Метки: turkmenistan

Turkmenistan: the dark side of the moon

The dark side of the moonDo you know how to tell a high grade furniture apart from cheap knock-offs? Check the inverse side of a counter top, or a…Далее... )


The dark side of the moon

Do you know how to tell a high grade furniture apart from cheap knock-offs? Check the inverse side of a counter top, or a chair's backrest, or the rear side of a closet. If the finish is just as polished as the front side, that is the hallmark of an excellent artisan. However, if the veneer isn't finished, the surface is poorly treated with nails sticking out here and there, then it's a poor grade furniture. A good artisan would not allow himself negligent craftsmanship, even if the shortcuts won't be immediately visible. Exactly the same reasoning applies to a city. Take a look at a backyard and it'll all become obvious. A good proprietor keeps things tidy.

To actually see the real city, you only have to turn off the main avenue, where the theater ends. In Turkmenistan that difference is omnipresent. Every city is divided into two zones: one, visible to the great leader of the Turkmen people Berdimuhamedow, and one escaping the gaze of his Holy Awesomeness. Turkmenistan is a bit like a crappy housewife, who sweeps the floor underneath the rug before the guests arrive.

If you take it easy and let the Turkmen show you, say, Ashgabat, you'll see huge palaces of white marble, golden statues, fountains and parks. The only thing which might confuse you is the complete absence of people on the streets, but it'll be attributed to being at work or at school. You'll take home awesome pics of a neat white city which you'd be thrilled to show to your buddies.

Ashgabat and other Turkmen cities today are built in such a way so as to inspire awe from a window of a passing car or a tourist bus. The country created an entire show industry to that effect. Let's have a look at the flip side of this Turkmen marvel.

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Awaza and Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan

Awaza, the pride of Turkmenistan Awaza! The main and the only tourist resort, the oasis on the shores of Caspian sea, local Dubai, Maldives and…Далее... )


Awaza, the pride of Turkmenistan
 
Awaza! The main and the only tourist resort, the oasis on the shores of Caspian sea, local Dubai, Maldives and Antalya. I don't know what the locals haven't compared it to. A lot of money was poured in over 10 years, tens of hotels were built in the desert, a forest was planted and a channel dug so that the tourists could ride boats.
 
All local state medias praise M. Berdimuhamedow's genius for the creation of the international tourist resort, despite the building contracts with the Turks was signed during his predecessor's reign. So the Arkadag just took the idea and continued it. The total land area of the resort is 5 thousand hectares; it stretches for 26 km (16 miles) along the sea shore.
 
The first three hotels were opened in 2009 by Berdimuhamedow. He promised to turn Awaza into “new Las Vegas”. It was known then that the state had invested 1,5$ billion over two years. In 2013 there were talks of 5€ billion in investments, as Slon magazine mentions. The investors were probably attracted by promises of oil exploration and extraction on the Caspian shelf. It is not really known how much the state itself spent on Awaza. The opposition media estimated in 2013 about 2€ billion was spent.
 
The government ministries are the main customers for the hotel buildings in Awaza. Just like in the Soviet Union every ministry had its own sanatorium. Apart from the hotels, there was a power plant and a water desalination plant built, and Turkmenbashi airport was renovated so that it could accept all types of aircrafts. During the last years cottages began to appear around the hotels, probably destined for the state elite since there is really no one capable of buying such houses here.
 
By 2020 the authorities promise to build a dolphinarium, a planetarium, SPA resorts, football stadiums, race tracks, velodromes and an open air museum with miniature versions of all the Turkmen landmarks. If all these plans are realized, it will truly look like something in between Las Vegas and Dubai.

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Ashgabat: the city of the living and the city of the dead

The city of the dead“Where are all the people?” – this question often arises when people see photos of the white-marbled capital of Turkmenistan.…Далее... )


The city of the dead

“Where are all the people?” – this question often arises when people see photos of the white-marbled capital of Turkmenistan. Indeed, new Ashgabat looks empty. Huge new buildings lined with marble, wide avenues, parks, gardens, fountains are all there, but there are no people in the city. Ashgabat is divided into two parts – old town and new town. City of the living and the city of the dead.

