Turkmenistan marks 25 years post-USSR with pomp

The isolated Central Asian country of Turkmenistan on Thursday (Oct 27) marked 25 years of independence from the Soviet Union with celebrations across the country and a grandiose military parade in the capital Ashgabat.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov surveyed the parade that lasted three hours, saluting as soldiers roared: Glory to independent Turkmenistan!

The strongman has led the gas-rich country of five million people since 2006, taking over after the death of his eccentric predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, who had erected a revolving golden statue of himself and renamed months after members of his family.

In a September speech ahead of the anniversary, Berdymukhamedov said that since independence Turkmenistan transformed from an agricultural country to an industrially developed state, and had spent more than US$144 billion in major construction projects.

Under Berdymukhamedov, Turkmenistan has thrown off some of the trappings of Niyazov's regime, but Thursday's extravaganza suggested the days of the personality cult may not be entirely over.

The 59-year-old president played the central role, greeting the public from an open-topped white Mercedes.

He observed the military parade in the capital's central square from a marble dais engraved with his own words: I rely on my united people.

The president also rode around the square several times on a domestic breed of horse famed for its strength and speed that had been presented to him for the occasion.

Troops from all the branches of the military, including a female battalion, marched in full dress uniform, watched by thousands of members of the public, and swore an oath of loyalty to their motherland, people and president.

After a flag-waving parachutist, volleys of artillery fire and warplanes flying in the shape of the numbers 25, folk dancers rounded off the parade with a rendition of a song penned by Berdymukhamedov: Forward, only forward, my native land � Turkmenistan!

The president is a prolific author who also writes poetry. He has released a new book to mark the anniversary called simply Turkmenistan.

He said the book describes all that was done by our people in the last 25 years of independence � work that in its scale is equal to that of centuries.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan