How about going to the cinema?

The President has given instructions to restore the Turkmen cinema. Yet, this was only referred to cinema as a type of art. However, the authorities have not yet decided where the films will be demonstrated if they do appear.

In Turkmenistan everything is done on behalf of and upon the initiative of the country's leader. Things are destroyed, banned or abolished on behalf of the ruler. Restorations and revivals are also made on his behalf.

The same practices were common under Niyazov's time. Niyazov made decisions on what the country's residents were allowed to do and what not to. In the late 90-s when he had finally got convinced that the Turkmen filmmakers are not capable, in his opinion, of creating masterpieces, cinema, along with ballet and circus, ceased its existence.

Thus, in February 2008 the high-ranking officials ordered to revive the Turkmen opera, cinema and circus. Back then, cinema was definitively the most popular art. Popularity means the cinema goers, who in their turn imply the availability of movie theatres.

"As of today, there is not a single movie theatre which operates on a permanent basis. The Turkmen residents last visited this "cultural oasis" eight years ago, in 2000. At present, the movie theaters in the country have been destroyed, closed down or leased to organizations, which have nothing to do with cinema – to video rooms at best case scenario", says a representative of the department of culture of the Lebap velayat.

In the town of Turkmenabat the historic building of the movie theatre "30th anniversary of the October revolution", built in the tough post-war year of 1947, is gradually collapsing. Even at that time the authorities realized that apart from daily bread, people need entertainment. This cinema house, beloved by both children and adults alike, was frequently visited by several generations of the city's residents. The movie theatre was the cornerstone of the city's cultural life. Now it is home for the video club.

Another movie theatre "Turkmenistan" is also in a dilapidated condition. It was built in the early 70-s of the last century as a sample of new architectural style – made of glass and concrete. Now, the building is being occupied by the disco.

The temporary owners of both buildings do not invest funds in their maintenance and repair.

In the late 90-s, the cinema hall and the House of Culture "Railroader" located in the railway station square was demolished in Turkmenabat, together with the club and the cinema hall run by cotton gin plant located in the central street. The House of Culture "Water transport worker" belonging to the Central Asia river shipping line was transferred to the military unit in 2003, which is now home for the military barracks. The summer cinema hall at the House of Culture "Water transport worker" was totally demolished.

The Houses of Culture, clubs, movie theaters have been shut down in all 13 etraps of the Lebap velayat whereas the cinema equipment was plundered and misappropriated. The job of a movie technician, once very popular, is no longer existent.

This situation is commonplace not only in the Lebap region. The movie theaters in all other county' regions are facing a similar miserable situation.

Needless to say that cinema as well other previously forbidden types of art need to be restored. Yet, a comprehensive approach should be taken to address the problem. It is not sufficient to give assignment to cultural workers to solve this task. Any art thrives until people show interest in it. Yet, the authorities should think where the people will be enjoying art.

Comment to the photo: Theatre is one of the few remaining art forms. While no films are available, children are taken to watch the stage performances, primarily with patriotic content.

Source: TIHR