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The Praise Problem: Uzbekistan Bans Soppy Paeans To Presidents

  • RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyaev (file photo)

Dedicating flattering songs, books, and movies to sitting presidents is generally the rule in post-Soviet Central Asia, where regimes have gone to great lengths to establish cults of presidential personality.

Uzbekistan wants us to believe it has become an exception.

Authorities there have announced a ban on such paeans and warned that singing the praises of a sitting head of state could cost singers and songwriters their licenses to perform.

The announcement followed a June 2 meeting of Uzbekkonsert, a state body that oversees the Uzbek entertainment industry.

"Dedicating clips to certain individuals, to the activities of heads of state...is unethical," Uzbekkonsert interim director Azamat Haidarov was shown telling the attendees, in a video posted online.

The move comes weeks after an Uzbek singer came under criticism over a music clip she dedicated to President Shavkat Mirziyaev, who took over following the announcement in September of the death of longtime President Islam Karimov.

Forty-nine-year-old singer and actress Dilfuza Ismoilova's official music video, May The Sultan Of This Beautiful Land Prosper, was first released on YouTube on May 21 but has since been removed from the video-sharing site.

Uzbek singer Dilfuza Ismoilova (file photo)
Uzbek singer Dilfuza Ismoilova (file photo)

The lyrics praise Mirziyaev as the "handsome sultan" of the land, "the shadow of god on Earth," and "beloved human being." The video clip depicts Mirziyaev -- who spent 13 years under Karimov as prime minister of Uzbekistan's rubberstamp cabinet -- at various official functions, business trips, and meetings.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service shortly after the release of the clip, Ismoilova said the song was driven by her "heart and conscience."

The clip sparked criticism among Uzbek social media users, some of whom argued that such songs risked turning the country into neighboring Turkmenistan, where each of the past two presidents has used state-dominated media sectors to promote themselves, their families, and their purported accomplishments in service to the "nation."

Turkmen state television recently aired a song paying tribute to the mother of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, honoring her for giving "the world the great man."

In Kazakhstan, a three-part biopic, The Way Of The Leader, celebrated President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has ruled since 1989.

Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon has gradually ramped up efforts to institutionalize his contributions to the country, earning official "Leader of the Nation" status in 2015 and rolling out books on Tajik language and history.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service

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