State broadcasters in Tajikistan have decided that New Year programming should have a more national feel to it. And that means no more Ded Moroz, the Russian version of Santa Claus.
Christmas trees, appropriated by the atheist Soviet authorities for the secular New Year, are also out. Folk-dancing, a staple on Central Asian TV, is in.
By contrast, in the capital Dushanbe, city mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaydulloev has ordered all the trimmings – a giant tree, Ded Moroz and his companion Snegurochka.
IWPR asked political analyst Parviz Mullojanov whether the symbolism of the changes on TV had more serious undertones in this Muslim-majority country.
Mullojanov pointed out that the opposition Islamic Rebirth Party had not called for a “more Muslim” version of New Year, and said it was paradoxical that government officials appeared to be trying to appease those with more radical views.
“Islamic neo-fundamentalists reject everything that comes from the West. Everything from the West is bad. It isn't just New Year – it’s non-Arabic names; they reject all pre-Islamic history, and all other religions."
“A fair amount of people educated at Islamic universities abroad – mainly in Saudi Arabia, other Arab countries, and Pakistan – have emerged here over the last decade. In many of these states, the predominant trend is Salafism, the most extreme form of Islam, which dictates fairly strict terms for religious practice.”
Shahodat Saibnazarova is IWPR Radio Editor in Tajikistan.
This audio programme went out in Russian on national radio stations in Tajikistan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.