Don’t look now, but Turkmenistan’s leading dentist, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, is doing his best Leonid Brezhnev impersonation.
Berdymukhamedov, who abandoned a promising career in dentistry to become the potentate of Ashgabat, basically awarded himself his country’s highest honor – the Hero of Turkmenistan medal – during a glitzy, outsized event on October 25. The timing of the award coincides with celebrations marking Turkmenistan’s 20th anniversary of independence, scheduled to be held on October 27.
Graybeards and Kremlinologists may recall that Brezhnev, who presided in the Kremlin from 1964-82, was the first Soviet-style leader to develop a taste for proletarian bling – awarding himself the Hero of the Soviet Union medal four times. Not bad for a guy who bequeathed the Stagnation Era to history.
Berdymukhadov’s predecessor in Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, took the quest for jewelry to new heights, hoarding a half-dozen Hero of Turkmenistan medals.
So it’s clear that Berdymukhamedov has a long way to go before his narcissistic hero-worship impulse enters genuine nutty despot territory.
But at 54 years old, Berdymukhamedov is still comparatively young. Give him time.