( AP ) - Don Giovanni and the Big Top are returning to Turkmenistan.
President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov reversed his predecessor's ban on operas and circuses, saying that with increasing development in the Central Asian nation, it deserved to have such artistic performances, state-run TV reported Sunday.
"Our flourishing nation should not stand separate from the world," Berdymukhamedov told a group of Turkmen intellectuals at a meeting Saturday. "It absolutely should have a worthy operatic theater and a worthy state circus."
The ban was imposed in 2001 by then-President Saparmurat Niyazov, who criticized opera and ballet, among other things, as being foreign to Turkmen culture, and allowed funding for state-sponsored circuses to dry up. In more than two decades as the country's leader, Niyazov, who called himself Turkmenbashi, of Father of All Turkmen, crushed dissent and instituted a range of often quixotic rules and laws as well as creating a vast personality cult.
Since Niyazov's death in 2006, Berdymukhamedov has softened some of Niyazov's most draconian policies. He also has moved to court foreign energy companies and outside investors to tap the poor, desert nation's natural gas reserves, which are some of the largest in the former Soviet Union.
In his televised comments, Berdymukhamedov estimated the first opera would be performed in six or seven months. It was unclear whether his order included the return of ballet.