Tajikistan: Singer Praising Putin Draws Anger

Tajik singer Tolibjon Kurbonkhonov is an Internet star. Hundreds of thousands of people have watched his three videos (see below) uploaded this year on YouTube, and he is now a frequent guest on television talk shows in Russia.

Yet, despite his quick rise to prominence, the singer does not have many fans in Tajikistan. Most of people who have heard of Kurbonkhonov in his home country either think he is a “jester” or despise him. The reason for this are the young star's songs which extol the virtues of an unlikely hero, Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Three hits

Global Voices reported about Kurbonkhonov's first video, “V.V.P.” [ru] (Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the Russian leader's full name), which was uploaded on YouTube in February 2012 and quickly went viral. Appearing on the Internet roughly one month before Russia's presidential election and praising Putin, the key contender for the post, as “God's messenger” and “savior of the country,” the song was bound to become a hit.

Interestingly, the video caused a lot of speculation in Russia about whether it was actually complimenting Putin or ridiculing him.

After Putin won the election, Kurbonkhonov recorded another music video, “Thank You, God, for Vladimir” [ru]. The song claimed that the newly re-elected Russian president – the singer's “hero” and “idol” – had been “chosen by heaven”.

On a popular talk show on Russia's NTV channel, Kurbonkhonov announced [ru] that he had hoped to sing the song at Putin's inauguration. Shedding light on his background, the singer also said that he had worked as a car dealer in Tajikistan before leaving for Russia to look for a better job. Explaining his admiration of Russia's leader, he confessed that he had become a Russian citizen in 2010.

On September 6, a new song by Kurbonkhonov was uploaded on YouTube, surpassing 100,000 hits in three days. The new hit, “Happy Jubilee, Mr. President” [ru], praises Putin's mother and urges Russians to celebrate the president's 50th birthday on October 7. Closer to the end of the song (2:28), Kurbonkhonov recites, “Dear friends, respect for the leader of the country means respect for Mother Russia. Respect him the way I do. Respect him, Russia.”

Reactions in Tajikistan

Internet users in Tajikistan were bemused by their compatriot's two first songs. Although the both videos have attracted some unflattering comments in Tajik on YouTube, those were effectively lost among hundreds of comments by Russians. Reactions to the most recent video, however, indicate that many people in the country are angered by what they see as the Tajik singer's “sycophancy” and “lack of patriotism”.

Commenting under a news report on TopTJ.com about Kurbonkhonov's latest song , user “Kayfalon” wrote [ru]:

Лишить гражданства Таджикистана!!! Пускай остается в росии. Мразь и позор Таджиков.

Tajikistan should revoke his citizenship!!! Let him stay in Russia. He is a [contemptible person] disgracing Tajiks.

User “KFRN” added [ru]:

Путина в России не больно уж и любят сами русские, а теперь представьте что думают о таджиках русские когда смотрят этот клип…

Russians themselves don't like Putin that much in Russia. Now imagine what Russians think of Tajiks when they watch this video…

On “Platforma”, the largest Tajik group on Facebook, Abdumannon Sheraliev proposed [ru]:

Предлагаю объявить Толибчона Курбонхонова персоной нон грата и потребовать у властей лишить его гражданство и не пускать в страну. Подхалимы которые облизывают своих, еще терпимы, а он опозорил весь Таджикистан.

I propose that the authorities make Tolibjon Kurbonkhonov a persona non grata, revoke his citizenship and do not let him into the country. Sycophants that praise our own [leaders] are at least tolerable, but he has disgraced all of Tajikistan.

Amid a flow of angry comments, Jasur Ashurov suggested [ru] that the singer should not be taken too seriously:

Ну, не знаю. В России к нему относятся как к дебилу, не больше не меньше. Пусть поёт. У меня собака тоже всю ночь под окном лает – никого ведь не позорит )

Well, I don't know. In Russia, people think he is an idiot, nothing more and nothing less. Let him sing. My dog also barks under my window all night long – and she does not disgrace anybody )

As Facebook users continue discussing a possible punishment for Kurbonkhonov's “sycophancy” in Russia, Ashurov makes [ru] another proposal:

Ему нужно мягко так подсказать, что он смешон. Например, обьявить какую-нибудь интернет-премию “Шут Года” и вручить ему ее – сразу во всех номинациях.

He should be told, in a very gentle way, that he is being ridiculous. For example, we can establish an Internet-wide award, “Jester of the Year”, and present the award to [Kurbonkhonov], in all categories.

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