The pages of Turkmenistan's newspapers have been filled in the past with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's exploits in the saddle, his nimble handling of a speedboat on the Caspian Sea, his driving skills in zippy karts and rally trucks, and lengthy rides by bicycle.
Marking another precedent, Berdymukhamedov last week became the first person to go fishing on the seven-kilometer artificial river at the Avaza tourist resort boondoggle.
The river, which was built a couple of years ago by Turkish companies Polimeks and Ickale, is in truth more a canal than anything. It measures 70 meters wide and five meters deep, and is used for gentle cruising by small- and medium-sized boats.
And now, Berdymukhamedov, who never misses an opportunity to show off his devotion to clean living, is reported by state media to be fond of angling at the site. The presenter of a weekly news summary on May 6 provided more details:
In the second half of the day, the president took a stroll on the banks of the River Avaza, which has become a top attraction at the world-class international resort taking shape on the shores of the Caspian Sea. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was enchanted by the beauty of this extraordinary natural spot, which excels itself for its health-giving properties, and captures the breeze blowing in from the sea and river as well as the air suffused with the fragrance of the Karakum Desert's flora. During his walk, the leader of the nation cast his bait into the River Avaza, and after some time he reeled in a fish.
Television footage showed the president standing up, rod in hand, and then sitting on a stool and reeling in a fish some 30-40 centimeters long. The report then cut away to a bucket appearing to show a handful of fish he had caught earlier.
But in some respects, Berdymukhamedov proves to have a humane streak toward those detained in an uncomfortable space against their will. And so the fish were released.
“By releasing the catch backing into the river, the head of state stressed that with the expansion of a ‘green zone’ in Avaza, issues of the protection of the environment, the enhancement of local flora and fauna, and the development of the fisheries sector should become key priorities for coastal areas,” the state television presenter remarked.
The whole health and happiness drive has continued apace in recent days, and last week saw the unveiling of Berdymukhamedov’s latest book devoted to the topic in three languages – Turkmen, Russian and English. The book is embellished with fine illustrations of the president in his most celebrated sporting poses and appears to encapsulate the current state-manufactured passion for clean lifestyle.
If the environment and people’s well-being benefits in any way, the ceaseless megalomaniacal posing may become a little more tolerable.