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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Turkmenbashi Meets His Maker

Saparmurat "Father of the Turkmen" Niyazov, 66, the semi-godlike leader of the gas-rich Turkmenistan, passed away last night, Reuters reports.

His sudden death after twenty years of rule over the Central Asian former Soviet Union republic reduces the cadre of Gorbachev-era Genghis Khans down to two, Islom Karimov of Uzbekistan and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. It leaves the bereaved country with a grotesque personality cult that rivals Stalin’s.

The late President-for-life Niyazov can be rightfully considered a 21st-century embodiment of Big Brother.

Turkmenbashi, whose highfalutin self-title has made him political shorthand for authoritarianism, followed his subjects almost everywhere. He followed them on the streets and in facilities that bear his name; in parks and squares that exhibit his statues; in pockets full of — or rather, not-so-full-of — manat, the Turkmen national currency that glorifies his face. In fact, the Turkmen may not be the only people he pursued in this universe. A meteorite named after him may well be carrying some sort of ambassadorial aura to extraterrestrial civilizations.

Back on earth, Turkmenbashi’s communication strategy reached way beyond his realm. With “Ruhnama,” an ultra-Leviathan farrago of folklore and philosophy, Niyazov took a dive into the global book business. Thanks to a steady stream of gas revenues, this supposedly ghostwritten masterpiece has been translated into 30 languages. What a way to spend money!

“Ruhnama,” a must-read for the pubescent Machiavellis of the world, comes as a red-blooded addition to the “Despot Dreamers” library of such works as Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book,” Kim Il-Sung’s “Juche,” and Kuchma’s “Ukraine Is Not Russia.” Sascha Baron Cohen should be gnashing his teeth for picking the wrong country.

Niyazov walked out of this life having secured a higher rate for gas exports to Russia. Starting next year, Russia will shell out $100 per 1000 cubic meters, up from $60.

A tight and highly profitable web of interrelationships characterizes Eurasian politics. Through the Russian pipeline, Turkmenistan supplies most of the gas consumed in Ukraine. Russia, in turn, exports its own gas to Europe through the Ukrainian pipeline, while importing cheaper gas from Turkmenistan to cover domestic demand.

Questions abound: Will Vlad the Impaler manage to drill his proboscis into a demoralized gas kingdom? What’s in the pipeline for Ukraine? How will Turkmenbashi’s death affect Europe’s energy equation? Hopefully, one day the people of Turkmenistan will wake up and put their idols where they belong.


Sergiy said...

Salut Taras:)

Obviously, the death of Turkmenbashi is a good Christmass news for the Turkmenian people, but is rather sad to see dictators leave without being judged.

Passe de très bonnes fêtes:)Termine bien cette année et commence bien la nouvelle:)

P.S. Thurow is a good tale-teller, all like Francis Fukuyama:)

Taras said...

Salut Sergiy:)!

May Allah bring him to justice and may the Turkmen hold free elections in February.

I remember how Thurow made me smile with his forecast of a few million Ukrainians migrating to Paris. It was fall 1997, and I thought to myself, how in the world would that happen? Well, as we enter 2007, I realize he wasn’t exactly wrong on that one. In fact, he only missed the geography section: They’ve moved to Portugal, Spain, and Italy.

Of course, Fukuyama tops Thurow on futurism. As of today, the end of history is nowhere to be seen… But these guys help us stretch our imagination a little, don’t they?

Liberté, égalité, fraternité! Bonne année!:)