Ukrainian TV Show Angers Tajiks

On November 24, a popular Ukrainian travel series aired an episode about Tajikistan. After watching the episode, many Tajikistanis turned to social media to curse the video.

“Eagle and Tail” in Tajikistan

Oryol i Reshka” [Eagle and Tail] [ru] is a Russian-language travel series produced in Ukraine and broadcast on three popular television channels in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. The series follows two presenters, a man and a woman, as they travel the world, spending two days at each destination. In the beginning of each episode, they flip a coin to decide who will get a credit card with an unlimited budget to spend during the two days. The second presenter gets 100 US dollars for all expenses at the same destination. The series then shows how the two spend their time, which places they visit, where they stay and dine. The current season of the series takes viewers to the different countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.

The travel series is quite popular in Tajikistan where many people watch it via satellite TV. Therefore, after the “Oryol i Reshka” crew did the video shooting in the country in October 2013, many Tajikistanis were waiting eagerly for the episode.

"Oryol i Reshka" presenters at the Dushanbe Airport. Screen capture from the controversial episode about Tajikistan.

“Oryol i Reshka” presenters at the Dushanbe Airport. Screen capture from the controversial episode about Tajikistan.


But the episode [ru], aired on November 24, angered many people in the country. In the video, the male presenter spent two days in Dushanbe and a Soviet-era resort near the capital, having a budget of 100 dollars. The female presenter took a tour to Gorno-Badakhshan, the isolated mountainous province in Tajikistan's east, famous for its breathtaking scenery.

Some of the comments accompanying footage in the episode left Tajikistanis bitter and angry. Blogger Alexey Somin explains [ru] which comments raised eyebrows in the country:

Да, парня, который остался в Душанбе и прожил там два дня на 100 долларов, конечно можно обвинить в предрассудках о Таджикистане. Сама передача начинается со слов о Душанбе: “Здесь женщины ходят в шароварах, а мужчины на улицах режут баранов”, причем на глазах у детей. Потом он говорит: “Необычно осознавать, что еще 20 лет назад мы с этими людьми жили в одной стране”. Дальше хуже: парень говорит о том, что вилка и ложка не проникли в нашу страну и что курутоб является “национальным блюдом” и готовят его из “объедков лепешек”. Больше вроде ничего отрицательного о нашей стране он не сказал.

One can certainly accuse the guy [presenter] who stayed in Dushanbe and spent two days there with 100 dollars in his pocket of being biased about Tajikistan. The episode begins with the following words about Dushanbe: “This is a city where women wear bloomers and men cut sheep on the streets,” with children seeing this. Then he says, “It feels unusual to realize that only 20 years ago we shared a country with this people”. The worse parts follow: the guys says that [people in] our country do not know what a spoon and a fork are; he also says that qurutob is our “national dish” and that it is prepared from the “leftovers of lepyoshka” [flatbread]. It seems he didn't say any other negative things about our country.

After the episode was aired, Tajikistani social media users left hundreds of angry comments on the series’ website and its Facebook page. Many of these comments contain strong language and blame the presenters for being “ungrateful for the Tajik hospitality” and for deliberately showing the most negative things about the country.

One Facebook user, Maks Maks, commented [ru] the day the episode was aired:

Очень много наврали

Андрей скажите пожалуйста с какой целю вы проезжали в Душанбе, случайно не с антирекламной целью!?

There are so many lies [in the episode].

Andrey [the male presenters], could you please tell us what your purpose for coming to Dushanbe was? Was it to create an anti-advertisement [for Tajikistan]?

Responding to criticism

There were so many comments criticizing the episode and cursing its authors that “Oryol i Reshka” posted [ru] an official response to these comments on Facebook:

Уважаемые обиженные зрители. Так много негатива в комментариях на нашей странице, много оскорблений и унижений в адрес команды в целом и ведущих в частности, что мы не вытерпели и решили написать.

Мы хотим подчеркнуть, что мы не снимаем рекламные, красивые, агитационные фильмы о стране. Мы показываем колорит и то, что отличает нашу культуру от других показываемых в программе культур – именно это интереснее всего. Именно за это нас смотрят. Поэтому не стоит писать о том, что мы не сняли в вашем городе очередной крутой отель или очередной крутой ресторан, или как много крутых машин ездят по улицам. Нам все равно, какое впечатление вы хотите произвести на соседей. Потому что нашим зрителям интереснее смотреть, как живут люди, какие у них обычаи и традиции, и чем мы друг от друга отличаемся. 

