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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
Tajiks 'must drop Russian names'
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon. File photo
Emomali Rakhmon has already been in power for 15 years
Tajikistan's president has ordered his countrymen to drop Russian-style surnames, in a move to break with the Central Asian nation's Soviet past.

Emomali Rakhmon last week removed the Russian suffix "-ov" from his surname, saying this made him sound more Tajik.

Newborn babies must now be registered with Tajik names. Soviet-style school graduation parties are also banned.

Tajiks - who speak a language similar to Persian - are de-Russifying their names after decades of the Soviet rule.

President Rakhmon, as he is now known, told the nation to follow his suit and register babies only under Tajik surnames at a government meeting late on Monday.

He also banned secondary school leaving ceremonies, famous their all-night parties.

A ban on the use of mobile phones and private cars at such schools was also ordered.

In recent years, reverting to original surnames has become increasingly popular, but this is the first time that the change is being enforced at the highest level, the BBC's Central Asian correspondent Natalia Antelava says.

In a country that has been trying to move away from its Soviet past and develop closer cultural ties with its neighbours, Afghanistan and Iran, many welcome the idea, our correspondent says.

But she says that some residents of the capital, Dushanbe, say they do not look forward to the red tape and additional expense that registration of names is likely to entail.

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