May 19, 2012 - Holiday of Poetry in Turkmenistan

You have to love a holiday that honors a national leader who wrote poetry rather than fought battles!

Magtymguly Pyragy lived in the 1700s. Much of his life and even his poetry is lost to us because there was violence and theft within his country (Turkmenistan) and war and take-over from without, such as the Russian takeover in the 1900s. We think that he had a very tough life: he was forced to marry a woman he didn't love, rather than the one he did; he was taken prisoner in Iran; his brothers disappeared; and worst of all, his children died early.

And so his poetry reflects struggle. It is very personal, but it's also universal, dealing with the suffering of the common people caused by selfish actions of those in power.

Explore Turkmenistan

Most of us don't know much about all the “-stan” nations, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but these Asian nations were all part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for almost a century, and they all have populations of people who worship Islam and speak various Turkic languages.

Turkmenistan cannot be an incredibly easy place to live. It is covered mostly by black-sand deserts, and its major products, natural gas and cotton, aren't enough to solve the unemployment crisis. (In 2004, the unemployment rate was about 60%!!) Yet there are beauties there, and glorious architecture. This tourism video says that Turkmenistan is “the land of white buildings,” and this other video shows beaches, mountains, rivers, and poppy fields as well as deserts.  

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