Wednesday, March 21, 2012 -
Central Asia on Tuesday night began celebrations of the new year holiday Novruz with fireworks, food, and public spectacles throughout the region.
Novruz is also known as “Persian New Year,” marking the start of spring. It is also celebrated in Iran and parts of the Caucasus, and the holiday has roots in the ancient Zoroastrian religion.
In Kazakhstan, cities – including the capital Astana and financial center Almaty – hosted fireworks shows and theatrical performances. Almaty will host an international film festival to coincide with the holiday, which will be marked over a series of days.
Novruz festivities in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek kicked off with a concert, and followed with a speech from President Almazbek Atambayev, who urged Kyrgyz citizens to remain peaceful this spring.
“I would like to, starting this year, start spring not with anxiety, but with bright hopes, as it should be, as it has been for thousands and thousands of years,” he said, referencing the spring events in 2010 which saw the overthrow of corrupt former President Kurmanbek Bakiev which then led to ethnic disturbances in the south.
The 2005 Tulip Revolution, which overthrew longtime president Askar Akayev, also took place in the spring.
“This year should be a turning point in the development of the country,” the Knews.kg news agency reported Atambayev as saying. “From now on we should celebrate spring in Bishkek, or in any other city, but no revolutions, no blood, and bright events like world championships, competitions, festivals, songs, hope, and creative work.”
Former President Roza Otunbayeva, who ceded power to Atambayev following elections last year, celebrated the holiday in the central Kyrgyz city of Talas, as did Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Djoomart Otorbaev.
In Tajikistan, residents are still grappling with power shortages after state electricity firm Barqi Tojik refused to alleviate residential power cuts for the holiday.
Low water levels in critical reservoirs are to blame for the power shortages, the firm says, while corporate operations cannot be cut off from electricity.
Residents of the Tajik capital Dushanbe gathered in parks and city squares to celebrate the holiday, dressed in bright colors and with many carrying flowers.
Turkmen citizens are also on a work holiday to celebrate the Persian New Year, and are marking the holiday with dances and celebrations.
“We are immensely proud of the fact that today, Novruz, which is formed from a noble tradition absorbed over the millennia, has become an international holiday, urging people to a peaceful coexistence,” President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov wrote in a letter, as reported by Turkmenistan.ru.
In Uzbekistan, celebrations were unexpectedly postponed for at least one day by President Islam Karimov.