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Central Asia's Presidents: Political Stalwarts and Musical Softies

Presidents of the post-Soviet Central Asian countries like to be regarded as strong, paternalistic leaders. They look down on their populations from millions of portraits and instruct them from TV screens and newspaper pages. Some of them are immortalized in statues and monuments. Yet sometimes these ”fathers” and “leaders” of their nations like to remind their populations that they, too, are human. They dance and sing.

Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, a video of the country's president Emomali Rahmon dancing at his son's wedding went viral in May 2013. While some netizens criticized their leader for his joyful behavior at the wedding, others thought the video showed that the president was “a real, normal man” after all. 

One segment of the controversial video shows Rahmon singing with a popular Tajik singer. They sing in Tajik, praising the beauty of their country, while several senior officials dance to the song:

Commenting on this video, one person writes [tj]:

зур месарояд неки. хаккатан зур. агар президент намебуд, ситораи эстрада мешуд, дар туйхо баромад мекард.

He sings well. Really well. If he wasn't president, he could have become a pop star and sing at weddings.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan's “leader of the nation” Nursultan Nazarbayev not only sings, but also plays a musical instrument.

Netizens reacting to the video apparently like the way Nazarbayev sings. Under the video, Farida Salmenova comments [ru]:

Ya priyatno udıvlena!!! ne znala, 4to on tak klassno poyet!!!

I am pleasantly surprised!!! I didn't know he was such a good singer!!!

Uzbekistan

Islam Katimov, the veteran leader of Uzbekistan prefers not to sing in public. He does dance, however:

Yet his dancing apparently fails to impress the country's netizens as most comments under the video are very critical. For example, Kate Malayev writes [ru]:

Urod. Vsyu stranu iskalechil. Narod v nishete sidit a on plyashet.

Freak. He has crippled the whole country. Yet he dances while people are in poverty.

While Karimov does not sing in public, people who disapprove of his regime sing against him. An English-language song that was recently uploaded on YouTube urges the “king of kings in the cotton land” to leave the office:

  • Lova Rakotomalala

    One of the alleged favorite in the ongoing elections in Madagascar came up with this dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUfDBOu60L0 Unsure whether this will help get elected or not

  • ivonotes

    Some of their daughters sing and dance too. Both Dariga Nazarbaeyeva and Gulnara Karimova. Gotta wonder if they sat around evenings when they were young, singing and dancing…

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