Trans Eurasia travel

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Statues & Monuments

Opposite the Hotel Turkmenistan, on Shevchenko Kochesi, stands a small bust of the Ukrainian poet Shevchenko, on a square column. Taking Bitarap Turkmenistan Shayoly northwards from here brings you to the Old Parliament building, with its curved drive and facade dominated by chunky Corinthian columns. Plenty of Soviet imagery remains on show here, including hammers and sickles in the tile-work above the entrance, and five-pointed stars and Soviet medals in the reliefs. The building has been a centre of government administration in both the Soviet and post-independence periods.

A block to the east of here, in a small area of park behind the new Magtymguly Theatre, is an unexpected survival from the Soviet period, a Monument to Lenin. The foundation stone was laid on the day of Lenin's funeral in January 1924, but the statue was not completed until 1927. The three-tiered base is attractively decorated with tiles, using patterns inspired by the motifs of Turkmen carpets. Inscriptions on the monument suggest that Leninism is the way to the liberation of the peoples of the East and record that the monument is a gift to the leader from the workers and peasants of Turkmenistan. A small museum was once housed inside the monument. The bronze statue depicts Lenin addressing the people, his right arm outstretched, gesturing towards the east. He holds his cap in his left hand, and a rolled-up newspaper sticks out of his jacket pocket.

Opposite the Lenin statue is a concrete conference centre, the Mekan Palace, which now houses the headquarters of the World Turkmen Humanitarian Association. The building is an early 1970s construction, which features some striking exterior reliefs by sculptor Ernst Neisvestniy. Best of all is the abstract end wall, in which can be discerned two heads in the midst of an argument, an arm around someone's throat, a hammer, a woman in Turkmen dress and a large pair of lips.

Southeast of here, in parkland, is a Monument to Pushkin, a small bust resting on a large column. A plaque records that, on 6 June 1999, earth from Pushkin's grave was laid at the base of the monument to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Russian poet. A block further south and east, back across Shevchenko Kochesi, is a Monument to Ataturk, standing in the centre of a park whose lamp-posts are decorated with the twin flags of Turkmenistan and Turkey. The park, which stands appropriately opposite the Turkish Embassy, was opened during the 1998 visit to Ashgabat of President Demirel.