The National Education Ministry has decided to offer elective Adyghe courses for grade school students in both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets in a move championed and opposed by Circassians, an ethnic community from Caucasia with the majority living in Turkey and speaking Adyghe.
The ministry will offer courses using the Cyrillic alphabet or the Latin alphabet, which Turkey uses, and students will be free to choose the alphabet they want.
Some Circassian families have long been calling on the ministry to teach Adyghe with only the Cyrillic alphabet, insisting that teaching in the Latin alphabet may cause children "to lose their connection with the homeland," the present-day Caucasus region that Circassians migrated from more than a century ago.
The people of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic and the Karachay-Cherkess Republic in the Caucasus region use the Cyrillic alphabet, as both are federal subjects of the Russian Federation. Circassians assert that Cyrillic alphabet use will improve ties with fellow Circassians in those republics.
However, other Circassians insist that the courses, only two hours per week, would not be sufficient for students to learn a foreign alphabet they are not accustomed to in a short time. Circassian activists defending the use of the Latin alphabet when teaching Adyghe highlight that Circassians originally adopted the alphabet before the inception of the Soviet Union, which then adopted the Cyrillic alphabet.
Turkey hosts a large number of Circassians - a community with an estimated population of 1.5-3 million - mainly concentrated in the northern provinces of the country. The ministry aims to boost the number of elective courses in languages spoken by Turkey's various communities. Apart from Adyghe, languages such as Kurdish, Abkhazian and Laz, which is spoken by a community concentrated in northern Turkey, are already provided as elective courses for grade school students in the living languages and dialects course. Adyghe was included in the curriculum three years ago.