From the History of Abkhaz Romanized Alphabets, by Viacheslav Chirikba

The Abkhaz Latin alphabet used 1926–1928 designed by Nicholas Marr

The Abkhaz Latin alphabet used 1926–1928 designed by Nicholas Marr.

Eurasiatica 19 - April 2023 | Eurasian Studies Balkans, Anatolia, Iran, Caucasus and Central Asia Studies Notebooks | Venice University Press.


The article discusses the vicissitudes around the adoption of two versions of the Abkhaz alphabet based on the Latin script – the ‘analytical’ alphabet, proposed by Academician Nikolai Marr (adopted in 1926 and used until 1928), and the ‘unified alphabet’, which replaced Marr’s alphabet. Marr’s system was, in fact, nothing more than a phonetic transcription, complex and inconvenient even for linguists, and unfit for school and literary purposes, which motivated the Abkhaz authorities to opt for its radical reform. The new Romanized alphabet was introduced into school practice in 1929 and functioned until 1938. There is some controversy as to the authorship of this script. In later literature it was attributed to N. Yakovlev, but in reality those who were directly involved in the creation of the new alphabetical system were Y. Polivanov, S. Chanba and M. Khashba, though the latter two did consult with Yakovlev. The fact that both Polivanov and Chanba were executed during Stalinist purges may explain the silencing of their names. By the mid-1930s, the Soviet government had started replacing Latin scripts with Cyrillic-based ones, but with two notable exceptions: in 1938, the alphabets of the Abkhazians and South Ossetians were transferred into a Georgian graphic basis. It was only in 1954, after the death of Stalin, that the Abkhazians returned to their erstwhile Cyrillic alphabet.

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