The great Turkmenbashi founded new Ashgabat in the early 2000s. It was he who decreed that all buildings are to be built with white marble. “We shall only build with white marble,” Sapurmurat Niyazov once said. “Greedy people don’t get it, they seek for other materials, we have to give orders”. In 2013 Ashgabat made a record in the Guinness book of records as the city with the largest number of buildings decorated with white marble. By that moment, the total surface area covered with marble in Ashgabat was 4514 million square meters.

The new president and father of the Turkmen nation Berdimuhamedow continued these glorious traditions.

From the official media:
White marble not only makes the buildings look elegant, it also reflects the sunlight, thus cooling down the walls in the summer, while in the winter and in a gloomy weather it lightens your mood.

Turkmen authorities have once claimed that they bring the marble directly from Italy. However, opposition media reports that this marble is not necessarily of good quality and that in several years it becomes covered with dark spots and stains. They also report that marble tiles start falling off the facades, scaring passers-by.

The city was built virtually from scratch, and at great expense. No other city in the former Soviet Union was showered with this much money. The only problem with all this white marble splendor is that it was designed and constructed straight from mid-twentieth century Soviet textbooks. If Stalin had lived in modern times, he would have built Ashgabat ... hold on a sec... Turkmenbashi, Stalin...

Broad avenues, huge plazas, stupendous buildings – we have already seen all of this proudly displayed in 50-s era Moscow and in other Soviet cities. Replete with out of scale construction and vast distances that are difficult to traverse by foot, it is the architecture aligned with the regime. It suppresses people, showing the insignificance of the individual compared to the surroundings. Ideolody propaganda through art, while it seemed appropriate 70 years ago, looks strange in the modern world.

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Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Architecture in AshgabatWhen we speak of Turkmen architecture, we can’t forget about its main architect. After all, he’s also the main doctor,…Далее... )


Architecture in Ashgabat

When we speak of Turkmen architecture, we can’t forget about its main architect. After all, he’s also the main doctor, inventor, rescuer, teacher, the wisest and the most generous, the master of land and sea, none other than the great Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow himself (applause, ladies and gentlemen!). Before him the main architect was the great Turkmenbashi; that’s just how it is, and there’s no other way. Only the tsar in Turkmenistan decides how the city looks. Architects here are never named, as the architect is secondary, and individuality in architecture is unacceptable. The stars of world architecture are not invited to Turkmenistan like they are to the nations of Arabs, Kazakhs, and Chinese. Because, of course, there can only be one star in Turkmenistan, and his name is the Sun: Berdimuhamedow, the Sun of the Turkmen people. And Ashgabat is his city.

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Prohibitions in Turkmenistan

People have a particular way of explaining almost every process in their lives. If asked why a plane flies to Turkmenistan, we would say that it was…Далее... )


People have a particular way of explaining almost every process in their lives. If asked why a plane flies to Turkmenistan, we would say that it was due to lift force. But if you ask a Turkmen the same question, he would resolutely reply, “the plane flies to Turkmenistan because the passengers were given visas, and Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç, our leader and wise ruler, has agreed to accept the plane on Turkmen land.” See, in Turkmenistan, everything submits to the will of the leader; birds do not sing, the sun does not rise, and the wind does not blow without his approval. After all, Berdimuhamedow is the initiator and inspirer of the new Renaissance and global reformations; God give him the power and strength to carry a nation of 5.3 million Turkmens on his shoulders! There are no laws in Turkmenistan; there is only the will of the leader. Greater than any law, it lights the way for Turkmens like the sun.

Turkmens long ago stopped questioning what they were told to do and why. During their twenty-five years of independence, they have experienced a lot. First, Turkmenbashi molded his nation like clay. Then the regime of petty tyranny was continued by the new leader, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and the show goes on. So let’s look at some things that are prohibited in Turkmenistan.

