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March 01, 2005


With a leader this bad, you'd expect the country to spontaneously combust. And all the pages of atlases mapping it. And the books about it.

Actually, this sort of thing is difficult for my philosophy, because in a universe not run by a deity with an outre sense of humor it's hard to believe this would arise as a result of the initials conditions of the universe and the theory of everything.

The Atlantic had a nice article about this country in the last year or two. Something about free gasoline.

It's, umm, Borgesian, or maybe Marquezian.

A melon day, you say.

"If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat." Sounds like the rationalization of healthcare closer to home.

I, too, thought of Borges. But given the letter in question, perhaps "Thullenian" would be best...

He sounds remarkably like Pol Pot, only without (so far) the megamurders. Though his healthcare policy is likely to have the same effect.

How old is he? How healthy? (I'm willing to bet that his doctors are trained in real medical schools far away from Turkmenistan.) Does he have any heirs? Good grief: I wonder if he'll declare himself immortal and...

Hey! Someone should tell Niyazov he can clone himself and have his brain transplanted into the new body. "You'll be immortal!" they can say. That'd be one way to get rid of him.

Good job, Hilzoy! I was just reading about the closure of the hospitals in the russian media this morning and its already on Obsidian! Impressive!

I think Saparmurat Niyazov could definately be the next villain in the new installment of Austin Powers :P

Also, he put a rule in effect that females have to wear braids and the Turkmen ethnic head dress in places of learning.

Russian source.

If there's a demand I can see what else I can dig up in the russian media.

Stan: we aim to please. And I bet the Russian media didn't have the part about the melon holiday ;)

CaseyL: He just turned 65. Here's something about his health from a couple of years ago:

"The 62-year-old Niyazov has been battling heart and blood-circulation problems since the early 1990s. In November 1994, Niyazov had a blood clot removed from his leg by doctors at a hospital in Texas. In September 1997 in Munich, Meisner himself performed coronary-bypass surgery on Niyazov.

Exiled opposition leader Boris Shikhmuradov was Niyazov’s foreign minister in 1997 and spent time with the Turkmen president during his convalescence. In an interview with RFE/RL, Shikhmuradov recalled Niyazov’s condition both before and after the surgery.

"At the moment of his surgery, blood circulation didn’t exceed 26 percent of his heart function. After the bypass surgery, the process was restored, but doctors warned him that he should keep a strict diet and follow medical prescriptions. Of course, he followed none of them. Quite the opposite. He continued to drink -- in particular, cognac, which is his regular drink. This has completely ruined the results of the surgery. Starting in 1998, German doctors have regularly been warning that his health condition was degrading," Shikhmuradov said." (cite)

I haven't run across any mention of subsequent circulatory problems, though he did undergo eye surgery about ten days ago.

Stan: I'd enjoy it, but only if you have the free time. (And be warned: once you get started, it's hard to stop.)

It's hard not to laugh, but this guy has "complete economic collapse and widespread starvation" written all over him.

There are far too many countries in this world where the only policy I can think of is to hope the godawful leader dies soon (though CaseyL gets points for originality), and that his successor turns out to be somewhat more sane, have at least a little bit of a conscience.

O.K. I give up.

What form of body hair did he outlaw? "Beards" was the only disappointing answer to all of the tease questions.

And, the letter you're referring to Rilkefan, you poet you, is it T for Turkman, in which case what an impression I've made? Or am I missing something, as usual? ;)

"There are also letters on the spine of each book; these letters do not indicate or prefigure what the pages will say. I know that such a lack of relevance, at one time, seemed mysterious."

John, note hilzoy characteristically (somewhat irkingly given the result on Recent Comments) long title...

It's amazing what people won't rebel against, when you think about it.

Did the thing about melons remind anyone else of Small Gods?

"hilzoy's". Finally found some olives that don't ruin Bombay Sapphire gin. Probably sacrilege to use olives at all, but I need the protein.

I should read titles before posts and posts before comments and comments from first to last instead of ..... continuing to live in my obscure country beginning with "T".

McDuff: Actually, I hadn't asked myself what "the thing about melons" reminded me of, but as soon as I read your question, the answer that leapt to mind was one of the most unintentionally funny sentences I've ever seen, courtesy of a friend who spent some time copy editing romance novels:

"Her breasts glowed like amber melons."

