Turkmenistan Puts on Good Show for 18th Birthday

Turkmenistan Puts on Good Show for 18th Birthday

Wednesday, 4 November, 2009
The anniversary of Turkmenistan’s emergence from the Soviet Union was marked by a parade featuring everything from horses to tanks.

The October 27 was clearly designed to show off the Central Asian republic’s military might, and supersonic fighters blasted overhead as armoured vehicles moved in convoy past the stand on Ashgabat’s central square where President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov, as commander-in-chief, was watching. His ministers stood some way off.

Also featured were riders demonstrating their prowess on horses of the Turkmen national breed, Ahal Teke, which pranced on gilded horseshoes before their president.

Berdymuhammedov himself appeared in the parade in the form of a giant portrait carried along by children in national dress, singing and dancing as they went.

In a country marked by the personality cult of Berdymuhammedov’s predecessor, the late Saparmurad Niazov, the parade was used to showcase songs devoted to the new man at the top.

The crowds of spectators clearly enjoyed the pageant.

One man at the front of the crown welcomed the giant image of Berdymuhammedov, the leader he said had introduced the concept of the “Era of New Revival”, in which Turkmenistan officially finds itself.

A younger spectator was captivated by other aspects of the show.

“I was impressed most of all by the girl cadets from the Military Institute wearing their white boots,” he said. “There was a woman with a sabre at the front…. Women with sabres, that’s a new one.”

A journalist standing to one side took a more jaundiced view of proceedings, saying, “Nothing special; it’s always been like this. Nothing new.”

(NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service has resumed, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)
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