Parviz Davlatbekov, 24, fell victim to a mob as he visited relatives in the early hours of Monday dressed as Ded Moroz, who traditionally brings Russian children presents at New Year. Russian cultural influence remains strong in Tajikistan, which is officially secular, although the vast majority of its 7.7 million people are Muslims.
One police source told Reuters:
We have witness statements that say the crowd beat Parviz and stabbed him with a knife, shouting ‘You infidel!’
A second source said religious hatred was being investigated as the motive for the crime, which occurred in the capital Dushanbe.
Authorities have cracked down on religious freedoms in the former Soviet republic in the last few years and jailed dozens of people for membership of Islamist groups.
President Imomali Rakhmon has ordered students at foreign religious schools to return home and told his security services to tighten control over religious education and mosques in Tajikistan, which he says are often used to foment radicalism.
His critics say poverty and repression in the poorest of the 15 former Soviet republics is pushing many young Tajiks toward radical Islamism.
Tokhir Normatov, chief of staff of Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry, said the victim had died in hospital from a loss of blood, but made no comment on the motive for the attack.
Hat tip: Name Withheld