Friday, April 18, 2014


Tajikistan

Father Frost, Snow Maiden Iced Out Of Tajik New Year's Celebrations

Father Frost and Snow Maiden became iconic symbols of New Year's in Tajikistan and other former Soviet countries.
Father Frost and Snow Maiden became iconic symbols of New Year's in Tajikistan and other former Soviet countries.

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By Farangis Najibullah
With preparations in full swing for New Year's in Tajikistan, two of the celebration's biggest names won't be at the party.

Father Frost and Snow Maiden, the iconic symbols of New Year's in Tajikistan and other former Soviet countries, have been barred from appearing on state television.

"Father Frost bears no relation to our national traditions," deputy head of the state Committee for Television and Radio Saidali Siddiqov said in explaining the decision. This holiday season, he added, television programs would focus on traditional Tajik merrymaking like "music, dance, songs, public celebrations, and exchanging festive greetings."

The official stressed that "nothing is wrong with Father Frost, Snow Maiden, and fir trees," adding that "everybody else in Tajikistan's secular society is free to mark the festivities as they choose."

Apparently that does not include public schools in the capital, Dushanbe.

Mavjuda Jabborova, deputy headmistress at School No. 10 there, tells RFE/RL's Tajik Service that traditional New Year's parties have been canceled and the school will not put up a New Year's tree this year.

"We have instructions not to mark New Year at school," Jabborova said.

Education Ministry spokesman Mahmudkhon Shoev said no orders ending New Year's celebrations have been issued. But he did say that big parties and the use of celebratory fireworks are discouraged on school premises.

"The reason is to not disrupt lessons," Shoev said. "Also, it's a safety measure -- to prevent fires, for instance."

Zamira, a 15-year-old student at School No. 10, is disappointed with the decision.

"We really wanted a party at school with a New Year tree, Father Frost, and music," Zamira said. "Well, this year we'll celebrate at home because it's no longer allowed at school."

Predominantly Muslim Tajikistan inherited the Soviet Union's New Year's traditions, and celebrations have continued despite some criticism by religious figures.

"It's not my festival and I do not mark it," said Dushanbe-based journalist Muhibullo Qurbon. "But I don't mind other people celebrating it with a fir tree."

The issue made headlines last year when a young man in a Father Frost costume was stabbed to death in Dushanbe. The killing came as some religious figures were calling on Tajiks not to celebrate New Year's, although officials rejected suggestions that the man might have been targeted because he was engaging in "un-Islamic" activities.

The head of the state-backed Islamic Council of Ulema, Saidmukarram Abdulqodirzoda, had urged Tajiks not to celebrate New Year's, while the official newspaper of the Islamic Renaissance Party advised authorities not to erect the traditional fir tree in the capital.

Dushanbe Mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, however, responded by ordering citizens to celebrate in grander fashion than before.

Ubaidulloev is determined to keep the tradition alive in Dushanbe, and other cities are maintaining it as well.

A 22-meter-tall fir tree will adorn a main Dushanbe square, and a 17-meter New Year's tree has been erected on a  square in Tajikistan's second-biggest city, Khujand.

Ubaidulloev's office has issued a 10-point decree listing measures the city government is taking to celebrate the New Year's holiday, which began on December 27 and culminates with fireworks, concerts, and street parties on New Year's Eve.

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