Thursday, December 21, 2006


Well, the world is certainly a bit less insane today.

There were few rulers on earth worse than Saparmurat Niyazov, dictator of Turkmenistan. He certainly didn't get the publicity of Mugabe, Kim, or Hussein (the right would include Castro but such a comparison is patently absurd), but he was incredibly bad. There is something that I find deeply amusing about cults of personality, particularly because they are such an anachronism in today's world, but as amusing as Niyazov's weirdness was, it was not good for his nation or the world. Most articles have focused on the potential for disorder considering Turkmenistan's role in supplying Europe's energy, but I think this is a bit misplaced. First, even if the military played a part in offing Niyazov, it's not as if this is a nation given to chaos. But in any case, this is an important opportunity to promote more responsible government both in Turkmenistan and throughout Central Asia. I don't know if the US can really do anything, especially given the world's opinion of us, but nothing was going to improve until Niyazov was off the scene. Perhaps the new government will have some kind of accountability to the Turkmen people and perhaps there will be more freedoms.

I do have to quote some of Niyazov's more memorable quotes:

“Let the life of every Turkmen be as beautiful as our melons,”

“I'm personally against seeing my pictures and statues in the streets, ... But it's what the people want.”

“Unfortunately, one can see on television old voiceless singers lip-synching their old songs, ... Don't kill talents by using lip synching... Create our new culture.”

"Anyone who complains about going without sausage or bread for a day is not a Turkmen."

"We shall conduct reforms, but not by copying what you have in America, all that sexual stuff. If I allowed all those sexual shows on TV or the newspapers, the people would stone me."