The Independence Monument of Turkmenistan is one of the largest and most extravagant of its kind in the entire world. Covering an area of more than 80,000 m², the monument sits in the middle of a landscaped park, with numerous water fountains and pools. Considering its extravagance, many visitors forget that it is situated in a city and surrounding region prone to water shortage.
27 comically looking statues of Turkmen heroes surround the centrepiece of the monument and the golden statue of Turkmenistan’s long-running dictator Niyazov, stands proudly in front of what appears to be a dome, with a minaret-like tower rising from its top. The tower is also adorned in gold and features a viewing platform at its top, as well as the oddly-named Museum of Turkmen Values (which is not much else, but a meagre and extremely overpriced ethnographical collection) within the dome below.
But what exactly is so excessively celebrated with the monument remains unclear. It depicts the country’s independence as a huge effort, after a hard struggle to finally break free. However many feel that in reality, Turkmenistan was not at all that eager to gain independence when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Niyazov (who was already in charge prior to the collapse of the USSR) at first strongly opposed a dissolution of the USSR, and promoted a reformed Soviet Union rather than a large number of independent states. Just when it was obvious that the Soviet Union had come to an end, Niyazov turned 180 degrees, and in an attempt to keep control over politics in Turkmenistan, before being washed away by a revolution, hastily declared the independence of the country. Independence was proclaimed only two months before the final curtain fell for the Soviet Union.
The oversized monument seems to proudly memorize a hard-fought independence with Niyazov at the center of the monument and seemingly the Turkmen independence movement, when in fact, he had tried to prevent the country’s independence until he had no other choice.