While busily building up his own personality cult, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is also investing substantial efforts into turning his father into a figure of adulation.
State newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported October 22 that the country’s first monument to the still living Myalikguly Berdymukhamedov has been unveiled in his home village, Yzgant. In an effort at lending legitimacy to the exercise, the besuited bronze bust was approved by the rubber-stamp parliament.
A state television report on the unveiling showed a huge audience including ministers, village elders, local residents and students bursting into lively applause as the awning came off the statue. And as is standard, the foreign diplomatic corps were in attendance to give the event an ambassadorial stamp of approval.
The unveiling was succeeding by traditional dancing and a rendition of a song hailing the Arkadag -- the title of “Protector” now typically bestowed on the president by state media.
Neutral Turkmenistan probably described the mood best: "The unveiling of the monument in Yzgant lent the festivities a spiritual mood that mingled with the triumphant festive music festival to create a sublime symphony of patriotism."
After the ceremony, Berdymukhamedov Jr. himself arrived in a cortege. It is not known if his father attended the jamboree.
Again, Neutral Turkmenistan describes the scene in its trademark style: "Girls in national dress presented bouquets of flowers to the president of Turkmenistan. Representatives of the faith offered up prayers for the good health and longevity of the nation’s leader, and success in all his undertakings in the name of progress and prosperity of the fatherland.”
The Berdymukhamedov crew’s home village, Yzgant, some 50 kilometers west of the capital, Ashgabat, is getting used to this sort of thing.
A middle school there has been named after Arkadag’s grandfather, Berdymukhamed Annaev, and plinth is inscribed with the words, “May there be an eternal succession of happy generations."
According to official state media, Berdymukhamedov’s grandfather worked as a teacher during World War II, or the Great Fatherland War as it is known around the former Soviet Union, and died in the great earthquake of 1948.
After the statue unveiling, Berdymukhamedov lay flowers at the school in honor of his grandfather and then headed off to the newly unveiled bust of his father, where he "paid tribute to the dear image of his father immortalized in bronze," Neutral Turkmenistan reported.
Amid floating balloons and clapping, the president cut a ribbon before the Palace of Culture, which houses, among other things, a display of photos and archival documents relating to Berdymukhamedov’s father and grandfather.
According to the archives, Myalikguly Berdymukhamedov’s career began with a stint in a youth group, presumably the Komsomol. He then taught primary school in a village called Babarab before becoming a platoon commander in a military unit of the Interior Ministry. After reaching the rank of lieutenant in 1982, Berdymukhamedov Sr. then continued his career in various positions in the Education Ministry.
State media describes him as a “tireless, honest-working, active citizen of honor and duty.”
Wikileaked U.S. diplomatic cables give a little more context: “[The president’s] father ... worked as a senior Interior Ministry officer in a prison guard detachment. He retired as a Colonel of Internal Troops. In local public opinion, the father is rumored to be far more intelligent than his son.”
In February, the endlessly servile parliament approved a motion to name an Interior Ministry unit after Myalikguly Berdymukhamedov.
It is all very reminiscent of the late President Saparmurat Niyazov, who also raised monuments and renamed cities, factories, streets, squares and hospitals to honor his parents.