Tajik Authorities Give Cinematic Intimacy The Cold Shoulder

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Tajik state television has ordered that even the most innocent of love scenes be edited from films before they are broadcast to ensure they are in line with Tajik culture and values.

In line to be censored are kissing, hugging, and movements that suggest a couple is having sex.

Officials say the move is part of the effort to implement the decree on Promotion of Tajik National and Cultural Values issued by the Committee for Television and Radio in early 2018.

Mahmadsharif Boboshohzoda, deputy head of the committee, said on January 18 that the edits would not affect the storyline of the movies.

"It's just a few seconds that will be edited out," he told RFE/RL's Tajik Service.

The censorship will apply to all films -- from domestic movies to Soviet-era films and Hollywood blockbusters.

One the first films affected by the new rule is the hugely popular Soviet movie The Irony Of Fate, Or Enjoy Your Bath, which Tajik state TV airs almost every New Year's Eve in keeping with a Soviet tradition.

Fully Clothed Embrace

The 1975 film featuring Russian film stars Andrey Myagkov and Barbara Brylska features a handful of scenes in which the main characters -- Zhenya and Nadya -- are embracing while fully clothed.

At one point Zhenya hesitantly kisses Nadya's face and hair -- but that bit was missing from the condensed version aired on December 31.

Like millions of people in former Soviet states, Mizrob says his family has made a tradition of watching the film on television as they gather for New Year's Eve dinner.

"The editing ruined it for me," he said.

State TV officials insist they censor inappropriate scenes from films out of respect for Tajik traditions and values.

"Some countries put on the Islamic hijab on women when they show foreign movies. They do it in accordance with their own culture," Boboshohzoda said.

Tight Control

However, Tajik officials point out that they won't follow the example of countries like Iran, which pixelate female characters' bare skin or superimpose clothing or other objects onto their images.

"We don't take extreme measures [in editing films]. We just ensure they adhere to the Tajik mentality," said one state TV official, who asked that his name not be published because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Tajikistan, a Muslim-majority country ruled by a secular government that tightly controls all things religious, has been promoting what authorities call national values.

Authorities have in recent years urged people to give their babies pure Tajik-Persian names, a move widely seen as an effort to counter a trend that saw parents choosing Arabic and Islamic-sounding names in recent years.

They also encourage people to drop Russian-style surnames with the Slavic -ev/-ov suffixes.

Last year, the government issued a "recommended" dress code for men and women based on so-called traditional Tajik designs.

The latest censorship order is not expected to shield Tajik eyes from all intimate cinematic scenes, however, as many people have access to satellite and cable channels that broadcast films in their entirety, and uncensored DVDs are widely available in the country.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.