Friday, February 08, 2008

And continuing the theme of surreal personality cults, good God, look at this: public architecture in Turkmenistan. I'd heard repeatedly of the golden statue of the late leader Turkmenbashi which rotates in a 24-hour cycle always to face the sun, but it's something to see the photos. The Wikipedia article cites some altogether remarkable presidential decrees (remember, this happened within the living memory of today's children):
ballet and opera were banned after Niyazov felt they were "unnecessary ... not a part of Turkmen culture"

In March 2004, 15,000 public health workers were dismissed including nurses, midwives, school health visitors and orderlies and replaced with military conscripts.

In April 2004 the youth of Turkmenistan were encouraged to chew on bones to preserve their teeth rather than be fitted with gold tooth caps

In April 2004 it was ordered that an ice palace be constructed near the capital.

In 2004 all licensed drivers were required to pass a morality test.

In February 2005 all hospitals outside AƟgabat were ordered shut, with the reasoning that the sick should come to the capital for treatment. All rural libraries were ordered closed as well, citing ordinary Turkmen do not read books.

The Turkmen words for bread and the month of April were changed to the name of his late mother, Gurbansoltanedzhe.

In fact, the President-for-Life renamed all the months and days of the week. Turkmenbashi also wrote the Ruhnama, which purports to be a national epic for the Turkmen people. History will judge; I will merely note that T-shirts appear to be available (though what's up with the Romanov eagle?).

Is this how types such as Galba and Otho would have behaved had they come to power in 1991? Was the Turkmenbashi in fact ahead of his time?

To end on a brighter note, Turkmen music is damn good.

Update: Ethnocynologist Steve Bodio reminds me that the Turkmens also have damn good dogs and horses. Well, they're Central Asians, so I take those accomplishments for granted. Always nice to ponder on them, though.

And still more, this time strictly Turkmen.