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Cultural life cautiously resumes in Turkmenistan

And the president, a dentist who rose to the top of his profession and then the political elite, has not been afraid of contributing to Turkmenistan's cultural heritage himself.

With his own pen, he has written no less than six best-selling books — on horses, carpets, medicine and a memoir about his granddad.

As if that was not enough for a busy head of state, he has played the accordion, guitar and synthesizer on national television, singing songs that he wrote himself.

The guitar and the accordion were promptly put into the national museum of Turkmenistan as being parts of “national heritage of huge cultural value.”

'Opposition sites are all blocked'

“Of course ungenerous types accuse him of musical plagiarism but who in Turkmenistan knows about this,” a Western diplomat commented with a degree of sarcasm.

“The opposition websites are all blocked in Turkmenistan and do not spoil the picture of pan-national admiration of the president's talents,” the diplomat added.

Turkmen poets have also published front-page tributes to the president and his beloved stable of horses in government mouthpiece newspapers.

A 2-meter model of what one day will be the first public monument to Berdymukhamedov is already on display in the Ashgabat sculpture museum. Unsurprisingly, the white marble sculpture shows him on a horse.

“This stunning image came to me unexpectedly in my creative imagination, put inspiration into the soul and brought unprecedented force to its creation,” said the sculptor Saragt Babayev.

Retired university lecturer Serdar Aga, 65, thoughtfully gave his conclusions on the process of reform in Turkmenistan. “We have a saying, a long road starts from a small path.

“If this leads to genuine reforms or just promises to carry them out, time will tell,” he said.

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This July 3, 2008 photo shows the Turkmen Neutrality Arch standing in the center of Ashgabat. At the top of the arch is a golden statue of late dictator Sapamurat Niyazov. With a production of Shakespeare's “Othello” and even an opera, cultural life in Turkmenistan is slowly coming back after grinding to a halt under the rule of eccentric despot Saparmurat Niyazov.

(AFP)

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