I read a Madison magazine last year, and it featured an article about a small country that I think was a dictatorship. I can remember three things:
[li]It was a “-stan” country[/li][li]The “dictator” had banned beards on men [?][/li][li]The “dictator” influenced a television station into running a game show all about himself, with questions like “Who is the greatest leader”, etc. geared at promoting him/his family[/li][/ul]
The best example of this “shameless promotion” of his family was when he renamed the month of April after his mother. If you ever read the comic strip “Doonesbury”, the character of Trff Bmzklfrpz (the dictator of Berzerkistan) is loosely based on him.
Having been to Turkmenistan, I can assure you it is a very weird place… pictures of the Leader everywhere (though it may well be changing now that he is gone). I think only North Korea is possibly more bizarre.
I was there in early June 1998… and was (according to the chief of the border post) the first American to cross into Iran overland there. After a week in Turkmenistan, arriving in Mashad, Iran was like heaven. The stores had things on the shelves (imagine that!)
Iran had (and still has) good food, good infrastructure and generally happy people… Turkmenistan had none of this… but Turkmenistan does have one of the nicest looking flags of any country.
I was there on and off through '04 '05. Things (from a consumer goods point of view) were better. Plenty of new construction, (including an Olympic swimming pool for the supreme ruler father of the turkmens, horses) and there did not seam to be a shortage of food. We ate good food in many local restaurants. A couple of our guys headed out to a gas field down on the Iranian boarder, reports were, there was bugger all there.