Gold loses its shine among young Tajiks
Friday 16 May 1997
Gold instead of ivory has been the quintessential status symbol in this region for centuries: mined in the Pamir mountains, it has always been in plentiful supply; and what better place to keep your valuables than literally under your eyes?
But despite what you see there is evidence that this ancient tradition is dying. Dental treatment in these post-Soviet times is no longer free: a gold tooth costs about $30 (pounds 18), and a further $15 to install. Last year the average monthly salary here was just $8.60, easily the lowest in the former Soviet Union, making gold a luxury that few Tajiks can now afford.
Professor Omar Tairairov, general director of the Tajik Scientific Industrial Association, Stomatology - the country's chief dentist, in other words - said cost is only one reason for the change. "Their value as a status symbol has declined, especially among the young," he said.
He blamed access to Western culture, particularly videos, which have naturally become more widely available since independence in 1991. His words were borne out at a rock concert at the Moskovsky Hall in the city centre. As Sergei, one of the performers and a Robert Plant lookalike, put it: "Why would anyone want to look like Jaws from the James Bond movie?" His girlfriend merely shuddered.
It is not just the young who dislike gold teeth. Matluba Mamadjanova, a middle-aged educational adviser, swapped all four of hers for white metal ceramic ones after attending an American language teachers' conference in Athens - the sort of thing no one ever did in Soviet times.
"It was so embarrassing," she said. "There were hundreds of people there and I was the only one with gold teeth. They kept looking at me."
Zafar Nazarov, a dentist, confirms the trend. In recent weeks he has taken gold from more than 20 mouths - all of them travelling professionals.
"I used to get customers who asked me to replace perfectly healthy teeth with gold ones," he said over tea in his spartan surgery. "Nowadays that sort of thing mostly only goes on in Uzbekistan. They're a flashy lot over there."
He said he preferred the "noble metal" to ceramic because "it's soft and malleable" and the tooth can be mounted with less sawing at the root." Later, he offered to install an example of his work: "It's free for guests to our country."
I declined politely and he laughed, throwing his head back to reveal a lower jaw studded with sharp points of gold.
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...