Saturday, August 12, 2006

it's good to be the turkmenbashi

Whackjob Turkmenistan President Saparmurad Niyazov is an interesting character, to put it mildly. He's been in charge since before the Soviet Union fell apart and has grown increasingly weird. He styles himself as Turkmenbashi, "father of the Turkmens," has huge monuments all over the country praising his glory and wisdom, his photo is hung in every house, has massive palaces, and has renamed towns after him and members of his family. And he has nifty golden statue of him in the capital, Ashgabat, that rotates to face the sun. I guess even Niyazov couldn't arrange to have the SUN change its movements to always face the statue.

Plus he's cracked down on the opposition, banned opera, burned books, outlawed video games -- you know, the usual petty communist-authoritarian- nationalist-lunatic array of tyranny that helped Niyazov attain a coveted spot in Parade's annual list of the worst 10 dictators for 2006.

Now Niyazov has decreed that a 130-foot tall pyramid should be built in the capital to celebrate independence from the Soviet Union.

This, plus a good Starbucks, should make Ashgabat into a true tourist hotspot second only to, oh I dunno, Beirut.