A River Runs Through It

by Nathan Hamm on 9/13/2004 · 1 comment

That’s the plan, anyway.

On 24 July, the Russian-language newspaper Neitralnyi Turkmenistan described an ambitious construction project to divide Ashgabat into east and west with an 11-kilometer-long man-made river. Slated for completion by 19 February 2006 – the president’s birthday – the 15-meter-wide, 3.5-meter-deep river will draw water from the Karakum Canal. Flanked by fountains and small waterfalls, crisscrossed by footbridges, the river will flow past meter-high granite embankments, providing a rolling scenic backdrop to the golden age that President Niyazov claims to have ushered in since his ascent to power. The article stresses that the project’s authors intend to line the river bottom with waterproof material as a safeguard against unwanted environmental consequences.

This isn’t exactly new news, but Kimmage ties it in with the history of grandiose projects of the Soviet Union* and Soviet ideology’s usefulness to Niyazov in its power of “justifying rationally unjustifiable projects, or simply ignoring inconvenient realities.” There is a mention of one of my favorite Soviet agricultural projects of all time–Kruschev’s corn–one that is still going on to an extent in Uzbekistan today. [Now if only it’d been broccoli…]

*And some psychoanalysis, something that I am not too keen on in general and downright opposed to bringing up in such political discussions.


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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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{ 1 comment }

Mark Hamm September 13, 2004 at 7:58 pm

Sounds like that ride at Disneyland!

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