The Tajik government is banning the use of Russified suffixes for surnames as part of an effort to protect the nation’s identity.
Tajikistan‘s lower house of parliament on April 28 adopted amendments to the law prohibiting Russified suffixes in surnames and patronymics, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik service.
The new rules will enter into force if the upper chamber and the president approve them.
Instead of the Russian endings “-ov” or “-ova”, Tajik endings such as “-zoda”, “-iyon”, “far”, “purdkhut”, etc. will now become part of citizens’ surnames, said Tajik Justice Minister Muzaffar Ashuriyon, who introduced the bill in parliament.
However, Russian and other ethnic minorities may continue to use endings not derived from Tajik.
The new rules will apply to those receiving identity documents for the first time, particularly children and adolescents, or those who change their surnames in the future. Citizens who already have identity documents will not be forced to change.
The new policy is aimed at “enhancing citizens’ self-awareness and protecting national identity”, according to the authors of the bill.
Many Tajiks consider Slavic-derived surname endings an unwelcome reminder of being ruled by Russians during the Tsarist and Soviet eras.
The trend of switching from Russian suffixes to Tajik suffixes intensified after Tajik President Emomali Rahmon removed the “-ov” ending from his surname in 2007, RFE/RL reported.
Many Tajik officials and ordinary citizens followed his example.
For instance, in January 2014, Minister of Agriculture Qosim Qosimov changed his surname to Rohbar. Similarly, Foreign Minister Sirojidin Aslov took out new identity documents in 2018, giving himself the surname Mukhriddin.
Support for the initiative
Tajiks expressed confidence that the law will pass.
“It’s normal for surnames to have a national identity,” said Dilangez Aminzoda, a history teacher from Dushanbe.
“In post-Soviet countries such as Georgia or Lithuania, Russian endings are likelier to be the exception than the norm. Why should it be different in Tajikistan?” she asked.
However, in comment threads for the relevant news publications, apparent pro-Russia readers sharply criticised the law, arguing that it will do nothing to improve life in Tajikistan.
“Let them also get rid of Russian letters. Let’s see how things will look later, clowns,” wrote one anonymous reader, referring to the Cyrillic alphabet that Tajikistan still uses.
“When they need money, they will come to Russia and say ‘we’ll take on -ov endings again… Just give us money,'” another commenter who called himself Ivan said sarcastically.