Thursday, November 01, 2007

When You Wish Upon A Dictator

You may have all noticed by now that most dictators are very, very fond of commissioning ridiculous, self-aggrandizing monuments. from Nicolae Ceauşescu's absurd Palace of the Parliament, the North Korean Kim dynasty's comically disastrous Rygyong Hotel, and Turkmenbashi's insanely creepy Rukhnama monument, dictators generally like to think big and expensive when scattering their legacy across the countryside.

So I was surprised to see how Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev has bucked the trend by insisting on a more modestly sized project in the former capital of Almaty, ethereally called The Wishbook. The monument is a bronze memorial, ostensibly celebrating Kazakhstan's independence from the Soviet Union, and is graced with an imprint of Nazarbayev's own palm. It is said that anyone who puts his or her hand in the imprint will be granted a wish, doubtlessly due to the magical, nay, mystical all-seeing benevolence of Nursultan Nazabayev himself. The original Wishbook was recently stolen by scrap metal thieves, but the government managed not only to replace it in near record time, but have posted police to guard the monument around the clock to make sure thieves don't make off with the wishes of an entire country.

Perhaps it was vanity that prompted Nazarbayev to recreate the magic of The Wishbook, so he commissioned another similar monument for the country's new capital, Astana. Located at the top of the city's tallest building, The Padishah's Egg also features an imprint of Nazarbayev's palm, and will also grant wishes - but with a twist: the monument will play the Kazakh national anthem to confirm that the wish will be granted, and will only do so for "worthy" supplicants. When visiting Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin fondled The Padishah's Egg, the anthem dutifully played, indicating that his wish would soon be forthcoming. When a Kazakh government apparatchik on the losing end of an internal power struggle did the same, the monument remained uncomfortably and unmistakably silent - as if Nazarbayev himself were watching.

Frankly, if I had the chance, I'd wish that Nazarbayev would take a long, one-way camel trip into the middle of the desert, but what wish would you want Nursultan Nazarbayev to grant you, Dictators of the World readers?

UPDATE: Josh at knows what he'd ask Uncle Nazzy for: more giant yurts!


Joshua Foust said...

I'd wish for the even BIGGER Norman Foster-designed climate controlled giant yurt in the middle of Astana!

Michael said...

I'd wish for a successful coup led by famed Kazakh Borat Sagdayev.