February 25, 2024

How North Korea and Turkmenistan’s extreme personality cults align and differ

Both countries led by young third-generation authoritarians that siphon off state resources to maintain grip on power

Turkmenistan has been often called the North Korea of Central Asia. With an over-the-top cult of personality, heavy censorship, extreme secrecy and a legacy that extends back to the Soviet Union, the comparisons are abundant. 

As Turkmenistan enters a new stage of dynastic succession this year with the “election” of leader Serdar Berdymukhamedov, it’s worth examining how these two illiberal states compare, what their relationship is, and what it may look like in the coming years under the two relatively young leaders.