Domestic stage historians have long awaited this moment to see the end of the Mollanepes Academic Drama Theatre – the first national theatre of the country opened in 1929.
In February 2006, in time for the 65th anniversary of S.Niyazov`s birthday a new building of the Mollanepes State Academic Drama Theatre was commissioned – at least it was planned to be so when the construction project was signed. Also, there was no governmental decree on renaming the main national theatre. Only at the inauguration ceremony of the new theatre building did the people witness the new name that appeared on the pediment of the building – «Main State Drama Theatre named after Saparmurat Turkmenbashi».
According to the actors of this theater troupe, the original project foresaw restoring the monument to Mollanepes, a classic of Turkmen literature, on the square in front of the new theatre building. However, seeking favor with Turkmenbashi, the theater’s director Tachmammed Mammetveliyev suggested naming the theatre after the President.
In order to save the name Mollanepes, Mammetveliyev granted it to the Students` Theatre. The Students` Theatre received a «permanent residence» in the renovated building of the former Mollanepes State Academic Drama Theatre. «One could survive even that but what about the State Academic Drama Theatre, the history of Turkmen theatrical art?» ask its actors with indignation.
The first national theatre dates back to 1929 and later was awarded the title Academic for its achievements. Great Turkmen actors Aman Kulmamedov, Alty Karliyev and Bazar Amanov whose busts, curiously enough, are still placed in the lobby of the renovated building brought fame to the Theatre. Throughout many decades wonderful plays staged in this theatre opened the rich world of national and world culture to its spectators.
As experts suppose, the Students` Theatre will become an experimental group since it has no managers. The director of the Main State Drama Theatre named after Saparmurat Turkmenbashi Tachmammed Mammetveliyev, who is also a producer of all festive shows in the capital of independent Turkmenistan, has become its patron. And the troupe of the Main Theatre, as the actors confess, are now traveling actors, being sent from one city’s improvised stage to another.
A repertoire theatre in Turkmenistan almost no longer exists. Due to this, many hope that Students` Theatre will become a good professional school for a young generation of Turkmen actors which will open up new horizons and new ways to improve their performing skills.
A new director has been appointed to the Turkmen State Puppet Theatre. In line with the President’s order of 5.12.2005 a young teacher at the music conservatory, Nurberdy Khodjayev, was appointed to the post, according to the official press of Turkmenistan. Yet, the decree regarding the dismissal of the former head of the theatre has never been published.
The change in the head of such a small organization as the theatre would have remained unnoticed in view of the continuous leapfrogging of personnel in Turkmenistan if the fate of the former head Djeren Durdyevahad had been officially announced. Durdyeva, characterized by her colleagues as nothing special in the theatrical world had been the object of affection of the «nation’s father» and was in great demand during the 14 years of Turkmenistan’s independence due to her ability to create intrigues and to please the authorities. She was always on TV and no governmental forum could be held without her active participation. However, according to theater-goers the time came and the master of intrigues became herself a victim.
The results of the inspection of the Puppet Theatre which had been organized by the new Minister of Culture Maral Byashimova had been expected since October. M.Byashimova formed an investigation commission on activities carried out by the former Theater’s director and required the main director of the state Russian Drama Theatre Chary Ishankuliyev to head it. Upon completion of the work of the State Commission on 14 October its head – the national actor of Turkmenistan – Ch.Ishankuliyev died under very strange circumstances. According to the official version it was suicide but questions raised during the investigation so far remain unanswered. The TI reported about these events in newsletter №150 of 19.10.05 and №156 of 31.10.05.
As the TI has found out, upon reading the conclusions drawn by the Commission, President S.Niyazov required Djeren Durdyeva to return 280 million dollars to the state treasury. Durdyeva suffered a heart attack. Her former colleagues were not surprised: it seems that it was so difficult to steal that all money stolen appeared to be earned by honest work. As a Theater’s director she could have easily met the requirement given by the President but since the access to the income received in dollars was lost it is very painful to share her hard earned money with the state.
The public is aware that the Theatre was her property. The troupe of the Theatre was represented by her relatives as half of the city of Tejen had moved to Ashgabat due to their influential fellow-villager. As the Commission reported, the «dead souls» who were registered as actors also brought substantial income to Durdyeva`s family budget. Another part of the income was formed through the sale of tickets. While only one performance was planned for a day, Djeren required to put on 3 shows instead. Consequently, the income from one show went to the state and the money received from the other two – to the Theater’s director. The Puppet Theatre has always had a full house; there were always people at the entrance looking for spare tickets. All the other theatres in the country envied such popularity.
The disclosure of the D.Durdyeva case is nothing surprising. This example is far from being unique. However, the scales of squandering at the state level is really striking. If a director of a small theatre is required to return 280 million, what can be the scale of corruption in the Ministries and Committees, i.e. in the close circles surrounding the President?
Web Resource: Khronika Türkmenistana