John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Upset with Western decadence, the government of Uzbekistan is urging its citizens to shun Valentine's in favor of Emperor Babur.
Ladies: What should your boyfriend get you today, a Valentine's card and box of sweets or a book of poems inspired by 16th-century Muslim conqueror Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur?
Definitely the latter option, according to Uzbekistan's government.
This year, central Asia's most populous country put out the word that Valentines' Day card-and-gift exchanging is not acceptable behavior in Tashkent, Samarkand, Namangan or any other Uzbek city. Instead, the Department for Enlightenment and Promoting Values is urging its people – especially the youth, who have embraced the lovers' holiday – to honor the Feb. 14 birthday of Emperor Babur, founder of south Asia's Mughul dynasty and distant relative of Genghis Khan.
Dinner and a movie is nice, suggest the ministers, but much nicer would be a book reading on Babur's significant geopolitical accomplishments.
So is someone high in the Uzbek government totally trying to cover up for not buying his lady a present?
Actually, the ban is part of an ongoing effort by this mostly Muslim country to shun the decadent and "alien" culture of the West, as the BBC reports:
In the past few weeks there have been several articles attacking foreign soap operas from Mexico and Latin America for being too explicit and for undermining local values and traditions.
Similar criticism was levelled against hard rock and rap music in an extensive campaign a year ago. A Youth Channel on state TV labelled the music "Satanic", feeding on drug addiction and immorality.
The government set up a special censorship body to monitor rap music, register artists and hold regular meetings to encourage the use of more wholesome lyrics.
The V-Day decree is bad news for lovers of chocolate and plushy animals. On the other hand, it opens the door for terrifying gifts like this colorful novella, whose book jacket well conveys the screams of the damned who fell under the sword of Babur.
Top image of Babur from Kellerassel.