wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ASHGABAT1164
2007-10-29 08:29:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

TURKMENISTAN'S 16TH INDEPENDENCE DAY: THE PAGE

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  ECON  EPET  SOCI  EU  RS  TX 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO1681
PP RUEHAG RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHAH #1164/01 3020829
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 290829Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9609
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2914
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0734
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0610
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 1187
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1337
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 1319
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 1846
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0611
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASHGABAT 001164 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL, EEB
PLEASE PASS TO USTDA DAN STEIN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON EPET SOCI EU RS TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN'S 16TH INDEPENDENCE DAY: THE PAGE
HAS TURNED


Classified By: CHARGE RICHARD E. HOAGLAND FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Rather than simply a family picnic in the
park to watch fireworks, Independence Day in Turkmenistan was
really Independence Week (and more) -- an elaborate,
undeniably expensive, and highly choreographed series of
events calculated to extol Turkmenistani contemporary
sovereignty and cultural heritage. Notably absent from the
October 27 official events was any reference to former
President Niyazov and his "Ruhnama." But neither was there
an excessive emphasis on current President Berdimuhamedov.
Russian oil and gas delegations muttered they had been called
to Ashgabat simply for photo ops. EU ambassadors, who
declined to attend several of the events -- "Been there, done
that," one commented -- said they hoped to make
Berdimuhamedov's November 5-7 visit to Brussels a "wake-up
call" for him, a strategy we judge might be
counter-productive. END SUMMARY.

BELOVED SOVIET-ERA TURKMEN MOVIES REHABILITATED



2. (SBU) The October 27 Independence Day in Turkmenistan was
really Independence Week, beginning with the presidential
ribbon-cutting for the new high-rise Ministry of Culture and
Broadcasting just down the street from the Presidential
Palace complex in the center of Ashgabat. The evening
ceremony on October 17 was an over-the-top extravaganza of
the magenta-lit 20-story building, a laser light show,
fireworks erupting out of the building, and -- probably most
important -- large screens projecting beloved Soviet-era
Turkmen movies that former President Niyazov had banned
because they were Russian-made. When they first came on the
screens, the surprised crowd cheered and some of the older
folks wept. President Berdimuhamedov's brief speech exhorted
Turkmenistanis to remember, celebrate, and advance "true
Turkmen culture -- take the best from the past and add the
best from the modern world."



3. (U) Subsequent events throughout the week saw many
ribbon-cuttings, including for a huge new residential complex
on the southern edge of Ashgabat, and a new cotton spinning
factory just to the west of Ashgabat, in Abadan City a few
kilometers past Gypjak Mosque and Niyazov's mausoleum.
During the entire week, there were no ceremonies at the
mosque or mausoleum.

EXTOLING THE NATION, NOT THE MAN



4. (SBU) The main festivities began on Independence Eve at
the 60,000-seat "Olympic Stadium" with a "people's concert,"
which was really a highly choreographed precision show of
thousands of students in color-coordinated outfits forming on
the field the various symbols of independent Turkmenistan,
including the flag, the great seal, and other designs,
concluding with major fireworks shooting off the canopy root

of the open-air stadium. German Ambassador Hans Mondorf
commented that the students had rehearsed for only a month,
instead of six months as was done under Niyazov. "But it
still looked like North Korea," he sniffed.



5. (SBU) October 27 events began at dawn with a
wreath-laying at the Monument to Independence, locally known
among the Turkmenistanis as the Toilet Plunger because of its
design. President Berdimuhamedov arrived precisely at 8:00
am. He laid his wreath, followed first by key

ASHGABAT 00001164 002 OF 003


representatives of society, including the Great Patriotic War
(WWII) veterans and a representative of the Russian Orthodox
Patriarchate. The top echelons of the government
participated, as well as the entire senior military
leadership, the diplomatic corps, and at least 5,000 citizens
waiting to lay their huge bouquets. (COMMENT: We'd love to
know who had the monopoly for the multiple planeloads of cut
flowers imported from Holland for use through the week. END
COMMENT.)

