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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