is not just a sound bite, it means that the people will also know the history of our country, the history of the Kazakh people...This will help consolidate the people of Kazakhstan and boost mutual confidence day after day," Nazarbayev said.
Efforts to preserve the customs, traditions and languages of all of the ethnic groups that live in Kazakhstan should also be taken, Nazarbayev said.
"The preservation of our rich historic and cultural heritage is indispensable to maintain everlasting stability, peace and understanding in Kazakhstan," Nazarbayev said.
ASTANA, April 18 (RIA Novosti)