Return from oblivion
By Myakhri Ilyasova
Turkmenistan makes attempts to return the people who were cast off from the art world by Niyazov. However, amongst these were not only cultural figures who tried to retain their independence from the authorities.
There were also those who, by means of their talents, supported Niyazov but, however, fell into disgrace. The behaviour of dictators is unpredictable: one day you are the favourite, the next someone else is.
Azatlyk Radion (Radio Liberty Turkmen Service) recently voiced a request from the town of Mary to engage the stage director Kakadjan Ashirov again in the staging of performances. Many have reaction to this with indignation, in particular, former actors of the Djan Youth Experimental Theatre, theatrical circles and journalists.
According to them, K. Ashirov is one of those who contributed to the creation of a personality cult, i.e. he was an architect of turkmenbashism. They recalled the events of the past years.
It is true that Ashirov was in a team of self-motivated graduates from the Moscow-based theatrical institutes who protested against the theatrical routine and Soviet clichés and managed to establish the Youth Experimental Theatre «Jan» in 1988. However, Ashirov who soon became the head of the new troupe betrayed the actors and the theatre as he used it as a trampoline for his own career. In the 1990s, leading actors and one of the masterminds of the new theatre – a famous theatre artist Berdyguly Amansakhatov - left «Jan». The following theatrical seasons revealed that Ashirov failed. In 1994, he directed a performance of a play authored by the press secretary of Turkmenbashi Kakamurad Ballyev «Peder Tumory» with a simple plot about the mother and the father of President Niyazov. The aim was achieved: the performance was noticed. Ashirov was eager to take his place in the temple of fame. At a meeting of intellegensia with Niyazov in 1995, it was Kakadjan Ashirov who suggested making the President’s birthday (19 February) a national holiday. He suggested this on behalf of the intelligentsia though he was never delegated to do so. Therefore, the Turkmen calendar has acquired a new holiday - «Day of the State Flag» which was celebrated on Niyazov`s birthday. After that, Ashirov was appointed first deputy of the Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Committee on tele- and radio broadcasting.
According to the experts, whilst being in office, Kakadjan Ashirov has done great harm to the culture of the country, something that will be evident for a long time. With his support, untalented and often come-and-go people entered the Institute of Culture. Many of them currently work in the Ministry of Culture.
The habit to decide at his own discretion who, from those people in the field of culture, should be awarded or who should be enrolled in the Institute has damaged Ashirov`s career. Once, while resting abroad, he called the rector of the Institute of Culture and required him to cross out several names from the list of the enrolled students. He read out the names of other young people to be admitted instead. Apparently he forgot that all phone calls in the country were bugged. Upon his return from vacation, Ashirov was dismissed from all his posts.
As fine art experts recall, when taking a leading post in the Ministry of Culture, Ashirov forced all performers to play, sing, and dance just for the sake of one person. Many representatives of the intelligentsia remember Kakadjan Ashirov telling Turkmenbashi that he was ready to be his motley fool since any king should have a motley fool. And to show his commitment, he kissed Niyazov`s hand. Following his example, such kissing has become the norm.
Should professionals such as Kakadjan Ashirov be returned? Perhaps, a motley fool is needed by the new «king» now? ***
The web-site editors office does not fully support the author’s viewpoint. Certainly, people of culture who were cast off during the reign of Niyazov should be returned to active work. Yet, if we start dividing these people into «worthy» and «unworthy», will Turkmen culture really benefit from this? On the other hand, dozens of representatives of cultural intelligentsia have not caved in to the regime of Turkmenbashi and have upheld their civil position. The return from oblivion of this very group of cultural figures will surely be taken by the country’s population and the international community as the beginning of a thaw in Turkmenistan. For further information please see:
The Turkmen Academy of Arts named after…? Turkmen Culture Opposes Platitude
The Master is gone