Tour Turkmenistan!

by Nathan Hamm on 4/14/2004 · 5 comments

Here’s some advice for Turkmenistan: Offer special tours aimed at the art crowd highlighting the kitschy absurdity of life in this desert khanate. Like I said before, it’d be funny if it was fiction.

Others are picking up on this too. I mentioned Niyazov’s dental advice the other day, and now The Independent is throwing light on the absurdity that is Turkmenistan.

But in Mr Niyazov’s case this has meant his country of five million isforced to live under some of the weirdest laws of our times. Two months ago he used another television appearance to ban beards and long hair for men. Opera and ballet are not allowed, because Mr Niyazov decided they were unnecessary. He has changed street names in Ashgabat to numbers, and forced his ministers to take part in a 36km “health walk”.

Surreally, he has followed in the footsteps of the fictional dictator in Woody Allen’s movie Bananas, to redefine the ages of his citizens. Adolescence now lasts until 25, youth doesn’t end until 37, and old age starts at 85.

Last year Mr Niyazov instituted a holiday in honour of the muskmelon, a relative of the watermelon, complete with lavish festivities, and ordered that everybody take part. “This godsend has a glorious history,” national television announced. “Our great leader, who has a great love of his nation, has brought the name of the tasty melons to the level of a national holiday.”

A situation so weird that journalists can’t even try to be balanced…


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 5 comments }

Hlvictoria April 14, 2004 at 6:04 pm

Lol! Sounds like someone is having a mid-life crisis…at least his ministers won’t suffer heart attacks any time soon

Mark April 14, 2004 at 6:21 pm

Not surprised British media picked up on this. ‘Fix your teeth? ha ha ha ha What a nutjob!’

THis seems like a growth segment of the leisure industry. Why not a tour of a southern trailer park? Tourist could be on a big bus with barred windows and a cattle catcher on the front to protect them. The trailers could all have a solid plexiglas (Glass would get broken too fast) side facing the street so the tourist could see in from the bus. You could sell microwave corndogs….. etc.

Nathan April 14, 2004 at 8:29 pm

Wow Dad, that was about as classy as the Yankee bigotry of the finest of Northeastern snobs I am so lucky to have to brush shoulders with all the time. They talk the same way about us as you do about the south.

Remember, “humor” doesn’t always translate well into type.

Mark April 15, 2004 at 12:17 am

I meant ‘southern’ Douglas county.

Nathan April 15, 2004 at 12:39 am

Well then, that’s different. Of course, you could call that North Roseburg/Winchester as well.

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