“How the Grinch Smashed Christmas Trees” (in Tashkent?!)

by David Walther on 1/2/2006 · 3 comments

I came across this a couple of days ago on Ferghana.ru. Under the intriguing title, “Who and What Bans New Year’s** Celebrations in Tashkent Schools,” the article by an independent Russian journalist in Tashkent examines different sides of the issue (with clear bias, since it is an opinion article). I thought it was a really interesting look at holiday conflicts in other cultures (someone else’s “War on Christmas” (sic)), and generally it’s kind of funny.

Here’s my translation of most of the full article:

(Original Title: “Who and What Bans New Year’s Celebrations in the Schools of Uzbekistan?)
28.12.2005, Fergana.ru.

TASHKENT–The head of the Department of People’s Education in Tashkent, Anvar Zakirov, announced a strict ban on the celebration of the New Year’s (Soviet Christmas) holiday [last week] for all Tashkent schools. One of his subordinates then provided a concrete visual reinforcement of the announcement by publicly kicking over a meter-high Christmas tree, which had been on display in the hallway of one of the Capital’s schools, and afterwards stomped deliberately and extendedly on the delicate ornaments with which the tree had been decorated.

After completing his barbarous ceremony of destruction Mr. Zakirov didactically announced that Uzbeks, and all those who continue to reside in the territory of Uzbekistan, have the right to observe only one new year’s holiday—Navruz, traditionally observed in [Uzbekistan] on the Vernal Equinox (March 21). All other holidays, in his opinion, do not correspond with the traditional roots of Uzbek culture, and are therefore unacceptable out of principle.

The ban by the city-level bureaucrat was announced in disregard of the clear approach to the new year’s holiday embraced by Turabjon Juraev, the Republic’s Minister of Education. The minister has publicly announced that he is not opposed to organized New Year’s festivities in the country’s schools. The only requirement that he added to his announced is that all such celebrations would observe relevant fire-safety codes.

The President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, is not against celebrating New Year’s himself. He reasonably argues that it’s “inhumane” to take happiness away from children who have already gotten used to the holiday. Judging by the capital city’s streets, the entire Republican administration seems to agree: practically all the main streets of Tashkent, and furthermore the main streets of administrative centers [state capitals] around Uzbekistan, are decorated with Christmas trees. This is in part, of course, a tribute to the political/cultural consolidation of Uzbekistan and Russia, but more than anything else it’s a return to a cherished tradition [of the Soviet Era].

However, this approach does not represent any kind of unanimous approval of the residents of Uzbekistan. If you take a sober look at the issue, separating it from the personality of a particular official, expressed in a particular ban, it’s worth comparing to other soberly nationalistic positions among representatives of the current administration—that part which would seek to isolate the population of the country through political, cultural, economic, and educational means… [employing any measures which] would allow them to govern without looking back to the people, just as rulers governed in any given feudal society.

Publicly setting his own opinion against the position of the head of state, Anvar Zakirov attempted to demonstrate, to those who would agree with him, his opinion about Uzbek national and historical tradition. Officials of this type drag in front of everyone their external “civilization,” wishing internally to live separate lives away from the observance of civilized society. The ideas of Hizb-ut-Tahir, it seems, are closer to theirs, more pleasant to them, and easier to understand. Expressing that directly, though, is something they seem to have reserved for a later date. Apparently they are waiting for something…

Sergei Ezhkov, 28.12.2005, Fergana.ru [Translation David Walther].
Ezhkov is an independent journalist living in Tashkent.

**“New Year’s” (Novii God) is the Soviet/Russian version of Christmas–it has most of the same non-religious traditions as our Christmas holiday, including trees, presents, Santa (Ded Moroz), carols, dinners, in-laws, and like all Russian holidays, the adult version usually features heavy drinking. It is was the biggest and most important family holiday of the year in the Soviet Union, and continues to occupy that position in Russia and many of the former Soviet republics.

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– author of 7 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Dave has lived in Tashkent for two years, and has no idea when he will be able to leave...

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Djana January 3, 2006 at 11:11 am

Total Degradation!

Sara January 3, 2006 at 1:14 pm

LOL, Bill O’ Reilly eat your heart out!

Really though, this looks like one crazy guy being crazy. Are they also going to stop celebrating Women’s Day because it’s not Uzbek? Not likely. New Year’s is too important for anyone to look twice at this crap.

KZBlog January 6, 2006 at 8:41 pm

Have they thought of merging Uzbekistan with Turkmenistan?

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