NO NIYAZOV, NO RUHNAMA



6. (SBU) The 10:00 am parade on Presidential Palace Square
was radically different from previous years, mercifully
shorted from five to two hours -- one hour for military troop
and equipment formations, a brief interlude of traditional
horsemen (followed by an orange-vested pooper-scooper
brigade), and a final hour of floats and marchers emphasizing
current government policies: health, education, agriculture,
oil and gas, and telecoms. The oil and gas float featured an
electronic map with blinking routes for future export
pipelines -- east to China, south through Afghanistan to
Pakistan and India, and west across the Caspian Sea through
the Caucasus states to Turkey and onward to Western Europe.
Notably absent were any of the existing northward pipelines,
including the planned enhancement of the Caspian littoral
pipeline.



7. (SBU) Probably most important, there was not one mention
or image in the parade of either former President Niyazov or
his "Ruhnama." It was as if they had never existed.



8. (SBU) The most interesting act at the afternoon state
concert in the 3,000-seat Ruhiyet Palace, which no Western
ambassador attended (except the Charge), was entitled, "My
Pride is Independence." Elaborately choreographed, it began
with traditionally dressed and bearded khans extolling
pre-Russian 19th-century life, followed by an earnest early
20th-century Turkmen intellectual who had bought into the
Russian policy to civilize and modernize the benighted
Turkmen only to be betrayed by the Russian Revolutionary
Communist Commissars barking out the new laws banning Turkmen
customs, forbidding the practice of Islam, and shutting all
mosques.

RUSSIAN OIL AND GAS DELEGATIONS IRKED BY "PHOTO OPS"



9. (C) Ashgabat was over-run with invited delegations. The
chief-guest foreign delegation was from Ukraine (NOTE: A
color-revolution country. END NOTE), led by the Ukrainian
Foreign Minister. Four delegations President Berdimuhamedov
met with on October 26, Independence Eve, raised some
eyebrows -- Gazprom, Itera, the Russian Union of Oil and Gas
Industry, and TNK-BP. AmCit President and CEO of Joint Stock
Company TNK-BP Management, Robert Dudley, told Charge it
seemed to be a bit of a charade. All had arrived from Moscow
for "command performances" with Berdimuhamedov, who stacked
them up in his ante-rooms "like cord wood," Dudley said, for
what were little more than photo ops.



10. (SBU) Among the 23 official delegations tracked by
Foreign Ministry Protocol were a large number of doctors from
Germany, the Ashgabat-Albuquerque Sister City delegation, and
the "Friends of Turkmenistan," an evangelical group from San
Diego that reportedly has long been in the good graces of

ASHGABAT 00001164 003 OF 003


Ashgabat.

THE POLICE STATE IS GONE, THE NANNY PATROL RELAXES



11. (U) On Independence Day itself, Berdimuhamedov attended
only the wreath-laying ceremony and the parade. After the
parade, he strolled with minimal security from the reviewing
stand through the public parks toward the Earthquake Monument
where one of his Mercedes Maybachs was waiting for him,
although he didn't stop to press the flesh and work the
crowds.



12. (SBU) State protocol was surprisingly relaxed with the
diplomatic corps, possibly because they were over-taxed with
visiting delegations. Instead of providing an anxiously
hovering nanny patrol, they simply told diplomats, when they
were even present, "You know what to do. Go ahead."

EUROS WANT TO "LAY DOWN A MARKER" FOR RAPID CHANGE



13. (C) At the surprisingly informal -- and relatively brief
-- evening reception for the government, diplomatic corps,
and business and national delegations at an old Soviet-era
restaurant-nightclub (not one of the new marble palaces), the
EU ambassadors clumped together. German Ambassador Mondorf
opined that Berdimuhamedov's November 5-7 visit to Brussels
will be "difficult," because the EU ambassadors in Ashgabat
have sent a unanimous recommendation to Brussels that
Berdimuhamedov's EU interlocutors press hard that he reform
the economy, modernize the visa regime, release all remaining
political prisoners, establish independent media, and fully
compensate the Turkmen-German investors for their
expropriated chicken farm.



14. (C) COMMENT: Although the day was long and sometimes
tedious for a Western observer, we were struck by the lack of
obvious ideological content in the events -- especially by
the total lack of any reference to Niyazov and "Ruhnama."
The only steady emphasis was on Turkmen cultural heritage.
We would judge that the EU Ambassadors' desire to "lay down
markers" for Berdimuhamedov in Brussels might be
counter-productive. Better to observe closely what is
changing, encourage the positive changes, nudge where
appropriate, and have the patience to move for the most part
at Turkmenistan's speed, as long as it is generally in the
right direction. Anything else would be interpreted here as
arrogance. END COMMENT.
HOAGLAND