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The Tajik language has been written in three writing systems over the course of its history: a version of the Arabic script, a version of the Latin alphabet, and a version of the Cyrillic alphabet. Any version used specifically for Tajik may be referred to as the Tajik alphabet, which is written in Tajik as follows: Perso-Arabic: , Cyrillic: , Latin: , Persian: .

The use of a specific alphabet generally corresponds with stages in history, with Arabic being used first, followed by Latin for a short period and then Cyrillic, which remains the most widely used alphabet in Tajikistanmarker. A related language, Judæo-Tajiki, spoken by the Bukharan Jews, uses the Hebrew alphabet.

Political context

As with many post-Sovietmarker independent states, the change in writing system, and the debate surrounding it is closely intertwined with political themes. In simple terms, although not having been used since the adoption of Cyrillic, the Latin alphabet is supported by pan-Turkists, who wish to bring the country closer to Uzbekistanmarker and the other Turkic states in the area. The Perso-Arabic alphabet is supported by the devoutly religious, Islamists, along with those who wish to bring the country closer to Iranmarker and their Persian heritage. As the current de-facto standard, the Cyrillic alphabet is generally supported by those who wish to maintain the status quo, and not distance the country from Russiamarker.


As a result of the influence of Islam in the region, Tajik was written in the Perso-Arabic script up to the 1920s. Until this time, the language was not thought of as separate and simply considered as the Persian language. The Sovietsmarker began by simplifying the Perso-Arabic script in 1923, before moving to a Latin based system in 1927. The Latin script was introduced by the Soviet Unionmarker as part of an effort to increase literacy and distance the, at that time, largely illiterate population, from the Islamic Central Asia. There were also practical considerations. The regular Perso-Arabic alphabet, being an abjad writing system, does not provide sufficient letters for representing the vowel system of Tajik. In addition, the alphabet is more difficult to learn, each letter having different forms depending on the position in the word.

The Decree on Romanisation made this law in April, 1928. The Latin variant for Tajik was based on the work by Turcophone scholars who aimed to produce a unified Turkic alphabet, despite Tajik not being a Turkic language. The literacy campaign was successful, with near universal literacy being achieved by the 1950s.

As part of the "russification" of Central Asia, the Cyrillic script was introduced in the late 1930s. The alphabet remained Cyrillic until the end of the 1980s with the disintegration of the Soviet Unionmarker. In 1989, with the growth in Tajik nationalism, a law was enacted declaring Tajik the state language. In addition, the law officially equated Tajik with Persian, placing the word "Fârsi" (the local name for Persian) after Tajik. The law also called for a gradual reintroduction of the Arabic alphabet.

The Perso-Arabic script was introduced into education and public life, although the banning of the Islamic Renaissance Party in 1993 slowed down the adoption. In 1999, the word "Fârsi" was removed from the state language law. the de-facto standard in use is the modified form of Cyrillic, and a very small part of the population can read the Arabic alphabet.


The letters of the major variants of the Tajik alphabet are presented below, along with their phonetic values. There is also a comparative table below.


A variant of the Perso-Arabic script (technically an abjad) is used to write Tajik. In the Tajik version, as with all other versions of the Arabic alphabet, with the exception of 'ا' (alef), vowels are not given unique letters, but rather optionally indicated with diacritic marks.

The Tajik alphabet in Perso-Arabic
ر ذ د خ ح چ ج ث ت پ ب ا
ق ف غ ع ظ ط ض ص ش س ژ ز
ی ه و ن م ل گ ک


The front page of "Kommunisti Isfara" from the 15th May, 1936.
The Latin script was introduced after the Russian Revolution in order to facilitate an increase in literacy and distance the language from Islamic influence. Only lowercase letters were found in the first versions of the Latin variant, between 1926 and 1929, as demonstrated by the image at the top right of this page. A slightly different version was used by the Jews of Central Asia including three extra characters for phonemes not found in the other dialects: ů, , and .
The Tajik alphabet in Latin
A a B ʙ C c Ç ç D d E e F f G g H h I i Ī ī
J j/Y y K k L l M m N n O o P p Q q R r S s Ş ş T t
U u Ū ū V v X x Z z '

The unusual character is called Gha and represents the phoneme . The character is found in the Uniform Turkic alphabet in which most non-Slavic languages of the Soviet Unionmarker were written until the late 1930s. The Latin alphabet is not used today, although the adoption of it is advocated by certain groups.


Tajik written in Cyrillic was introduced in Tajik Soviet Socialist Republicmarker in the late 1930s, replacing the Latin alphabet that had been used since the Bolshevik revolution. After 1939, materials published in Persian in the Perso-Arabic script were banned from the country. The alphabet below was supplemented by the letters Щ and Ы in 1952.

The Tajik alphabet in Cyrillic
А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з И и Й й К к
Л л М м Н н О о П п Р р С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ч ч
Ш ш Ъ ъ Э э Ю ю Я я Ғ ғ Қ қ Ҳ ҳ
In addition to these thirty-five letters, the letters Ц ц, Щ щ, and Ы ы can be found in loan words, although they were officially dropped in the 1998 reform, along with the letter Ь ь. Along with the deprecation of these letters, the 1998 reform also changed the order of the alphabet, which now has the characters with diacritics following their unaltered partners, e.g. Г, Ғ and К, Қ etc. leading to the present order: .

The alphabet includes a number of letters not found in the Russian alphabet:


During the period when the Cyrillicization took place, also appeared a few times in the table of the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet.


