Foreign Policy Blogs

Turkmenistan: Lost in the Pageant, part 2 of 2

The pageant's focus now turns again to domestic considerations.  As suitable for a seamless transition, the new policies thus borrowed heavily from the old.  The new President of Turkmenistan has announced the Niyazov at Forty Feetcommissioning of a new statue of Turkmenbashi, to honor in death a man who has had countless statues of himself erected already; raising the duration of state-mandated education by one year; the continuance of Turkmenbashi's outrageously unsustainable state construction program; and the provision of fifteen internet cafes. [See Peter's post at, February 23]. 

President Berdymukhamedov has also been visiting orphanages.  Niyazov was himself an orphan; the gossip is that the new president might have been Turkmenbashi's unacknowledged son.  True or not, the symbolism of the orphan and the good son tends to underscore a transition that will continue to honor Turkmenbashi the Great, President from Beyond the Grave.

On February 27, Itar-Tass reported the Turkmen Supreme Court has sentenced the hapless former Deputy Chairman and Speaker of the Halk Maslahaty, Mr. Atayev, to five years in custody. The trial was held in judge's chambers, away from international or domestic scrutiny.  Last year, Ogulsapar Muradova, an internationally-known RFE/RL journalist, died in a Turkmenistani prison in a matter of two weeks.  Others have never been heard from again.

Turkmenistan is a failing state in all but name, with a history of cruel repression within eccentric isolationism.  Change for the better could still occur, through painstaking work for human rights, legal reform, and transparency.  But only if we optimists remember, again and continually, that Turkmenistan requires extra attention to the stage managers when the pageant is underway.

Photo: Christy Quirk, GoWorldTravel