A Bombastic Recluse

A 10,000 manat note before Turkmenbashy dyed his hair black. The manat replaced the Soviet ruble in 1993, and this note was printed by the De La Rue company in England. To the left of his visage is the presidential palace which had been theCentral Committee of the Communist Party of Türkmenistan. ©2022 Derek Henry Flood

New York- The 2nd half of the Noiser Podcasts production on the life, obscurantist rule, and death of President Saparmurat Niyazov is out this week. As I stated in my previous post since I didn’t shoot a single photo during my Turkmen travels in 2001 I had to brainstorm how to illustrate this short entry. I turned to my scrapbook where I have currencies from the various regimes I visited during the late 90s and early period of the terror wars.

Neutral Türkmenistan, as it was certified in 1995, was by far the strangest place I visited at the time for how incredibly repressive it was. I’ll never forget checking into the Hotel Türkmenistan and finding out that the internet had been banned in relation to some supposed feud Turkmenbashy was having with Türk Telecom at the time. After a month of covering the war in Afghanistan without a satellite phone, all I pined for upon reaching Ashgabat was to communicate with home. I went over to the Sheraton Grand Türkmen hoping for a different answer to my query. I was politely told that men from the regime had recently come to the hotel’s modest business centre and confiscated the computers they had on had for guests.

It would only get weirder.

Click to listen.
One of the principle elements of his 15 year rule as president was the ubiquity of his bland face. From the moment I crossed from Afghanistan in the Kara Kum desert to when I caught my flight back to Istanbul, his face was simply everywhere. I was in the country precisely a decade into its independence and don’t recall seeing a single bust of Karl Marx or V.I. Lenin. It was as if history had been erased. ©2022 Derek Henry Flood