Saturday, January 05, 2008

Turkmenistan: It Ain't So Bad

Nalatia Antelava, BBC's intrepid Central Asia correspondent, recently submitted a piece on nightlife in the Turkmen capital, Ashkabat. This piece was followed by an interview Antelava gave to, which explored further her observations of everyday Turkmenistan.

The few in the West who have heard of Turkmenistan are familiar with its weird dictator (may he rest in peace) and his bizarre pronouncements. He named everything after himself-- a town, a meteorite, even the month of January.

But according to Antelava, the people are not brainwashed, half-starved automatons. They are rather satiated and there is even a legitimate night scene in the larger towns. It's not Cancun or Ibiza, but it's fun nonetheless.

Despite low wages, almost everything in Turkmenistan is cheap. The government has passed some of the revenue from the country's vast natural resources onto its people in the form of subsidized prices. It costs a dollar to fill up a gas tank. $1.60 will pay for a flight between Turkmenbashi and Ashgabat. A loaf of bread costs a few cents.

When you buy a round of vodka for everyone at a happenin' bar, just make sure a portrait of Turkmenbashi is on the label.



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