Thursday, 15 February 2007

A new Great Leader of All Turkmen

I and those of my friends who follow closely the changing political scene in the gas-rich central Asian states were dismayed to learn the result of the recent elections in Turkmenistan. Most of us, in the course of our late-night pub discussions over the years, had mastered the correct pronunciation of the president’s name: Saparmurat Niyazov (though sometimes we referred to him as Sapper). He was a brutal megalomaniac; the cult of his personality—he ran the country like a private Disney World—made Kim Jong-Il look like Clement Attlee.

The lovable old fellow died, full of years and fine cognac, a couple of months ago. So far so good, but this week 98.5% of the five million Turkmenis turned out to elect a successor. And whom have they chosen? The acting president, one Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.

Clearly, dramatic changes are afoot. It will take us a while to catch up with that one, and he’ll have to be just Gurbers—or possibly Berdy—to us until we’ve got it right. We're playing the video of the swearing-in ceremony over and over again; the commentator pronounces his full name beautifully.


Pennyroyal said...

I didn't like the man either. Hardly anyone was expecting his death when it happened last December, least of all himself, who ruled the country and behaved as if he would be immortal.

You are absolutely justified in expressing your dissatisfaction with the latest results. Maybe it's because people get used to the same old shit. After all, what would explain the fact that they end up voting for someone who pledges to follow in the footsteps of a demised leader who isolated his country from the rest the world for so many years?!

Tony said...

Yes indeed, Pouneh.
I must confess that what I wrote about my friends discussing the new president was not intended to be taken seriously: few of my friends have heard of Turkmenistan, let alone its president.
But I can well understand that to someone who, like you, grew up in a neighbouring country, these matters are no joke, and I apologise.
My frivolous and irresponsible attitude to the Central Asian republics and their peoples is not of recent origin: as long ago as May 2004 I was writing facetiously about them in OMF. Lamentable.