National Geographic : 1999 Aug
Maintaining national cohesion has always been a prime concern for China's rulers, who learned thousands of years ago that sharing the same written language can unite people. In the third century B.C. Chinese people spoke at least eight languages and countless dialects, but with establishment of a unified empire and a standard system of writing around 200 B.C., everyone could read the same characters. Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1953, was a master of using writ ing to control people. Russia and Persia had divided Azerbaijan in the early 1800s. Shortly after taking power, Stalin feared the Azerbai janis' loyalty to their countrymen in neighbor ing Iran, formerly Persia. Hoping to divide the two groups, he encouraged the Soviet Azerbai janis to emulate nearby Turkey and switch from the Arabic alphabet to the Latin alphabet. By the 1930s Stalin, concerned about growing ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan, forced the Azerbaijanis to adopt Cyrillic, a script used for writing Russian and other Slavic languages. It had evolved from a script created by missionaries of the Orthodox Church in the ninth century A.D. Bypassing mechanical typing, Gary Reid writes straight from the mind. A former varsity swim mer who lost his motor skills to multiple sclero sis, Reid uses software that translates his voice into characters. In his Hollis, New Hampshire, home he prepares a new edition of his engineer ing textbook, Linear System Fundamentals. Photographer Wolinsky used projectors to cast NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, AUGUST 1999 rwig CHINESE "can"