Friday, February 29, 2008

Cult Change

RFE-RL reports on the propaganda situation inside Turkmenistan:
"A source close to the Turkmen government told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that all government and public institutions have been instructed to remove Niyazov's portraits as well as boards containing excerpts from Niyazov's speeches and his book 'Rukhnama,' which had become a force-fed 'spiritual guide to the Turkmen nation.'

"According to the instruction -- which is said to have come directly from Berdymukhammedov -- no portraits should be hung on buildings. Portraits of Berdymukhammedov could replace those of Niyazov but only inside government offices, a source told RFE/RL...

"Meanwhile, observers have voiced concern over a possible cult of personality being established by Berdymukhammedov himself.

"In recent months, numerous reports from Turkmenistan have said that portraits of Berdymukhammedov are replacing those of Niyazov in many places around the capital and elsewhere.

"A correspondent for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service in Lebap Province also reported on such a case. 'One school director told me that at the beginning of this school year, he was told to take down a portrait of Niyazov and put a huge picture of Berdymukhammedov in its place,' the correspondent says. '[He said] the order came from the Education Ministry's district department.'

"Western media have speculated that Berdymukhammedov has appeared to take steps toward opening up the country. Yet state television reporters now refer to Berdymukhammedov as the 'great leader' and newspaper articles extol his virtues."

I still don't understand how "not as bad as Niyazov" seems in some people's minds to equate with "democratic reformer." You can have a country open to the outside world, and still have a personality cult surrounding the dictator.



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