Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The cult of the bling daddy

It wasn't supposed to be this way, was it?

Since the death of Saparmurat Niazov, Turkmenistan's new president Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov seemed poised first to cling to the status quo established by Turkmenbashi, and then, to erase it. Berdimuhammedov was quick to publicly criticize the need for a personality cult, and quickly moved to purge revanchist elements within his ruling party. L'État c'est moi was out, après moi le déluge was in. Could the new guy be an actual reformer?

The illustrious Berdimuhammedov appeared to change direction last month during his 50th birthday. After initially promising to downplay the event, he reversed course and turned it into a public celebration. He also decided celebrate the occasion, by awarding himself Turkmenistan's highest national honor, complete with serious bling.

Apparently, he must have enjoyed his first public flirtation with self-aggrandizement, because signs now point to the creation of a new personality cult centered around Berdimuhammedov. The personality cult of his predecessor, one of the world's most pervasive, will be a hard act to follow, and it seems that Berdimuhammedov's image and public praise isn't nearly as lavish as Turkmenbashi's, Yet still, for the man who appeared poised to completely do away with the wild Stalinist excesses of his predecessor, the emergence of any personality cult has people worrying about a return to the bad-old-days under Niazov.

Berdimuhammedov's first trip into public self-glorification appeared during his 50th birthday. Could be suffering a mid-life crisis? Does he need self-validation? A cookie? A hug? Or are the persistent rumors that Berdimuhammedov is Niazov's illegitimate son actually true, and that a personality cult is simply a way of honoring the daddy he never knew that well? Construct your own Freudian postulate here, people, but I'll definitely be keeping a close on eye on Berdimuhammedov to see if his casual flirtation with a personality cult blossoms into a torrid love affair with Niazov-style self-deification.


Michael said...

Any thoughts on the circumstances of Turkmenbashi's death? A Russian colleague of mine suspects KGB (or whatever they're called these days) involvement. I thought Niyazov's health had been deteriorating for some time. Curious to hear if you have heard any whispers.


Michael said...

Agreed. Totally.