Ushering in the “Era of Happiness”?*
By Sung In Marshall
A 12-meter-tall, gold-plated, rotating statue of former Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov. A neutrality arch. A theme park—Turkmenbashi’s World of Fairytales—named after the “Father of All Turkmens.” A 400-page book of history, myth and philosophy meant to bolster a spirit of national consciousness among ethnic Turkmen, called the Ruhnama (The Book of the Soul). Giant posters of Niyazov in every public space across the country. Renaming the month of January Turkmenbashi and April after his mother. Turkmenistan certainly has its fair share of bizarre, eccentric manifestations of the cult of personality that surrounded its former leader. But underneath this fantastically absurd self-obsession, lies decades of repression. Under its current leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, things are not much different in this Central Asian country.
* Turkmenistan has declared that it has entered a new "era of supreme happiness of the stable state" in the wake of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's landslide reelection victory. His first term was dubbed the “great era of rebirth”.