Central Asians Get Tough Love on Valentine’s Day
Authorities around Central Asia seem to have it in for Valentine’s Day. Uzbekistan has cancelled concerts marking the holiday and instructed young people instead to celebrate the birthday of a local hero—Moghul emperor Babur, who was born in Andijan in 1483 and conquered much of South Asia. The Associated Press recently cited an Uzbek newspaper article calling Valentine's Day the work of “forces with evil goals bent on putting an end to national values.”Students in western Kazakhstan say their university wouldn’t let them celebrate the holiday, which has become popular in the generation since independence. And in Kyrgyzstan, a parliamentary deputy says Valentine’s promotes an “alien ideology,” which drives people to suicide (when they don’t get enough cards). In Turkmenistan, officials are apparently too busy still celebrating President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s dazzling 97 percent victory in Sunday’s election to discuss much else. Never mind, it’s clear whom everyone loves there. So what’s with the assault on Valentine’s Day? Yes, it’s nominally a Christian holiday in a predominantly Muslim region, but the elites who call the shots are secular. Could it be that menace of the heart, jealousy, gripping Central Asia’s leaders? (NB: The AP story on the Uzbek ban circulated widely, even as far as Arkansas. But contrary to its retelling by local CBS affiliate KTHV, the planned recitals will be of Babur's writing, not "public readings of poems by various Muslims.”)
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.