"There Was No Plane Crash," in Ashgabat

Jessica Hayden has written wonderful stories for GoNOMAD about central Asia. Below is a snip from a recently published article in the AFSA magazine about Turkenistan.

“My thoughts drift back to a friend’s return flight to Ashgabat. As the plane prepared to land, it tipped to the left and then, with a thud, hit the runway and crashed over onto its wing. The passengers conferred — everyone okay, but a little shaken up. They waited for someone to take charge. The stewardesses stayed behind the curtain, the pilots in the cockpit. No emergency crews approached the plane.

Eventually, an airport minibus arrived and the passengers were taken to a small, dark room in the airport. Bottles of vodka were passed out. An airport official addressed the crowd. “You will not tell anyone about this,” he commanded. “No one.” The passengers accepted their vodka in return for their vow of silence.

The next day the local newspaper ran a story about the late-night occurrence. The paper reported, “While you may have heard that a plane crashed last night on the runway at Ashgabat International Airport, it did not. There was no plane crash.”

Walking around the capital city of Ashgabat, it feels as if you’ve ended up on an empty movie set. Grand marble apartment buildings line the streets, but they are vacant. Landscaped parks line the roads, adorned with dozens of bubbling fountains, yet no one is out. As my husband and I walked downtown by the ministries and the parliament, we counted policemen stationed every 50 meters. Unlike other cities —
there are no people. The markets are quiet, the roads empty. This isn’t a living,
breathing place. It is the creation of a madman.”