Thursday, January 11, 2007

Niyazov and Us

One last time, mass media all around the world has been busy talking about “the bizarre personality cult” he created around himself. Keywords peppered all over the reports are “Ruhnama,” “dictator,” “authoritarian” “absolute” “eccentric” “colorful,” “iron-fisted” “power vacuum,” “void,” “destabilization,” “concerns” “uncertainty,” “turmoil,” “conflict,” “crossroads,” “power struggle,” “energy rich,” “gas supply,” “oil game,” etc. One paper even called Turkmenistan “Absurdistan.” When it comes to Central Asia, a handy package of terms; “ethnic conflict,” “instability,” “volatility,” “uncertainty,” “security,” “emergency,” “urgency,” “crisis” “extremism,” “radicalism,” has been hardly out of favor.
We are continually reminded that Turkmenistan is “important” because of “vast” gas reserves underneath it; because of “geopolitics;” because of its proximity to this or that country.
Western news outlets preferred to organize the subject around the good ol’ “democracy axis” which helps them comprehend their relationship with the rest of the world. If not oil and gas, democracy is a quite functional word to make things understandable to the consumers.
Russian-speaking media, meanwhile, presented an image of the land of “orientals,” an image quite easy to invoke in the minds of Russians since the old Soviet days. Russian “experts” rushed to the microphones to utter the four-letter magic word to explain away why Niyazov died and what is going to happen next. Since “radical Islam,” was irrelevant to the issue at hand, “clan” is generously used to sort things out. As an “oriental leader” could not die from natural causes, the discussion, from its inception, revolved around “who” or which “clan” killed Niyazov.
More important topic in the news reports has been who is going to replace Niyazov. Experts, catering to policy-making circles, found an opportunity to prove their use-value by predicting who is next. Yet, the first day, there were only two obscure names up for grabs; Ovezgeldi Ataev and Kurbankulu Berdimuhammedov. Worse, their favorite search engine returned only a couple of hits on these names in Russian language. In the “land of Turkmenbashi” every other name had to remain in shadows. Fortunately, the second-day Russian-speaking world helped the English-speaking world enrich their vocabulary with few other names; Akmurad Rejebov, Murad Niyazov, Irina Niyazova, Rashid Meredov, and their “clan” ties, on which English-speaking world prefers to make casual “non-binding” remarks, were put in circulation. By the way, the second-day, the English-speaking world borrowed a dubious claim from a Russian site that Berdimuhammedov is an illegitimate son of Niyazov. So, for now, these names together with the almighty keyword “clan” should be enough to explain what is going to happen in Turkmenistan for the next few days.
Aleksei Malashenko, my all-time favorite Russian “expert,” summarizes what we know and how we think about Turkmenistan;
“All key players have rushed to Turkmenistan now, all of them involved in the inevitable tug-of-war. Russia's worst problem is that it lacks the people in Turkmenistan it could rely on. As a matter of fact, the Turkmenbashi weeded out the political terrain so thoroughly that there are no prominent figures there at all nowadays. I do not think that someone, a leader all Turkmen clans will decide to back and follow, will appear. There is no opposition in the country either. If the transition period becomes extended, the Islamic factor may emerge all its ugliness - something like Turkmen Talibs.”
So, we are all “concerned” that Turkmenistan will “disintegrate” as a result of “clan wars” and “Turkmen Talibs” will come to power.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've read several just right stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot attempt you set to make this kind of magnificent informative site.

my web blog - catharines