When a photo of a traditional Tajik family flashed on screen, viewers of a popular Russian TV series may have recognized an iconic image of the Kazakh presidential family.
But this is not reality television, apparently, because the photo has a striking resemblance to an iconic photo of the little-seen Nazarbaev family. Nazarbaev, as in the family of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
Viewers of Lonely Hearts, a Russian TV show that airs across the former Soviet Union, were treated to a 30-second reunion with the Kazakh presidential family when an altered version of the 1990s-era photo was used to portray a Moscow street sweeper's family back home in Tajikistan.
Dovlat, a Tajik migrant worker, is sharing a lighthearted moment with the neighborhood heroine who has just saved him from a beating by Russian skinheads.
She asks him who he has left in Tajikistan, to which Dovlat responds, "Family...a big one." He then proceeds to pull a well-worn photo out of his jacket and identify various family members.
"Here is my older sister," he says, pointing to Nazarbaev's wife, Sara Nazarbaeva.
Pointing to Nazarbaev's real-life grandson, he says: "Here is our little Rakhim."
"And here is my sister, Zulfia," he says as he points out Nazarbaev's oldest daughter, Darigha Nazarbaeva. "She works here as well."
Of the 11 family members pictured, the images of only two differ from the original photograph -- President Nazarbaev and Rakhat Aliev, his disgraced former son-in-law. All other faces -- those of Nazarbaev's wife, his three daughters, three grandchildren, and another son-in-law -- remain untouched.
The original Nazarbaev family photo (right) and the altered sitcom family photo (click to expand)
In the center of the photo, where President Nazarbaev should be, sits an older, bearded man wearing a traditional Tajik-Uzbek hat. Dovlat singles out the patriarch for special attention.
"And the most beautiful and handsome is him, our granddad, Rokhim-baba. He is 92," he says. "Yes, brides are still eager to marry him, you know. But he says, 'No money to pay kalym' and, therefore, he does not want to marry."
-- Merhat Sharipzhan