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Turkmenistan ends ban on opera and circus
Mon 21 Jan 2008
ASHGABAT (Reuters) - Turkmenistan will end its seven-year
ban on opera and the circus introduced by the Caspian
nation's former eccentric leader, state media reported.
Saparmurat Niyazov, who cultivated an elaborate personality
cult during his 21-year rule, died in late 2006 of a heart
attack. He banned opera, ballet and the circus, saying they
are "alien" to Turkmen culture.
The new leader, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has sought to
promote a softer image for the gas-rich nation bordering
Iran -- and reversed some of Niyazov's most eccentric
policies. Late on Sunday, state television announced his
plans to reopen an opera house, resume circus shows and
build a cinema in the capital Ashgabat.
"Today a new period is starting in our country which we
have called an era of great renaissance," Berdymukhamedov
said in televised remarks, his speech interrupted by applause.
During his long rule, Niyazov took the title of Turkmenbashi
(Head of the Turkmen) and had thousands of portraits and
statues of himself put up throughout the country, including
a statue in gold leaf that rotates to face the sun in
Ashgabat. Isolated from the rest of the world and criticised
in the West for human rights violations, Turkmenistan has
sought to end its isolationist policies under the new
president and attract more foreign investment in its vast
oil and natural gas sector.
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