Authorities in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have rejected batches of textbooks earmarked for schools serving their Tajik minorities after they were printed with pictures of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Tajik national symbols.
Tajik media reports on January 8 said that the shipment of about 10,000 textbooks for Tajik schools in Kyrgyzstan was suspended at the request of the Kyrgyz authorities.
Tajik Deputy Education Minister Farhod Rahimov told journalists on January 7 that talks on reprinting the textbooks were being held with the Kazakh and Kyrgyz authorities. Kyrgyz parliament members confirmed that information to journalists in Bishkek on January 8.
According to Tajik media, the textbooks will be reprinted with pictures of the presidents of the country where they will appear.
Traditionally, secondary-school textbooks in post-Soviet Central Asia have texts of the national anthems, flags, and pictures of the presidents at the beginning. The tradition goes back to Soviet times
when a portrait of Vladimir Lenin greeted the reader.
In recent years, a personality cult has been growing around Tajik President Rahmon, who is addressed as "your excellency" by government employees and portrayed by the state media as something akin to a monarch.
(Watch this illuminating video on Rahmon's personality cult by RFE/RL's Tajik Service)
In late December, Tajikistan's state movie producer, Tajikkino, released a multi-DVD collection of documentaries on Rahmon's rule
over the last 20 years. According to RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Tajikkino was forcing some vendors to stock the collection.
The ethnic Tajik minorities are very small (less than 1 percent) in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and certainly not a cause for any insurgency concerns. But with still-fresh memories of 2010 ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan and the rising personality cult of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, neither country likes the idea of its minorities aligning with political leaders in neighboring countries.
In recent days, cracks have appeared in Central Asia's complex ethnic mosaic with a hostage crisis in an Uzbek exclave within Kyrgyzstan
Residents of Sokh, who are Uzbek citizens and mostly ethnic Tajiks, clashed with Kyrgyz border guards over the installation of power lines at a border post. Thirty Kyrgyz citizens were taken hostage but subsequently released.
-- RFE/RL's Central Newsroom