Move over, Baku. Less than three months after Azerbaijan established itself as home to the world’s tallest flagpole, Dushanbe has broken ground to steal the title with plans to top the record by three meters. By next March, officials promise, an 1800-square-meter flag will fly atop the 165-meter pole.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Tajikistan’s second-annual Flag Day on November 24. State television reported that the flagpole is part of a series of new monuments and renovations to existing sites in preparation for the twentieth anniversary of statehood in September 2011. Rakhmon congratulated his citizens and proposed renaming a region of Dushanbe after the Tajik flag.
Although the government has not announced the cost of the project, estimates based on similar efforts elsewhere place the outlay between $30 and $40 million. By comparison, the struggling state spent $74 million on health care in 2008.
US-based firm Trident Support will erect the prestige project, chosen, most likely, for having already broken pole records in both Baku and, previously, in Turkmenistan’s capital.
Central Asian capitals are known for their colossal and expensive monumental architecture. From the Dubaiesque, hyper-modern monuments in Astana and Ashgabat to Dushanbe’s own hyper-pillared Palace of the Nations, governments in Central Asia spend vast sums on grandiose buildings.
Yet reaction is mixed in impoverished Tajikistan. In one Khatlon village, residents complain they have long had no electricity because the transformer in their township needs a simple, but costly, repair. The price tag: $5,000.
If Rakhmon’s aim is to unify his people and legitimize his power, investing the money in social works and welfare might do more than this pole to placate the increasingly restive population.