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Cult of personality in Turkmenistan

Месяц назад я побывал в одной из самых закрытых стран мира — Туркменистане. Репортажи оттуда вызвали небывалый отклик и стали самыми посещаемыми в…Далее... )


Месяц назад я побывал в одной из самых закрытых стран мира — Туркменистане. Репортажи оттуда вызвали небывалый отклик и стали самыми посещаемыми в моем блоге за последний год. Так как тема оказалась интересна не только русскоязычным читателям, но и иностранным, я перевел посты на английский язык. Ближайшую неделю буду публиковать английскую версию постов про Туркменистан. А вы распространяйте ;)

Turkmenbashi

The first President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, ruled the country for over 30 years. Back in 1985 he was appointed First Secretary of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic’s Communist Party and prior to that he was the Head of Ashgabat City Administration.

When USSR staggered, Niyazov became the Head of Republic’s Supreme Council, which later declared the Republic’s independence. In June 1992 the former communist party employee was already elected President of Turkmenistan. People say it was an absolutely democratic election, with one candidate and fairly earned 99.5% of votes.

In just over a year, Medzhlis (local Parliament) awarded the title of Turkmenbashi to Niyazov, naming him the leader of all Turkmens around the world. Later on, the adjective “Great” was added to the title to make it even more convincing. Some optional titles used during his reign included “Savior of the Nation” and “Messenger of Allah”, a more universal title used by mass media was Serdar, or “Leader”. In addition to this, despite never having served in the army, Niyazov had a title of Marshall and was awarded the title of National Hero five times. On every meeting officials had to kiss his right hand, which was covered with diamond and emerald rings.

You might think that those were just titles, but there were other implications. The national anthem had to be changed each time the titles were changed. One Turkmen guy told me that one line on the school blackboard was always wiped out, so they could insert “Turkmenbashi”, “Great Turkmenbashi” or any other title.

By mid-90s Niyazov was seriously contemplating naming himself the Shah, but rumor has it that the elders were against it along with the state leaders of Iran, Russia and Uzbekistan. As a consolation, Turkmenbashi asked the Republic’s Peoples Council to declare him Lifelong President.

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Turkmenistan

Месяц назад я побывал в одной из самых закрытых стран мира — Туркменистане. Репортажи оттуда вызвали небывалый отклик и стали самыми посещаемыми в…Далее... )


Месяц назад я побывал в одной из самых закрытых стран мира — Туркменистане. Репортажи оттуда вызвали небывалый отклик и стали самыми посещаемыми в моем блоге за последний год. Так как тема оказалась интересна не только русскоязычным читателям, но и иностранным, я перевел посты на английский язык. Ближайшую неделю буду публиковать английскую версию постов про Туркменистан. А вы распространяйте ;)

A month ago I arrived from Turkmenistan, after having spent there four days. Four unforgettable days! Turkmenistan is one of the hardest-to-reach countries in the world. Well, it's not that hard to get there physically, there are direct flights from Moscow with S7 and Turkmen airlines and tickets don't cost much either. It's just you won't get visas.

Very few visited Turkmenistan. Very few can get visas. There are almost no records about Turkmenistan on the internet. And the records that do exist are often biased. In order to get a coveted Turkmen visa travelers have to use various tricks. They receive an invitation from somebody, but then they become hospitality hostages of the inviting party and start writing laudatory articles. They emphatically praise the golden Turkmenbashi and his successor Berdimuhamedow; god knows whose gold shines brighter than that under the Turkmeni sun.

Luckily, I wasn't invited in the same way. I got my Turkmen visa by some miracle. Honestly, a journalist can never get a Turkmen visa. All demands have always been rejected. I can only thank the Turkmen “chekists” (Turkmen secret service) for their total incompetence and the Nowruz celebration, due to which they were all probably drunk enough to issue me a visa at the end of March. So my story about Turkmenistan will be honest, without all the usual golden crap about wisdom and glorification of Turkmen rulers and so on.

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