The Hebrew alphabetis similarly as the Perso-Arabic scriptan abjadalphabet. It is used for Bukhori - a dialect of Tajik as spoken by the Bukharan Jews in Samarqandmarker and Bukharamarker.

The Tajik alphabet in Hebrew

Sample text: דר מוקאבילי זולם איתיפאק נמאייד. מראם נאםה פרוגרמי פירקהי יאש בוכארייאן. - Дар муқобили зулм иттифоқ намоед. Муромнома - пруграми фирқаи ёш бухориён.


Tajik Latin, Tajik Cyrillic and Perso-Arabic

For reference, the Arabic variant transliterated letter-for-letter into the Latin alphabetappears as follows:

And Cyrillic transliterated into the Latin alphabet:

Tajik Cyrillic and Perso-Arabic

Vowel pointed Perso-Arabic includes the vowels which are not usually written.

Comparative table

A table comparing the different writing systemsused for the Tajik alphabet. In this table, the Latinis based on the 1929 standard, the Cyrillicon the revised 1998 standard and Perso-Arabicletters are given in their stand-alone forms.

See also


  1. Schlyter, B. N. (2003) Sociolinguistic Changes in Transformed Central Asian Societies
  2. Keller, S. (2001) To Moscow, Not Mecca: The Soviet Campaign Against Islam in Central Asia, 1917-1941
  3. Dickens, M. (1988) Soviet Language Policy in Central Asia
  4. Khudonazar, A. (2004) "The Other" in Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, November 1, 2004.
  5. Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) p. 34
  6. Siddikzoda, S. "Tajik Language: Farsi or not Farsi?" in Media Insight Central Asia #27, August 2002
  7. UNHCHR - Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - Summary Record of the 1659th Meeting : Tajikistan. 17/08/2004. CERD/C/SR.1659
  8. Library of Congress Country Study - Tajikistan
  9. Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) p. 35
  10. Schlyter, B. N. (2003) Sociolinguistic Changes in Transformed Central Asian Societies
  11. Perry, J. R. (1996) "Tajik literature: Seventy years is longer than the millennium" in World Literature Today, Vol. 70 Issue 3, p. 571
  12. Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) p. 36
  13. Ido, S. (2005) Tajik (München : Lincom GmbH) p. 8
  14. Rzehak, L. (2001) Vom Persischen zum Tadschikischen. Sprachliches Handeln und Sprachplanung in Transoxanien zwischen Tradition, Moderne und Sowjetunion (1900-1956) (Wiesbaden : Reichert)
  15. IBM - International Components for Unicode - ICU Transform Demonstration


  • Goodman, E. R. (1956) "The Soviet Design for a World Language." in Russian Review 15 (2): 85-99.

External links

Description Г with bar И with macron К with descender У with macron Х with descender Ч with descender
Letter Ғ Қ Ҳ
ג״ ג׳ ג גּ בּ ב איֵ איִ אוּ אוׄ אָ אַ
מ ם ל כּ ךּ כ ך י ט ח ז ז ו ה ד
ת שׁ ר ק צ ץ פּ ףּ פ ף ע ס נ ן
Latin Cyrillic Perso-Arabic English
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Cyrillic vowel-pointed Perso-Arabic Perso-Arabic
بَنی‌آدَم اَعضایِ یَک پَیکَرَند، که دَر آفَرینِش زِ یَک گَوهَرَند. چو عُضوی به دَرد آوَرَد روزگار، دِگَر عُضوها را نَمانَد قَرار. سعدی بنی‌آدم اعضای یک پیکرند، که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند. چو عضوی به درد آورد روزگار، دگر عضوها را نماند قرار. سعدی
مُرده بُدَم، زِنده شُدَم؛ گِریه بُدَم، خَنده شُدَم. دَولَتِ عِشق آمَد و مَن دَولَتِ پایَنده شُدَم. مَولَوی مرده بدم، زنده شدم؛ گریه بدم، خنده شدم. دولت عشق آمد و من دولت پاینده شدم. مولوی
Phonetic Value (IPA)
А а
A a
َ, اَ
санг= سنگ = سَنگ
Б б
B ʙ
барг = برگ = بَرگ
В в
V v
номвар = نامور = ناموَر
Г г
G g
санг= سنگ = سَنگ
Ғ ғ
ғор = غار, Бағдод = بغداد = بَغداد
Д д
D d
модар = مادر = مادَر, Бағдод = بغداد = بَغداد
Е е
E e
шер = شیر, меравам = می‌روم = می‌رَوَم
Ё ё
Jo jo
дарё = دریا, осиёб = آسیاب
Ж ж
жола = ژاله, каждум = کژدم = کَژدُم
З з
Z z
ﺽ ,ﻅ ,ﺫ ,ﺯ
И и
I i
اِ, ِ
Ī ī
Й й
J j
یْ, ی
К к
K k
Қ қ
Q q
Л л
L l
М м
M m
Н н
N n
О о
O o
ا ,آ
П п
P p
Р р
R r
С с
S s
ﺙ ,ﺹ ,ﺱ
Т т
T t
ﺕ ,ﻁ
У у
U u
اُ, ُ
Ū ū
او ,و
Ф ф
F f
Х х
X x
Ҳ ҳ
H h
Ч ч
C c
Ç ç
Ш ш
Ş ş
Э э
E e
Ю ю
Ju ju
یُ ,یو
Я я
Ja ja
یه, یَ

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