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“Hands Off Russian-Language Press” in Tajikistan

Following a recent court ruling against an ethnic Russian journalist and a newspaper that published her material, some netizens in Tajikistan believe that the authorities are cracking down on Russian-language press.

On February 25, a Tajik judge found Asia-Plus editor and columnist Olga Tutubalina guilty of “insulting” state-appointed intellectuals and ordered that she pay them about 6,000 US dollars in “moral damage”. The journalist “insulted” the intellectuals – as well as the country's Academy of Science and four creative unions – by criticizing the intelligentsia in service of the state and quoting Vladimir Lenin's characterization of docile intellectuals as “shit”. The judge also ruled that Asia-Plus, the most popular Russian-language weekly in Tajikistan, must apologize for publishing the “insulting” column.

A journalist tweeting under an alias ‘Bachai Sako’ wrote [ru]:

I am increasingly convinced that the ruling against Tutubalina is the beginning of a campaign against Russian press in Tajikistan.

It is time for all journalists to stand up and defend [Olga] Tutubalina and the Russian-language press!

Blog Russian Chronicles of Tajikistan argued [ru] that the ruling was “part of the campaign against independent Russian-language press”. In an earlier post, the blog claimed [ru] that the authorities were trying to accelerate the “inevitable” process of “de-Russification” of Tajikistan by destroying media catering to Russian speakers. The post ends with the blogger calling on all “Russian-speaking citizens and representatives of Russian-language media” to defend the independent press by confronting the “most ardent nationalists” in the government of Tajikistan.

"Hands off Russian-language press! Eat your 'pitzo' silently! [The last sentence refers to a recent effort on part of the authorities to ensure the "purity" of Tajik language and strengthen its role by cleansing it off "impurities" adopted from Russian]. Image posted by Russian Chronicles of Tajikistan, used with permission.

“Hands off Russian-language press! Eat your ‘pitzo’ silently! [The last sentence refers to a recent effort on part of the authorities to ensure the "purity" of Tajik language and strengthen its role by cleansing it off "impurities" adopted from Russian]. Image posted by Russian Chronicles of Tajikistan, used with permission.

But some netizens do not agree with the view that Russian-language press is under threat. In fact, some believe that media in Russian are themselves a threat:

@BachaiSako Calm down, nobody is messing with the Russians or Russian media in [Tajikistan]. Enjoy the fact that the publication of a newspaper in Russian is allowed at all.

@BachaiSako I would have banned all media in languages other than the state [Tajik] language. If you want to read newspapers, learn Tajik. It is for your benefit.

@BachaiSako They should all be closed. The presence of Russian-language media [in Tajikistan] is a serious threat.

@BachaiSako If we don't close down Russian-language newspapers today, we will never make the Tajik language dominant.

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