Dear offended viewers! The comments you are leaving on our page are so negative and full of offensive and humiliating content targeted at our production crew in general and the presenters in particular that we could not take it any more and made a decision to write back.

We would like to emphasize that we are not producing advertisement-type, beautiful, propaganda movies about countries. We show the local flavor and how the local culture is different from our own culture – this is the most interesting part. This is why people watch us. Therefore, you should not blame us for not filming a luxury hotel or a luxury restaurant in your city, or for not showing how many luxury cars can be seen on its streets. We do not care about what kind of impression you are trying to make on your neighbors. Our audience is more interested in seeing how people live, what kind of customs and traditions they have, and how we differ from each other.

The statement continues:

А сейчас хотелось бы обратиться к душанбинцам. Нас обвиняют в том, что нас гостеприимно приняли, а мы негативно показали страну. Так вот мы категорически не согласны с этим мнением. Мы с уважением показали Ваши традиции, рассказали о гостеприимстве, показали колорит кишлаков, красоту гор и праздник жертвоприношения. Сказали, что уикенд в Таджикистане – это РОСКОШНЫЙ вариант для любознательных путешественников…

P.S. Программа о Таджикистане получилась очень красочной, очень колоритной, интересной и доброй…

And now we would like to address the residents of Dushanbe. They blame us for showing the country [Tajikistan] from a negative side, despite being treated with a lot of hospitality there. We strongly disagree with such accusations. We have shown your traditions, hospitality, the flavor of villages, the beauty of mountains, and the holiday of sacrifice with much respect. We also said [in the episode] that a weekend in Tajikistan is a GREAT option for curious travelers…

P.S. The episode about Tajikistan turned out to be very colorful, full of flavor, interesting, and kind…

The statement did little to calm down the “offended viewers”. Comments to the statement are heavy in strong language and criticism of the episode.

“They showed what they saw”

Not all social media users in Tajikistan felt bitter about the “Oryol in Reshka” episode. Many netizens felt the episode was mostly fair. Alexey Somin suggested [ru] that the Ukraining filming crew could have produced a much less favorable episode about Tajikistan, while the excessively critical feedback from the country was damaging to its image abroad:

А ведь могли и хуже передачу снять. Могли показать всю “прелесть” душанбинского аэропорта. Могли показать полную антисанитарию в наших забегаловках, где тараканы и немытая нормально посуда. Могли показать засранный город, где на миллион жителей не больше 20 урн, а мусорки напоминают свалки где-нибудь в Индии…

А весь тот мусор, который полился из уст наших соотечесвенников после того как показали передачу – он только поможет авторам этой передачи и всем остальным, кто это наблюдал, понять, что мы на самом деле за страна. 

They could have made a [more negative] episode. They could have shown the “beauty” of the Dushanbe airport [which is often heavily criticized by foreigners]. They could have shown the complete lack of basic sanitary conditions in our [cheap restaurants], with their cockroaches and semi-washed dishes. They could have shown the [dirty] city, where there are less than 20 trash cans for a million residents, and where rubbish heaps look like dumps somewhere in India…

And all the garbage that has been coming from our compatriots since the episode was aired will just help the authors of the episode and everyone else watching this to understand what kind of a country we actually are.

Mehmon agreed [ru]:

Конечно неприятно когда о твоей стране говорят такие вещи, но нужно признать, что все что было сказано и показано, по большому счету правда. Что они увидели, то и показали. А в том что они увидели, виноваты мы сами.

It is certainly unpleasant when they say things like that about your country, but we have to admit that all they said and showed was mostly true. They showed what they saw. We are the only ones to blame for what they saw [in Tajikistan].

Some netizens say that the episode was quite accurate, but find it insulting that it was aired abroad. Isfandiyor Zarafshoni wrote [ru]:

Я так думаю. Показали все правильно, не обманули. Мы сами видим все эти проблемы и постоянно о них говорим. Но обидно когда иностранцы это тоже видят и показывают в других странах. Это позорит нацию и остается пятном на нашей репутации.

This is what I think. They have shown everything accurately, without lying. We see all these problems ourselves, and we talk about them all the time. But it is annoying when foreigners see this, too, and show this in other countries. This dishonors the nation and stays as a stain on our reputation.

The episode has also led some netizens to suggest that there is a shortage of home-made video material about Tajikistan. Many Facebook users now discuss the idea of producing films about the country's main historic and natural sites. It remains to be seen whether these ideas will outlast the now vanishing buzz triggered by the episode.


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