Valentine's Day 2012: Uzbekistan Discourages Celebrating 'Alien' Western Holiday

Though there is no official sanction against the holiday, government officials in Uzbekistan gave verbal instructions Tuesday to forgo Valentine's Day activities in favor of celebrating the birthday of a national poet, the Agence France-Presse reports.

The government of Uzbekistan instructed mass media outlets and stores to ignore the holiday -- which has become increasingly popular in recent years among youth in predominantly Muslim Uzbekistan -- as anxiety continues to grow around the "excess of liberalism" from Western cultural imports, according to the AFP.

Instead, Uzbeks have been encouraged to refocus the day's festivities around poetry readings and other literary events to honor the birthday of 16th-century Mughul Emperor Zahir-ud din Muhammad Babur, who was also a great poet.

Efforts to crack down on the holiday were especially evident as a popular Valentine's Day concert by Rayhan, a pop star whose music combines Eastern melodies with Western pop, was postponed for the first time since the musician began performing on the holiday a decade ago, according to the BBC.

One Uzbeki man named Abdullaw told the BBC he agrees wholeheartedly with the concert's postponement.

"It's the birthday of our great ancestor Mohammed Zahiriddin Babur," Abdullaw told the BBC. "Why should we celebrate some artificial, lightweight event? It doesn't fit our mentality and our history."

However, many Uzbeks had no problem with the concert and found the postponement ridiculous, according to the International Business Times.

"[The Valentine's Day ban] is laughable," journalist Jasur Hamraev told the paper. "For 10 years she (Rayhan) has been giving concerts on that day and this year it is banned as if someone had suddenly remembered that it's happening."

But Uzbekistan isn't the other country to have cracked down on the holiday this year. According to the International Business Times, Middle East media reports have indicated that Saudi residents have been forbidden from giving gifts of chocolates, bears or roses, while the Iranian government has issued a similar ban and has warned residents against ignoring it.