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Kyrgyz or Kirghiz is a Turkic language and, together with Russian, an official language of Kyrgyzstan. Genetically it is most closely related to Altay and more distantly so to Kazakh; however, modern-day language convergence has resulted in an increasing degree of mutual intelligibility between Kyrgyz and Kazakh. Kyrgyz is spoken by about 4 million people in Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Russia. Kyrgyz was originally written in a modified Perso-Arabic script until the mid-20th century, when a Latin script was briefly used. However, due to Soviet influence, a modified form of the Cyrillic alphabet eventually became standardized and has remained so to this day (although the Arabic script is still used among some Kyrgyz). When Kyrgyzstan became independent following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, there was a popular idea among some Kyrgyz politicians to return the language back to the Latin alphabet. However, this plan has never been implemented.