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The president of Turkmenistan officially inaugurated a vast, multibillion-dollar development hailed as the country’s first “smart city” and named after the president’s father, who established a pervasive cult of personality when he was the longtime ruler.
The city designed for 70,000 is named Arkadag (Protector), a title used by former president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who led the country for 15 years before being succeeded last year by his son Serdar.
The opening ceremony, led by Serdar Berdymukhamedov, featured a theatrical procession of local workers singing patriotic songs in honor of the city’s namesake. The city includes a monument of his father’s favorite horse, which established the Guinness world record for running 10 meters on its hind legs.
Located about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) south of the capital Ashgabat, the “smart city” is being presented as a prototype for other Turkmen cities, featuring electric buses and automobiles, solar power and “smart” houses that residents can control via their smartphones. The first phase of Arkadag cost an estimated $3.3 billion.
Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan has been led by authoritarian regimes that allow no significant opposition and has sharply limited access from abroad. Both the elder Berdymukhamedov and his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov developed cults of personality that included elaborate tributes and monuments.
The isolated country has also struggled to diversify its economy, which is overwhelmingly dependent on its vast natural gas reserves.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.