Walking around the capital of Ashgabat, with its security points and grand architecture, I can understand why Turkmenistan is often called “The North Korea of Central Asia”
And having visited North Korea, I can confirm there’s a ton of similarities.
Firstly, in the capital of Ashgabat, in the city center, police and soldiers guard street corners (often telling me to put my camera away. Which, is also typical of the DPRK).
Secondly, there’s the large statues of historic Turkmen heroes, but also of the leader.
Saparmurat Niyazov, also known as Turkmenbashi, was the first leader of independent Turkmenistan (after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991).
He rebuilt Ashgabat – with profits from Turkmenistan’s vast gas reserves – that saw many historic sites, ancient trees and traditional canals replaced by highways, monuments, mosques, government offices and palaces of glistening white marble.
But following his death in 2006, his successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, began further rebuilding in Ashgabat, attempting to supercede the memories of his predecessor.
Ashgabat got a facelift of white marble modernizm
Like Pyongyang in North Korea, the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat is a fascinating showpiece city (especially when the white marble is surrounded by winter snow and overcast skies).
Glorious, often bizarre monuments vie for my attention.
Opulent, modern-Islamic architecture of white marble, domes and gold motifs gleam across Ashgabat.
In 2013, the city was included in the Guinness Book of Records as possessing the world’s highest concentration of white marble buildings.