Tajik leader Imomali Rahmon, having safely consolidated his personal authority, is turning his attention to giving Tajikistan a cultural makeover that aims to strengthen the country's national identity, as well as reduce social tension. Some experts, however, believe the moves could easily backfire.
The president created a sensation in late March with a televised announcement that he was changing his surname, dropping the "ov," and embracing a traditional Tajik spelling -- Rahmon. He also "ordered appropriate authorities to implement measures to introduce a Tajik pattern of naming newborn children," Tajik state television reported March 26.
Concurrent with the name-change initiative, Rahmon called for measures to enforce economic modesty in a nation that has an estimated per capita annual GDP of just $1,300. His prime target was the children of the well-to-do: he banned students from driving to and from school and from using cell phones at school. He also imposed strict limits on graduation ceremonies, prohibiting lavish parties. In early April, Rahmon also made a very public call for the return of gold and silver objects excavated in the 19th century near the Oxus River and now housed in the British Museum.
"We want to comprehensively support and revive our national traditions from the scientific and historical points of view," Rahmon told members of his administration, in comments broadcast April 5 by Tajik television.
We should refuse all those customs
Kambiz Arman is the pseudonym for a Tajik journalist.