To open the new year, schools in Turkmenistan removed portraits of the president from their walls. Nothing dramatic. Updated images of a more gray, more wistfully Solomonic leader immediately went up in their place.
This is what passes for change in Turkmenistan. It made international headlines in August when Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who turns 62 this year, was seen in public with flecks of silver in his theretofore inky black mop. For a leader obsessed with his own physical condition, this concession to the passage of time appeared like a tacit nod to the thorny matter of succession.