Monday, June 11, 2007

Dictator club gathering in Russia

For a blog like Dictators of the World, what could be better than a roomful of autocrats getting together to talk shop?

Such was the case this week when post-Soviet autocrats Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and the world's newest dictator, the multisyllabic Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov of Turkmenistan, met in what was described as an "informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States" at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Any such CIS gathering involving Berdimuhammedov would have be "informal", I suppose, as his illustrious predecessor voluntarily reduced Turkmenistan's participation in the CIS to that of an "associate member".

So what was discussed, exactly? Given that the big English language news outfits seemed to have snoozed through this gathering, we have to turn to the government press releases for more information. However, they say only that "trade-economic and humanitarian spheres were called the priority areas of cooperation" - whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. Given that Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are major producers of crude oil and natural gas, it's not unreasonable to presume that the conversation drifted towards what's generically been called "energy co-operation", but which can be more accurately described as "how can we work together to whack the Europeans with higher fuel prices?" Of course, they also might have had a chance to discuss juicier topics that only dictators need to worry about, like "which Swiss banks ask the fewest questions?" and "how the hell do I get Transparency International off my back?"

Whatever they talked about, I think it's safe to presume that the topics of human rights and democratization weren't on the agenda. With any luck, Joshua and/or Nathan at Registan can come up with some of the missing details regarding this week's gathering. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall ...

UPDATE: The photo at top left is of Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, who's starting to bear an eerie resemblance to Saparmurat Niazov. There were, apparently, rumors that Gurbangly is Turkmenbashi's illegitimate son, but even I'm shocked when I check out the photos. Berdimuhammedov is on the left, Niazov on the right:


No comments: