Tajikistan Highlights Persian Roots with Novruz Celebration | EurasiaNet.org

Posted: March 30, 2012 in Censorship, Health, Human Rights, International, Politics, Region, Religion, Tajikistan
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Nothing highlights the Tajik government’s efforts to forge a distinct national identity better than the country’s annual Novruz festivities. This year, officials emphasized Tajikistan’s Persian roots during the week-long celebration. Carefully stage-managed public events steered clear of religion and politics.

Banned for much of the Soviet period, the festival of Novruz – also, Nowruz, Nawruz and a few other alternatives – derives its name from the Persian for “New Day” and marks the arrival of spring. The holiday, centering on the vernal equinox, is celebrated in much of greater Central Asia, as well as parts of the Caucasus and by Turkey’s Kurdish minority, and is believed to have originated as the Zoroastrian New Year in ancient Persia. In 2009, it was added to UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In Tajikistan, the holiday has become part of the country’s quest for a new, post-Soviet national identity. As in many former Soviet republics, that quest has involved turning to the distant, sometimes mythologized past. For Tajikistan, where the primary language is closely related to modern Farsi and the Dari spoken in Afghanistan, tapping into the lore of ancient Persia is a logical way to distinguish Tajiks from the Slavs and Turkic peoples of formerly Soviet Central Asia.

“Blessed Novruz is the greatest and most beautiful festival for the Aryan people,” read banners quoting President Imomali Rahmon, displayed around the capital, Dushanbe. The ancient Aryans are believed to be forebears of today’s Persian-speaking peoples: “Iran” is a Persian word for “land of the Aryans,” and the ancient Greeks called the greater region including Afghanistan and present-day Tajikistan “Ariana.”

via Tajikistan Highlights Persian Roots with Novruz Celebration | EurasiaNet.org.


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