I mean, glowed? This sentence took over from the previous champion, a reference to 'songbirds bursting on the wing' from a 19th century epic poem called, no joke, Gertrude of Wyoming.

See, hilzoy, that was originally "Birds bursting into song on the wing", but metrically... No, I got nuthin.

It occurs to me that some parts of the U.S.A. may celebrate a melon holiday. And my grandfather banned beards from his house.

"It's time to bring the melons in, she whispered glowingly."

My mother's birthday is in August. We call it Doris Month.

See pieces from me here, here. and here.

In the "sinners casting stones" department, be sure that before making snarky comments, you do not live in a country that designated October 26 as "Mule Appreciation Day". Check twice. And then vigorously appreciate those mules during all officially designated time periods.

Did the thing about melons remind anyone else of Small Gods?

Most of the world reminds me of Small Gods nowadays...

felix, is that "country" or "county"?

Ok, ok, googling... - looks like it was just one particular day, plus the bill died in committee...

Jeez, Gary, why didn't my Google search just send me to your blog? I had missed this NYT">http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/05/magazine/05TURKMENISTAN.html?pagewanted=all&position=top">NYT story, which is probably the best piece of coverage out there. Thanks.

Somehow this is making me miss L. Spraugh DeCamp. He'd created rulers like that.


Great post. I'm glad that people can find and read more abour Saparmurat Niyazov. Turkmenistan is one of the most richest countries in Central Asia, but unfortunally it's no democracy there at all. You should google old news about assosiantion couple of years ago. It was a big news.

And should I mention that for past few years all awards of "The person of the year" like the other Central Asia presidents.

"It's amazing what people won't rebel against, when you think about it."

Easy for you to say. Let's just hope he hasn't made any huge purchases of Kool-Aid.

Indeed, what could be done by anyone, inside or out the country, to help this nutcase to the retirement he so richly deserves?

Am I the only one who finds a national holiday devoted to melons completely unobjectionable and by far the least creepy of all of Nyazov's mandates?

Turkmenistan is a part of the world that's a center of genetic diversity for melons. Okay, I'm an obsessed gardener, and things plant-related are my refuge from human rights horrors... which everything else in the post evokes.

Am I the only one who finds a national holiday devoted to melons completely unobjectionable and by far the least creepy of all of Nyazov's mandates?

Well, that depends on what the required observances are, and what the penalty for non-participation might be.

I like melons, esp. watermelons, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy being required to put on a silly robe and hat and do a Dance of the Melon in the desert at high noon. I esp. wouldn't like it if the penalty for insufficient enthusiasm, creativity, rhythm, and resistance to heat stroke, was summary execution.

On the other hand, an observance that requires me to turn up at the local marketplace and partake of a melon-and-ice-cream sundae sounds jolly. Esp. if there's chocolate involved.

Remember, you can only get your free ice across the nation today.

"Remember, you can only get your free ice across the nation today."

Ice cream. That's "ice cream," not
"ice," which is a rather less attractive item to get free.

Here's news from another obscure country beginning with
"U.S. of A"

According to Kevin Drum via someone else via an article quoting Newt Gingrich, he now wants to eliminate the option of using the emergency room for primary care. Drum points out that many people, you know, the poor, use the emergency room for these purposes because the ER is open all the time and they can't get off work.

Ashgabat cometh to us.

Let them celebrate melon day.

Maybe we could have a melanoma holiday.

Under the current healthcare rationalization, that would be cheaper than actually checking the poor in emergency rooms for suspicious-looking moles.

Gary, your European(ized) readers understand "ice" for "ice cream".

John - "On the road to Ashgabat" scans. Word to the wise.

"Gary, your European(ized) readers understand 'ice' for 'ice cream'."

Whaddya call "ice," then?

methinks you might google next:

Turkmensitan / "natural gas" / anti-terrorism / Bush


"melanoma holiday" has a certain rude music to it too, don't you think?

Don't know if it's an urban legend or not, but I've heard that a survey of English learners found that "syphilis" is the loveliest word in the language.

I'd say "melanoma holiday" is too strongly trochaic to be musical - well, perhaps rudely so.

all of written above are true I m a citizen of turkmen. thanks for this work and information. but I think everything will ok several years later. 3 years later there is an election. türkmenbaşy won't be in this election. he want to retire.

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