Thursday, December 21, 2006


A few hours ago, The New York Times reported that Saparmurat Niyazov, otherwise known as "Turkmenbashi," has suddenly died. What this means for the former Soviet state with the bizarre leader, who had barred beards, false teeth, and calling the month of January by anything other than his own name is not entirely clear right now. He may be a figure unfamiliar to most Americans, but to professional political cult-of-personality watchers, the "president" of this nation rich in natural gas has been chronicled over the years in articles like "When a Kleptocratic, Megalomaniacal Dictator Goes Bad."

His passing will be marked here on Virtualpolitik, because his tendency toward state-sanctioned psychosis indirectly resulted in one of the most crazy official government web pages in the world, if not the all-time global winner. See "Make a New Plan Stan" on this blog for more.

Here is a recent item from the site:

The first thing that strikes when visiting the Ice Palace in Ashgabat is an amazing combination of monumentalism, tangible and already customary in the variety of architectural forms of modern times and a feeling of the unreality of the present… The ice fantasy in the heart of the desert appearing in all its magnificence contrary to the tiresome logic and scepsis opened a new page in the history of the Turkmen sports with a graceful stroke of the skates on the ice canvas . . .

My favorite claim on their website: the fact that the country's vast improvement in quality of life can be seen by "even the blind."



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