Censorship grows stronger along with idiocy in Uzbekistan

A scene from the prominent Soviet film “Diamond Hand”
Another spate of censorship has begun on Uzbek TV, which is cutting out scenes of people drinking, smoking and wearing turbans like in the film about the medieval ruler Babur.

This practice is predetermined to a significant extent by the 5 October 2011 law “On restricting the distribution and consumption of alcohol and tobacco products” that is designed for tobacco and alcohol control.

Cutting out as a principle

The new law bans not only the direct advertisement of alcohol and tobacco products through media and on street billboards, but the hidden advertisement in the form of “ideas, views and artistic characters” through TV programmes, theatre performances, feature and documentary films as well.

“The ban applies to the promotion of alcohol and tobacco products, or actions aimed to distribute in an open or hidden way the ideas, views and artistic characters that encourage the use of alcohol and tobacco products and shape individual opinion about the harmless use of these products,” says Article 18 of the law.

As a result, all “hidden advertisement” of this kind is searched and removed by the principle of “better more than less”.

For example, the recent show of Yuldash Agzamov’s 1969 film “Ўтган кунлар” (Bygone Days), which is based on the romance by a classic of the Uzbek literature, Abdulla Kadyriy, missed the scenes of its characters drinking wine and smoking hookah.

For an unknown reason, other episodes were also cut out from the same film, which shows events of the early 19th century.

For example, the censored versions does not show key episodes in which the film’s hero, Atabek, stabs to death three enemies under the window of his wife’s house and without which the further storyline becomes unclear.

As a result of the state censorship, the film that locals know almost by heart was cut by about half an hour.

Obviously, not only films shown on Uzbek TV but cinema premieres will also be adjusted to the relevant law provision, let alone other security and moral initiatives by the country’s leadership.

One can guess how the content of a film may change if scenes of smoking, drinking or using drugs are removed by remembering, for example, films such as “Ирония судьбы” (Irony of Fate), “Кавказская пленнца” (Caucasian Captive), “Бриллиантовая рука” (Diamond Hand), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”, “Midnight in Paris”, “99 francs” etc.

Prevention of inspiration

One can also recall another censorship campaign on Uzbek TV that secretly banned the performance of scenes of explosions (fight against terrorism) a few years ago.

All scenes of explosions were cut out and are still being removed ruthlessly from films regardless of their importance to their storyline.

The film “Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia” has also been shortened. Viewers can see how a cigar thrown by a bad guy in the film flies towards a fuel station but the next episode only shows the film heroes in burnt rags with their face covered with smoke black caused by the explosion as the scene of explosion was removed.

Unpatriotic Babur

While the aforementioned bans introduced into Uzbek TV represent some logical explanation, others do not come into line with simple common sense.

For instance, the historical TV serial “Babur” about the founder of the great Mogul empire has been censored.

Once, viewers noticed that the turbans on the film characters were slurred over with squares, just like the way it is performed on computers when the face of a person cannot be shown for certain reasons.

A TV worker has told Uznews.net that President Islam Karimov once called one of the Uzbek TV managers to express his displeasure with regard to the serial: “You seem to be showing only turbans there...”
Singer Yulduz Usmanova periodically falls into disgrace for voicing her views on Uzbekistan’s policy

The top management satisfied the president’s desires and the serial performance was continued with turbans slurred over.

If this episode can be referred to as a unique way of fighting against religious fanaticism (mind that the Uzbek TV is banned from demonstrating religiosity and anything that has the slightest relation to religion is ruthlessly cut out), a number of restrictions can be explained by a unique understanding of patriotism.

For this reason, Babur himself was disgraced by the Uzbek authorities for a few years.

The country’s president once voiced an opinion that the medieval ruler acted rather unpatriotically when he was forced to flee under the pressure of Shaybani Khan’s forces, surrendering the towns of Transoxiana, or in other words he simply deserted.

After this the Uzbek television stopped remembering the “wrongdoer” Babur until the head of state changed his wrath with mercy and forgave Babur’s lack of patriotism.

Many linked this temporary disgrace of Babur with the shift of his monument from Andijan’s Babur square to another site.

Now because of the adoption of the new anti-alcohol law, his book Baburnama, which is abundant with the “secret promotion” of wine drinking as it describes many drunken feasts without a shadow of embarrassment and even recalls the author’s use of opium.

We should note at the same time that late in the winter the Uzbek TV on 22 February was also banned from showing Turkish TV serials under an order from the authorities.

Unpatriotic Uzbek stars

The ban has affected the most popular Uzbek performers such as singers Yulduz Usmanova, Sherali Jorayev, the Yalla band and comedian Obid Asomov.

The authorities “took offence” because they often performed in other countries, which in the former thought was “unpatriotic”.

Singer Aziza, who has lived in Russia since the late 1980s, was one of the first people who were enlisted as persona non-grata: in the early 1990s, President Karimov expressed the opinion that her behaviour do not comply with traditional and moral make-up of the Uzbek woman.

At the same time, the list of banned performers is expanding constantly.

The Russian news agency Lenta.Ru has reported that well-known singer Batyr Kadyrov was deprived of his performance licence in April.

According to the agency, this was caused by the singer’s trip to the sheikhdom of Dubai where he spent a vacation.

The news agency reported another distinguished Uzbek performer, Feruza Jumaniyazova, was also deprived of her licence in 2010 for performing in Tajikistan without the Uzbek authorities’ permission.

Now the path to the Uzbek state television is closed for them for a long time.