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In Turkmenistan, Dancing The (Days And) Nights Away

Kids rehearse for Independence Day celebrations in the eastern city of Turkmenabad.
Kids rehearse for Independence Day celebrations in the eastern city of Turkmenabad.
It's party time again in Turkmenistan.

The gas-rich desert nation is set to celebrate its independence on October 27 with a mass dance and military parade in the capital, Ashgabat.

But not just any dancing or marching will do.

RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondents say students and state employees in major cities all around the country have been commandeered for compulsory dance and parade training since mid-September.

School and universities are regularly dismissing classes from midday to 3 p.m. so students can train in nearby stadiums. Once they're done for the day, the stadiums are swiftly filled with office workers who learn mass dance routines into the evening.

Training sessions take place under the watchful eyes of government-appointed instructors.

PHOTO GALLERY: One step at a time

Parade instructors told our correspondent that after initial preparations in provincial towns, selected participants will be taken to Ashgabat on October 10 for two more weeks of training.

Mass gatherings and concerts are a common sight in Turkmenistan, as are mass walks to promote public health and well-being.

The preparations are often reminiscent of North Korea.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov announced the country had entered a new "era of supreme happiness of the stable state" after his February reelection.

Earlier this year, the country celebrated the "Week of Health and Happiness," when state employees were ordered to engage in more physical exercise to improve their health.

The week was capped off with a traditional "Walk of Health," when hundreds of people marched up an eight-kilometer concrete staircase built into hills outside the capital.

As for Independence Day preparations, one instructor said that "everything down to the last details" had been carefully planned. The dancers will perform in front of the president, who leaves little to chance.

Berdymukhamedov once famously demanded that all the preparations for Turkmen Independence Day take place "at the highest organizational level" and measures should be taken to ensure strict public order "so that nothing could cloud the atmosphere of celebration and elated moon of the population of Turkmenistan."

-- Farangis Najibullah and Umyt Jumayew

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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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