I have a short post on the Uzbek government’s ban on Valentine’s Day up on the LRB blog. There is also a ban in Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where Valentine’s cards and celebrations are banned on the grounds that the day is a Western import that goes against their society’s values and traditions.
The Uzbek government’s alternative has been to suggest that February 14th be used to celebrate the Moghul Emperor Babur’s birthday; Tamerlane, his great-grand father, is already frequently invoked by President Karimov. Ever since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has been attempting to construct a nationalistic narrative of Uzbek culture and history. One of its main vehicles for doing this has been the variety performances that celebrate Independence and Navro’z (a festival with Zoroastrian roots which marks the spring equinox). However, just as few people seem to pay much attention to these gala occasions, so it seems unlikely that this year’s added invective against Valentine’s Day will have dissuaded many young people from finding ways to mark the holiday.