Friday, March 14, 2008

Turkmenistan Lifts Opera & Circus Ban

Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan, says he will now permit operas and circuses to be performed, reversing a decision by his predecessor to ban those forms of expression. The president says his country is becoming increasingly developed and should, therefore, welcome such artistic performances.

"Our flourishing nation should not stand separate from the world," Berdymukhamedov told a group of leading intellectuals. "It absolutely should have a worthy operatic theatre and a worthy state circus."

The ban was imposed in 2001 by then-president Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov criticized opera and ballet as being foreign to Turkmen culture, and allowed funding for state-sponsored circuses to dry up. Niyazov, who ruled for 20 years and died in 2006, crushed dissent and instituted an immense personality cult.

Berdymukhamedov has since eased some of Niyazov's draconian policies. He has welcomed outside investment and allowed the exchange of foreign currencies. In his televised comments, Berdymukhamedov estimated the first opera would be performed in six or seven months but he did not mention whether ballet would also be part of the new policy.

No comments: