Uzbekistan state television has claimed to find a correlation between Valentine’s Day and pretty much all the evils facing society at large, including religious extremism and terrorism.
Aired on Uzbekistan’s Yoshlar TV on February 13, the day before the holiday popular throughout Central Asia and the former Soviet Union, a documentary, entitled “Immoral Holiday,” warned viewers that St. Valentine’s Day is “aimed at cutting the roots of our spirituality, replacing our sacred cultural values with loose and immoral traditions and also turning pure feelings into a sort of sexual promiscuity.”
“One may ask a question as to whether it is bad when loving couples celebrate this day. But there is something bad in this; it leads to extremely bad and dire consequences. That is why, not only our country but all other countries and nations are also fighting against this holiday marked on February 14," the narrator said, in a translation published by BBC Monitoring.
Olloyor Bobonov, head of something called the Uzbek Republican Spirituality and Enlightenment Center, took concerns a step further: Because the holiday’s true purpose is to make young people “slaves of their sexual pleasures,” it is making their minds easy to control, he said: “In just one day they can easily be taken to central squares to topple governments. [Their] acts of terrorism or extremism are terrifying. Their emergence is associated with explosions and blood. Society and humankind are struggling against them."
Uzbekistan’s cultural minders have long condemned something vague they call “Western culture,” while trying to invent new “Uzbek” cultural values. (At the same time, there is an official fear of Islam that many Uzbeks say is exaggerated, and that simply pushes legitimate expressions of faith underground.)
So Tashkent has it in for most Western holidays. In December, authorities got into a huff over how much airtime should be allotted to Santa Claus and Christmas trees. And last February, a newspaper editorial announced that Valentine’s Day was organized by “forces with evil goals bent on putting an end to national values.” Authorities duly cancelled concerts marking the holiday and instructed young people to celebrate the birthday of Moghul emperor Babur, who hailed from the eastern town of Andijan and conquered much of South Asia in the early 16th century. (Sure enough, this year Babur made a televised appearance.)
Just how corrupting is the holiday? The documentary’s narrator is apparently a victim of its seedy influence: When Valentine’s rolls around each year, where others see cardboard hearts, the narrator sees female buttocks.