The Palace of Nowruz in Central Dushanbe is a mammoth edifice with 12 opulent reception halls. Some are decorated with intricate woodcarvings, others made entirely of expensive marble and semi-precious stones, all adorned with traditional paintings and mosaics. For five years some 4,000 artists worked on decorating the palace and the project is said to have cost $60mn.
The palace is one of the recent additions to President Emomali Rahmon’s portfolio of extravagant projects, which include Central Asia’s tallest flagpole and largest library. The president’s latest undertaking is the construction of the region’s largest theatre, which began last spring and is projected to cost $100mn. Critics see them as vanity projects and it is indeed hard to justify the millions of dollars spent on objects that have limited utility and offer even less return on investment. But they appear to serve other functions: that of instilling a sense of national pride by reminding Tajiks of their rich cultural heritage; and of inserting President Rahmon, who features prominently in murals and mosaics, into the national consciousness as one of the country’s great heroes.
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