Tuesday, September 20, 2011

tuesdays in turkmenistan: the golden statue

I found it! When I arrived back in Turkmenistan two weeks ago, I had a couple nights to spend in Ashgabat before the next flight to Balkanabat. On one evening, I was out with a colleague being shown the city and we came across the golden statue of former President Saparmurat Niyazov. More accurately, we came across a golden statue of the former president as there seems to be more than one of these made. For the record, he's the former president because he passed away naturally, not because of any enhanced electoral techniques.

The statue was outside a government building (of course) and might be the same one that used to sit atop the Neutrality Arch. The Arch has been dismantled and the statue might be the same as the one seen atop the Arch in the Wikipedia photo, but it's hard to tell since the photo is so small. Either way, there seems to have been more than one made anyway so that's not really the point. Unfortunately, the presence of security made taking a picture seem like a good way to get in trouble. There's always a great deal of uncertainty about what one can and cannot do and that is not just an expat concern. (Excellent, now I have a topic for next week!) Regardless, a statue is there for passersby to see. It looked like it could be gold-plated as it is alleged to be, though the coloring looked off in the city lights of the night.

At first, the idea of such a statue seemed a bit self-aggrandizing. However, during my recent visit to D.C., I was reminded that there are monuments to former presidents all over the place in the United States. Some, like the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial hold prominent positions in the nation's capital. And of course, then there is Mount Rushmore, hardly a monument to subtlety. What is different is that none of those U.S. monuments were erected when those former Presidents were still alive, let alone when they were in office. In fact, even naming something (typically naval vessels) after a president who is still alive is not very common and a relatively recent trend as it has been done for Carter, Reagan, and Bush (#41). However, a naval vessel is hardly a prominent public monument. Imagine the public consternation (and political finger-wagging) that would occur if a sitting President of the United States erected a monument to himself or herself while still in office.

Back to my first impression. Statues erected in one's own honor are self-aggrandizing and that was probably the point.

1 comment:

Buickguy said...

Wikipedia is pleading that someone update the Neutrality Arch entry. You could be that someone. Under a pseudonym would be a good idea.