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Forget The Economy, Let's Talk Cookbooks!

With his country beset with social problems, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has proposed the publication of a recipe book featuring the best of Turkmen cuisine. To tie in with the recipe book idea, he also proposed a national cooking contest. Both initiatives would "revive and develop [our] ancestors' traditions, including the art of cooking different meals from the gifts of the Turkmen land."

Of course, late Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, aka Turkmenbashi -- or Father of All Turkmen -- was well-known for his eccentricities, which included banning gold-capped teeth, makeup, beards, mustaches, circus, and ballet, as well as renaming not only the cities, streets, and hospitals after himself and immediate relatives, but also the months and days.

Berdymukhammedov may be adroit at playing the energy game and negotiating with the West, Russia, China, and all the other countries scrambling for Turkmen gas, but when it comes to domestic politics, he doesn't seem to be very different from his notorious predecessor. He has criticized his cabinet for garbage in the street. He has proposed banning "nasvay," the chewing tobacco widely used in Central Asia.

Like Niyazov he seems to have a preoccupation with the mundane, the fanciful, at the expense of the important, and needed. He might want to start with rampant corruption or the decimated health-care system, instead of bothering with cookbooks.

-- Gulnoza Saidazimova

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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