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Friday, December 26, 2008

spring break options

Welcome to Turkmenistan, the North Korea of Central Asia. Other than being desperately poor and blessed with huge natural gas fields, it is known for taking state repression to comically absurd proportions just like North Korea, the North Korea of Asia.

Until 2006 it was run by Suparmarat Niyazov, the Rod Blagojevich of Turkmenistan, with the hair and everything. He was famous for building gold statues of himself and himself as a baby, and systematically gutting the health and education systems of the country. Primary schools taught nothing but the Ruhnama, the idiotic book he wrote, so people could grow up to be idiots, just like their hero, him, because they had to. This would be like Barack Obama ordering school children to read nothing but The Audacity of Hope, but not nearly as funny. Hospitals for a time were closed based on the reasoning that Turkmens don't get ill. God finally called his bluff on that and killed him.

The political system was so hardwired to his personality cult it was unclear who would take over, whether they would make attempts to open to the outside world, or just generally be less insane. Two years on, people are starting to get an idea, and its not all good. The new president, former health minister and dentist Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, turns out to like the whole dictator thing, and continues to punish political prisoners by making them brush three times a day and remember his name. He seems to be settling in nicely just as the price of his primary export collapses, though optimists point out schools have started teaching letters and numbers again.


[above]: som
eone didn't floss

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