Monday, January 17

Turkmenistan’s president wants to close ‘gate to hell’

The large, burning crater in Turkmenistan, often referred to as the “Gate to Hell”, must be closed, President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov has decided.

The burning crater in the desert in Turkmenistan originated in 1971 and has for many decades been one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. Now the president wants to put out the flames in the crater.

Berdymukhamedov will extinguish the flames for health and environmental reasons, as well as as part of its efforts to export more gas.

“We are losing precious natural resources we can get significant income from, and rather use them to improve the welfare of our people,” he told a state TV channel.

The authorities are instructed to “find a solution to put out the fire”.

Created by a geologist accident

The crater is located about 260 kilometers north of Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat, near the city of Dereveze in the Karakum desert. It has a diameter of 60 meters and is 20 meters deep.

The crater was formed as a result of an accident caused by Soviet geologists in 1971. While drilling for oil, the crews hit a natural gas landfill. Thus, the ground around them collapsed, creating the crater.

Large amounts of methane gas and other toxic gases began to leak out. To prevent further spills, it was allegedly decided to ignite.

The crater is often referred to as the “Gate to Hell”.

Since then, the gas has continued to burn continuously for over 50 years, and the phenomenon is among Turkmenistan’s most important tourist attractions.

Local Turkmen geologists believe, however, that the crater was formed in the 60s, and that there were flames there only in the 80s.

Attempts have been made to extinguish the flames many times, and in 2010 Berdymukhamedov also ordered experts to find a way to put out the fire.

Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov has been president of Turkmenistan since 2006. He is known for his love of horses, and often performs in public as a great leader of a great country should do: On horseback.

Rally stunt at the crater

But the eccentric dictator has not only been skeptical of the tourist attraction.

In 2019, a video of President Berdymukhamedov appeared on state television, in which the president drove around the crater with a rally car.

The reason was allegedly that the president had been missing for several weeks, and that there were rumors that he was dead. With the stunt, Berdymukhamedov wanted to prove that he was back and very much alive.

Watch video of the stunt here:

Soared into the crater

The Turkmen president is not the only one who has done spectacular stunts at the crater. In 2014, the Greek-Canadian adventurer George Kouronis hovered down to the bottom of the “sport of hell” via a trail string.

Wearing a full-coverage, heat-resistant suit, he took samples from scratch to investigate whether life can survive in extreme conditions, according to National Geograpic which followed what was the world’s first expedition into the crater.

Turkmenistan is one of the most closed countries in the world. They are at the bottom of the corruption and press freedom indices, along with countries such as North Korea and Eritrea.

The former Soviet republic is rich in gas resources, but the country’s inhabitants pay little attention to it.

President Berdymukhamedov has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2006. The former dentist is officially called “Arcade Day” which means “Protector”.

A 21-meter-high marble and gold statue of President Berdymukhamedov was unveiled in the capital, Ashgabat, in 2015.

He is almost referred to as a demigod by state media, and works actively to maintain his image.

The image building consists of, among other things, music performances, participation in horse races and propaganda videos with oneself in the lead role.

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